Juice for Babies? Madness.

May 13, 2011 at 10:26 am 4 comments

Mott’s for Tots is boasting 40% less sugar than regular apple juice. If you’ve seen the TV ads in the last couple of weeks, you’ll recognize the campaign, cute toddlers enjoying their snacks while moms look on serenely, knowing that the special toddler juice formulation is safe for their wee ones.

Reduced sugar “for Tots.” So I guess that means it’s fine for the rest of us to continue with the full-blown sugar of regular juice? Why, if they can reduce the sugar, why don’t they just go ahead and do it?

This campaign has been really bugging me. I’m trying to figure out the rationale for targeting this reduced sugar juice to toddlers. I guess the most obvious point is that we are protecting our precious babies from the dangers of too much sugar. But doesn’t that imply that too much sugar might be a problem for people in general? The idea that babies are worth protecting but that everyone else should just go ahead and binge on sugary juice seems a little troubling.

Everybody seems to agree that its the sugar-laden drinks that are driving America from cute pudgyness to repulsive obesity. But juice somehow gets a pass. When the label can boast “no added sugar,” lots of people conclude that means “no sugar.” There is no practical difference between “added sugar” and the sugar that occurs naturally in sweet juices. Mott’s Plus for Kids 100% Apple Grape Juice has 130 calories and 30 grams of sugar in an 8 oz serving. Pepsi has 100 calories and 27 grams of sugar. The only argument I could understand here is that typical juice portions might be smaller than typical soda portions, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the juice is sugar water in virtuous disguise.

One of the big PR sucesses of the healthy nutrition lobby has been to re-brand sodas as “liquid candy.” Since everybody knows candy is bad for you, calling soda a kind of candy has been a great way to get sodas out of the schools and off the dinner tables of America.

I’m all for this effort, I think water should be what we drink when we’re thirsty. And if you want a sweet drink? The latest generation of artificial sweeteners make for tasty, enjoyable sweet beverages. People who complain that the “diet” versions of soft drinks aren’t as good as the regular will soon have no excuse. Pepsi is working on a formula that would have 60% less sugar and be absolutely indistinguishable from the full-sugar version. I don’t say this often, but: “Go, Pepsi!”

Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone worried about calories or nutrition would choose a sugar-sweetened drink. Am I worried about artificial sweeteners? Maybe if I was drinking 10 bottles of Diet Coke a day, I might be concerned. But these non-caloric sweeteners work because they are intensely sweet in tiny amounts. One packet of Splenda in my iced coffee a couple of times a week, or a diet Snapple every few days, is not something to get excited about.

Soda and candy are different in one important way: sugar in a beverage is a flavoring. Sugar in candy is the candy itself. Put this another way: you could flavor a drink with many kinds of sweeteners, and still have a drink. A non-caloric sweetener will create a sweet drink that may be very much  like a drink sweetened with sugar. But this doesn’t work for candy. If you take out the sugar or corn syrup, you aren’t just taking out sweetness, you’re taking out the stuff of the candy.

So enjoy sugar in your candy, where it belongs. Or, if you really like the sweetness of sugar in something you drink, call it candy, and enjoy it the way you enjoy candy.

As for Mott’s for Tots, 40% less sugar is still lots more sugar than WATER. Juice, even reduced sugar juice, is still “liquid candy,” just like soda. My plea to the parents of America: stop giving apple juice to babies!

Entry filed under: Children and Candy, Health, Marketing.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Common Sense  |  May 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Personally, I don’t like sweetened drinks, they aren’t thirst quenching. I drink water and occasionally unsweetened iced tea. I couldn’t drink an entire can of pop, even when I was a kid.

    I don’t really like sweet candy either, I prefer extra dark chocolate, 70% or more or something like dark chocolate brownies. My favorite candy is dark chocolate-covered cranberries which are much less sweet than raisins or pomogranites.

  • 2. jillian  |  May 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Juice for kids is always a concern among the mothers I know. I never give my kid juice at home (she’s 3) but some parents start giving their kids juice (usually very watered down) early on to get them to drink more and then later the kids refuse water.

    Did you look to see how they “reduce” the sugar in this juice? It’s just pre-diluted. That’s right, it’s not like they somehow extract the naturally occurring sugar out of the juice; they just mix in some water. In this sense, this is just a convenience product for parents who normally dilute their kids’ juice and want, for example, juice boxes to give their kids.

    It’s kind of horrifying to think of how many mothers are giving their kids juice and NOT realizing that it’s very sugary and doesn’t have a whole lot of nutrition in it; it’s marketed as a healthy drink and they just buy that line.

    • 3. Candy Professor  |  May 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm

      Pre-diluted? You’re killing me.

      Speaking of horrifying abuse of “juice,” you are going to love the new “Mott’s for Tots” line of … CANDY! I will be getting my hands on some soon, stay tuned.

      • 4. jillian  |  May 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm

        Ha! I give my kid as much candy as she wants. And as much fruit as she wants, for that matter. I just think juice is dumb. If she’s thirsty, she drinks water. But that’s just me.

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