Coca Cola’s vitaminwater lawsuit defense: “reasonable people know we’re liars.”

"Coca-Cola is being sued by a non-profit public interest group, on the grounds that the company's vitaminwater products make unwarranted health claims… lawyers for Coca-Cola are defending the lawsuit by asserting that 'no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.'"


      1. All I can say is that settling for (and paying for) a couple drops of food coloring added to a liquid that we can get out of our faucet makes us look like pretty uneducated consumers.

        1. Unless your tap water comes with significant amounts of B- and C vitamins, potassium, caffeine, amino acids, sugar, etc., you are the uneducated (non-)consumer. Regardless of the merits (or lack thereof) of the product, calling it tap water with food coloring is just plain false.

          1. vit-C doesn’t count since that’s a souring agent anyway, unless you’re really worried about scurvy and don’t eat anything but hardtack.

            i have no idea what amino acids you’re referring to.

            sugar? lol.

            that leaves potassium and a b-complex. just drink something else and take a multivitamin.

          2. If you’d followed the link you would have seen: vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, potassium, magnesium, zinc, some trace minerals, taurine (the amino acid,) and choline, plus a couple other things. Not all of them are in every flavor.

            Of course it’s not as good for you than a multivitamin washed down with a kale-carrot-ginger smoothie, but it beats the hell out of starting your day with a Diet Coke or venti caramel latte.

  1. To be fair, reasonable people DO know they’re liars.

    But yeah, all you have to do is look at the front of the bottle and see that it advertises its vitamins and their effects, while staying away from the kind of packaging used in more obviously sugary soft drinks.

    1. Except reasonable people aren’t the customers who buy their product.

      Still it takes gargantuan balls of unalloyed unobtainium to make this claim in open court without smirking.

  2. Fox News made pretty much the exact same argument, that they have the first amendment right to lie. 

    They won the court case

  3. Mark, where did you get the quote you wrote in the headline?

    The Huffington Post article is nearly 3 years old and is paraphrasing the ruling from the Federal Court judge: “At oral argument defendants suggested that no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage or was composed only of vitamins and water because the sweet taste of vitaminwater puts consumers on notice that the product contains sugar.”

    1. Hah, that’s funny. It’s possible that Mark didn’t notice the date of that article. At least that article had a date — too many articles don’t, or (like Boing Boing) just put the date and not the year, seemingly forgetting that when people arrive at your articles in the future, out of context, they will have no idea what year you wrote them in.

      FYI, it looks from the link in the HuffPo article that the argument was the reasonable people should look at the ingredients list. Probably true, but I guess there’s precedence that reasonable people aren’t actually expected to do so.

      1. I agree it would be great for Dean to add a year to the bylines, but all is not lost in the meantime — the year always appears as part of the article URL.

  4. My mind is reeling with the implications of this statement by Coca-Cola. Should we assume everything Coke says in their advertising is a lie? If not, how do we know when it is or isn’t since the ads don’t contain the nutritional information and ingredient list? Why is Coke spending so much money on advertising if everyone is expected to know what they say is not true? Where are people getting the universal knowledge of how to detect when ads lie (because their products aren’t just sold in the U.S.)? How does this apply to things like GMOs that people have to fight to get labelled in the U.S.? What does this mean for the integrity of the people behind Coca-Cola?… I could keep going, but I won’t, but this is really bizarre & scary at the same time….

    1. Should we assume everything Coke says in their advertising is a lie?
      Honestly, that’s a pretty good strategy WHENEVER you encounter marketing materials.

      1. I feel like it’s a bit more subtle than that though. If you were to present someone with a VitaminWater ad with a series of questions about the product to answer with the ad as an aid, they might actually get some correct. Others, I’m pretty sure many people would get wrong if they didn’t have other experience with the product or study the label very closely and possibly do extra research to understand the ingredients better.

        Example questions for a VitaminWater ad:
        -Is this product a beverage that is ready to drink or does the customer need to prepare it in some manner?
        -What is the primary ingredient in this product?
        -What is the secondary ingredient in this product?
        -Does this product have any additional ingredients? If so, what are they?
        -Is this product carbonated?
        -Is this product sweet? Savory? Salty? Does it have any other flavor?
        -Where does the color in this product come from?
        -How many calories are in a serving of this product?
        -Does this beverage have any other purpose besides hydration?
        -Provide 3 adjectives to describe the primary audience of this product.
        -Would your doctor recommend you drink this product?

        Which is to say, their marketing isn’t 100% a lie, but they are admitting it isn’t 100% truthful facts either. So somewhere between the land of truth and the land of lies is actually where their marketing message falls. How do you draw that line between truth and lie and also make sure people understand where it is?

    1. I just checked VitaminWater out at the store and they list “crystalized fructose” as one of the sweeteners. I’m not sure if everyone reads that as “sugar” since it’s not the one of the most common forms encountered on labels. 

        1.  It’s actually listed as “reverse osmosis water” on the label. What percentage of the consumers of VitaminWater can explain what that means?

  5. I am concerned that so many of you folks are confused by this issue. Advertising, by its nature, is all lies, no matter how truthful it is. If you read anything written or see images in any advertisement, anywhere, and you believe it, you are your own worst enemy.

    1. Remember, you’re talking about a country where a political party has “don’t teach critical thinking” as one of the planks of its platform.

  6. I’ve been known to buy VitaminWater from time to time.  Generally the stevia-sporting variety.  It’s flavored, sugared or non-sugar-sweetened water.  Like Kool-Aid.  I know what I’m buying.  I’d say I have maybe one a week.

  7. Just because it has sugar in it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also have the vitamins listed. If the suit centers on the creative writing blurbs on the back of the bottles… I just read every one of them and none make any health claims beyond “supports your immune system with zinc and B6” or “87mg of caffeine to support mental focus.” Unless zinc doesn’t support one’s immune system or caffeine isn’t a stimulant, there are no unwarranted health claims there.

  8. yeah I purchased VitaminWater once on a whim and it’s far too sweet. In the UK it’s sold as a ~600mL bottle, with a little badge saying that “a 200mL serving supplies 9% of your RDA of sugar”; whereas you’re clearly going to drink the whole bottle in one go, so it contains more like a third of your daily sugar allowance. Why do CocaCola make their product so high in sugar? You’d think they could actually change the formulation fairly easily.

  9. All I know is that some flavors of VitaminWater give me diarrhea– no joke.  A friend confirmed that he too had experienced this.  So. . . maybe they should tout that as one of its benefits and put Ex-Lax out of business.

  10. There’s so much disinformation surrounding any sort of “health” or “vitamin” anything it’s a wonder any one of us could ever dream to be the proverbial “Conscious Consumer” ™

    I always used to wonder about my ol’ favorite classic 70s green Gator-aid. 
    Fucking Electrolytes – how do they work?!

  11. I feel we can make anything acceptable if we talk about it enough. I find this weird and troubling. Coke. HSBC. 0dark30. “Of course, advertising is lying! Of course, laundering Al Queda’s money is okay for banks (we are not citizens)! Of course, torture is an unpleasant necessity in this day and age! ” Coke’s lawyers are trolls. Someone will always empathise with the troll. A discussion inevitably breaks out. Next week a corporation will admit it murdered it’s employees – but it’s okay because we are regressing into a natural, neo-feudal phase where such things routinely happen.

    If you read the ingredients and compare, it is usually shocking. Key insight: most of everything is water. Drinks are mostly water. And fresh food is pumped full of water by injection or osmosis. Mostly everybody is in the water business, which is mostly about advertising and packaging. The good news: there is usually one non-scam product: generic Apple Juice may “contain 10% real juice” but another product will be 100% juice squeezed from apples.” (However, keep in mind, “apple juice” does not mean juice from an apple. It refers instead to the product category, not the juice. Therefore the big print may say, “Apple Juice” and the small print will say, “contains 10% real juice.” (George Orwell makes me feel happy and sane. He was a marketing guru.))

  12. Give all of Coca Cola’s profits to me. Straight into my checking account. Any reasonably corporation (who are people too) knows I need some straight cold cash mufucka!

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