With more fruit juice options on offer than ever before, Jo Southall sorts through the pith and piffle.
What’s in this product guide?
This report looks at fruit juice (not juice drinks, pressés, smoothies or primarily vegetable-based drinks). Companies that make orange and/or apple juice were chosen, as these were the first and second most consumed juices respectively. See also our product guides to Squash, cordial and concentrates or Smoothies.
Your choice of morning fruit juice can be a choice between the exploitative labour conditions of the $3bn orange juice market, supporting Fairtrade, or buying local and organic apple juice.
While Spain might come to mind when you think of oranges, most UK orange juice – and all of the UK’s top selling brand Tropicana – comes from Brazil. In 2006 Brazilian unions estimated that 40% of the 60,000 orange pickers who harvest the world’s largest orange crop in Sao Paulo earned less than the minimum wage. And half of these workers did not receive legally-required benefits. Ten years ago there were child labour scandals with orange production in Brazil, including the assassination of child labour campaigner Carlos ‘Gato’ Alberto Santos de Oliveira in 2001.(1)
Workers in the Florida plantations, predominantly Mexican migrants fared little better, according to Alissa Hamilton’s recent expose “Squeezed: What you don’t know about Orange Juice” (Yale University Press, 2009). Illegal immigrants pick much of Florida’s crops, spending long days picking in the sweltering heat for low pay. And despite a 10% unemployment rate and even a campaign by the United Farm Workers union encouraging US citizens to take up the jobs, tellingly US citizens are reluctant to subject themselves to the pay and working conditions of the plantations.
Comparing apples with oranges
Alissa Hamilton notes the historical role of US mass marketing campaigns involving the likes of Bing Crosby in transforming the orange from a luxury fruit into a ‘perceived life necessity’, creating today’s orange juice market based on complex industrial processes. This global market stands in sharp contrast to the more ethical types of UK apple juice, where, for example, genetic diversity (necessary in order to combat pests and changes in habitat) is being maintained through cultivation of rare varieties.
Origin and variety
Some retailers are being increasingly upfront about the country of origin and specific variety of fruit in their juices. Marks & Spencer, for example, offer Discovery, British and Pink Lady apple juices as well as Spanish Valencia, Spanish clementine and Florida orange juices. Widely available brand Copella sells English apple juice produced on its own farm. While smaller producers Ragman’s Lane Farm and James White grow the apples for their juice.
The John Lewis Partnership (which owns Waitrose), has its own farm, where it grows apples for its Leckford Estate apple juice.
In 2008 the Co-operative Group bought 1,000 varieties of rare UK heritage apple trees that were in danger of extinction, some of these apples were used to make its Tillington apple juice. Tillington is one of the Co-op’s many farms.
Carbon costs of orange juice
Tesco is the only company in this report signed up to the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Reduction Label for their juice. Companies signed up to the scheme don’t have to include the product’s carbon footprint on the label, but Tesco has disclosed the footprints of four of its orange juices. Per 250ml, the juices accounted for between 220g-360g ‘CO2 equivalent’, with juice from concentrate being at the lower end of this scale.
Friends of the Earth have suggested a sustainable annual carbon allowance would be 2.2 tonnes, with 13%, or 780g a day, for food. With a glass of orange juice clocking in at around a third to a half of that daily allowance it is clear how unsustainable our current food system is. Tropicana has also worked with the Carbon Trust to measure the footprint of its orange juice,(3) which works out at 225g per glass.
The Fairtrade Foundation and Traidcraft are both keen to argue that concerns over carbon footprints should not be used to justify not buying Fairtrade products from far afield.
The Fairtrade Foundation point out that the vast majority of Fairtrade produce is exported to the UK by ship and that even airfreighting only accounts for 0.3% of total UK greenhouse gases, compared to dairy and meat which account for 8%. And as our own ‘ethical sceptic’ Simon Birch has argued (EC102), why shouldn’t the carbon cost of Fairtrade goods be accounted for as part of the (minimal) carbon footprints of impoverished producers, rather than those of rich country consumers? From this point of view the carbon impacts of imported Fairtrade goods are an equitable use of global resources.
Carton producers Tetra Pak and SIG Combibloc have both commissioned independently or peer reviewed ‘life cycle analyses’ (LCAs) comparing their packaging with cans, glass and with PET plastic and pouches respectively. Unsurprisingly, cartons come out as the superior product. But arguably both of these LCAs are based on four flawed assumptions. The first of these is that the other products have to be cylindrical (thus wasting space when packed). Secondly, that they are always made from raw, rather than recycled materials. Thirdly, that the other products are already in their lightest form (glass can be lightweighted). And fourthly, that it’s impossible to refill any of these products.
The paper, plastic and foil in cartons can all be recycled, although currently only around 15% of UK cartons are recycled. Tetra Pak provides an online interactive map that shows how cartons can be recycled in your area, if at all (see www.tetrapakrecycling.co.uk/locator.asp).
But the process post collection is not straightforward or particularly low energy. Facilities to recycle cartons in the UK no longer exist and cartons collected in the UK are being sent for recycling to Sweden. Cartons are currently enjoying an upsurge in popularity due to the emphasis on lightweight packaging, but as they can’t be reused and recycling is far from unproblematic it is questionable whether they are a sustainable option, compared to, say, returnable bottles.
Ragman’s Lane and James White are the only companies we found selling juice in glass bottles (although James White’s Manic Organic range was sold in plastic bottles). Ragman’s Lane bottles have a high recycled glass content. The rest of the companies use cartons and/or plastic.
How to find local juice
- The Soil Association list can be found by doing a web search for: ‘soil association source marketplace’ – use the map and links on the right to select your local area.
- Common Ground’s ‘England in Particular’ website provides details of local English juice providers
- www.farmshop.uk.com enables you to search by postcode.
- None of these lists promises to be exhaustive, and farmers markets and local box schemes may be a good option.
||£ per 250ml
|Asda Smart Price
|Fruit Passion orange juice
|Grower’s Direct orange juice
|Tropicana original orange juice
|RDA Organics orange and grapefruit
|Copella apple juice
|AJ’s orange juice
|Grove Organic Fruit Co orange juice
|Ragman’s Lane apple juice
|Fruit Hit orange juice
|James White apple juice
|James White apple juice, single variety
|Manic Organic apple+cherry
Ragman’s Lane Farm is a permaculture-based farm that is, “primarily about educating and employing people to work the land sustainably” and runs various courses.
Food Brands Group own both Fairtrade and non-Fairtrade brands.
Quadriga subsidiary Gerber Juice Company Ltd is a massive juice supplier not just to brands that it owns such as Sunpride, Fruit Passion and Grower’s Direct but also to ‘private label’ markets (eg supermarket own-brands), which account for 60% of the fruit juice market. Gerber’s size gives it a lot of power to influence the juice market for good.
However from its website it is clear that the company is focussed on “high quality and...low costs”, and beyond its organic and Fairtrade brands, there is no mention of ethical considerations. Gerber is owned by Hanover Acceptances, which owns an undisclosed proportion of the London wholefoods chain Fresh and Wild, which was controversially taken over by US company Whole Foods Market and has since adopted its US parent company’s name. Hanover is owned by Quadriga, which also owns hotels. Traidcraft worked with Gerber Juice Company Ltd to create Fruit Passion and continues to work with them to identify new producers.
Grove Organic Fruit Company is owned by Wellness Foods Limited which is in turn owned by Lydian Capital Partners. Lydian has a range of investments, including specialist healthcare.
Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc’s pineapple plantations in Costa Rica were recently named in a Guardian report on pesticide pollution and workers’ rights abuses in the industry. A supplier to Tesco and ASDA was also named.
Tropicana and Copella are both owned by Pepsico. Copella has a Youtube channel with advice about getting the most out of your community’s apple trees. Pepsico is a massive food business with many brands and is a member of several ‘free’ trade lobby groups.
Princes is owned by the giant Mitsubishi Corporation, which is involved in a range of sectors. It is on the Burma Campaign UK’s Dirty List. The campaign is asking people to contact companies on its list and tell them you will be boycotting their products until they cease ties with Burma’s miltary government.
We couldn’t find any criticisms of Don Simon. However, this may well be a case of a company having an artificially high ethiscore due to there being no information from campaign groups about the company, as opposed to the company being squeaky clean.