With more fruit juice options on offer than ever before, Jo Southall sorts
through the pith and piffle.
Whats in this buyers 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 buyers' 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 UKs top selling brand Tropicana comes from
Brazil. In 2006 Brazilian unions estimated that 40% of the 60,000 orange pickers
who harvest the worlds 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 Hamiltons recent expose Squeezed: What
you dont know about Orange Juice (Yale University Press, 2009).
Illegal immigrants pick much of Floridas 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 todays 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
Ragmans 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-ops many farms.
Carbon costs of orange juice
Tesco is the only company in this report signed up to the Carbon Trusts
Carbon Reduction Label for their juice. Companies signed up to the scheme dont
have to include the products 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 shouldnt 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 its 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 cant be reused and recycling is far from unproblematic it
is questionable whether they are a sustainable option, compared to, say, returnable
Ragmans Lane and James White are the only companies we found selling
juice in glass bottles (although James Whites Manic Organic range was
sold in plastic bottles). Ragmans 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 Grounds England
in Particular website provides details of local English juice providers
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
|Growers Direct orange juice
|Tropicana original orange juice
|RDA Organics orange and grapefruit
|Copella apple juice
|AJs orange juice
|Grove Organic Fruit Co orange juice
|Ragmans Lane apple juice
|Fruit Hit orange juice
|James White apple juice
|James White apple juice, single variety
|Manic Organic apple+cherry
Ragmans 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 Growers
Direct but also to private label markets (eg supermarket own-brands),
which account for 60% of the fruit juice market. Gerbers 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 companys 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
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 Incs 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 communitys 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 UKs 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 Burmas miltary
We couldnt 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.
1 Brazil loses child labour warrior, Workers Online, 5th October