Free shopping guide to Smoothies, from Ethical Consumer

Free shopping guide to Smoothies, from Ethical Consumer


This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

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The report includes:

  • Ethical and environmental ratings for 11 smoothies
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • are the health claims justified?
  • how do the companies' ethical credentials compare?
  • fairtrade smoothies
  • why 5 a day
  • fruit food miles

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Best Buys

as of May/June 2007


As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the ethiscore website may have changed since this report was written.


Fruit Hit Smoothies, (01179 175 620) Soma Organic Smoothies (0870 9507662) and RDA Organics smoothies come out best on the table. Fruit Hit smoothies are Fairtrade while Soma's and RDA Organics' are organic.


Smoothie operators

Smoothie companies are profiting from a health boom, but are their ethics as pure as the fruit they include? Dr Nicola Scott investigates?

Smoothies are certainly very popular. Last year, Britons drank 34 million litres of them, enough to fill 14 Olympic sized swimming pools.(1) In 2006 £170 million worth of smoothies were sold in the UK,(2) and last December the BBC reported an approaching “smoothie war” between smoothie bar chains jostling for consumer loyalty in an increasingly health-conscious society.(3) Given the health benefits often claimed by companies, are these images justified and do their ethical credentials match the health claims? Or is there some pulp fiction going on?

5 a day? The UK’s National Health Service’s recent drive for us to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily came at a time when British teenagers were found not to be eating them. The UK was 19th out of 21 of the world’s economically richest countries in terms of the percentage of 11, 13 and 15 year olds who reported eating fruit every day.(4) Smoothies have often been marketed as products which could contribute to buck this trend, helping us to achieve the government’s 5-a-day target. However, Department of Health guidelines state that a drink can only ever count as one portion despite the amount you drink or however many fruits are blended - a message backed by the Food Standards Agency. Some companies in our table have been criticised for suggesting that their products included more than one portion of fruit. However Dr Cathy Higginson of Health Scotland added that some smoothies appear to have higher levels of fibre and the guidelines might need clarification.(5)

In an attempt to make fruit smoothies more appealing to children, in May 2007 Innocent announced that its Kids Smoothies would be sold in McDonald’s Happy Meals in a few UK branches in the North East.(6) Given criticisms made of fast food chains such as those in the films ‘Supersize Me’ and ‘Fast Food Nation’, Innocent’s customers had mixed views about this decision:
“I don’t see it as supporting McDonalds’ ethics, I see it as helping the children who eat there to be a bit healthier.”
“What were you thinking of - McJuice, McSmoothie or McDollar?”(7)

Surely others must ensure that children eat fruit long before they become a consumer in a fast food restaurant, such as their parents, guardians, schools, or even the government. For example, healthy smoothies could be made more affordable in schools, or other places where children spend time.(8)

Healthy for the environment?
While drinking pure fruit smoothies is a healthier option compared to other snacks-on-the-go such as chocolate bars, the environmental impact of their production must be considered. Transporting fruit year-round from tropical climates, as well as packaging it in plastic bottles often made from non-renewable fossil fuels, can all negatively affect the environment. Annually in the UK we generate an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of plastic waste through discarded packaging.(9)

To reflect consumer interest in these issues, in March 2007 the Carbon Trust launched a Carbon Reduction Label for products.(10) The Trust, a UK government-funded independent company established to help the business and public sector reduce carbon emissions (a key cause of climate change), had developed a label to demonstrate a commitment from companies to reduce their carbon footprint through cutting their carbon emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2). In order for a company to use the label, it had to agree to reduce its carbon footprint over two years from the date that products received the Label. Innocent’s Mangoes & Passion Fruits smoothie was the company’s first product to include this label.(7) Also, by June 2007 the company predicted that its bottles will be made from post consumer recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalate),(11) a plastic regarded by some environmentalists as less harmful to the environment than, for example, PVC.

Fairtrade
At the the time of writing only one company in the product table, The Natural Beverage Company, had its complete range of smoothies Fairtrade certified, while Soma Organic was in the process of gaining Fairtrade accreditation. Consequently, when looking at the table it seems that incorporating ethical supply chain values has not been important to many companies, especially as many fruits used in smoothies can now be sourced from certified Fairtrade suppliers, or other accreditation schemes which address supply chain issues.

Links
BBC Food in Season www.bbc.co.uk/food/in_season - Find out which UK fruits are in season to help you to make a smoothie using locally-sourced ingredients.
Fairtrade Foundation www.fairtrade.org.uk 020 7405 5942 – Has information on which fruits have Fairtrade status, and where you can buy them when making your own smoothies.
SmoothieCast www.smoothiecast.co.uk, mail@smoothiecast.co.uk - Smoothie recipes by dedicated smoothie enthusiasts! Also includes information on Fairtrade issues and the nutritional value of different fruits.
Waste Online www.wasteonline.org.uk/resources/InformationSheets/Plastics.htm 0845 331 31 31 – Provides information on recycling plastic, such as plastic bottles.


References
1 Mintel Report, October 2006, ‘Smoothies’ 2 Key Note Market Report, March 2007, ‘Fruit Juices & Health Drinks’ 3 www.bbc.co.uk viewed 09/05/07 4 UNICEF, October 2006, ‘Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries’ 5 The Scotsman, 9/2/06 6 www.innocentdrinks.co.uk viewed 1/5/07 See EC105 for information about the Rainforest Alliance 7 www.innocentdrinks.co.uk viewed 2/5/07 8 Innocent Kids’ range sold in schools were cheaper at the time of writing than its bottled smoothies sold in high street shops 9 Figure adapted from www.wasteonline.org.uk viewed 15/5/07 10 www.carbon-label.co.uk viewed 2/5/07 11 Fresh Trading Ltd’s Sustainability Policy April 2007 12 www.ellaskitchen.co.uk viewed 26/4/07

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