The watchdog advised consumers to treat vitamin-enhanced waters “like any other sugary or artificial drink and enjoy only as an occasional treat.”
Such beverages might appear healthier alternatives to their store-fridge counterparts, but close inspection of the nutritional information reveals them to be “just cordials with a few added vitamins,” it claimed.
But a spokesman for the British Soft Drinks Association told NutraIngredients.com that: “Enhanced waters provide additional functionality with ingredients such as added vitamins, minerals or antioxidants. Enhanced waters provide people with an easy and convenient way to help get more of the nutrients they need each day – encouraging people to adopt a healthy balanced lifestyle.”
Enhanced waters can be consumed regularly but, like all soft drinks, should be consumed as part of a balanced diet, he added.
A spokeswoman for the Union of European Beverages Associations (UEBA) was unable to comment on Choice’s specific claims but said that European advertising rules should prevent misleading claims being made about the health properties of vitamin-enhanced waters.
Also UEBA has its own code of good practice covering beverage advertising, she added.
Choice highlighted the sugar content of such drinks claiming that a bottle of vitamin-enhanced water provides about 5g of sugar and 90kJ per 100mL. “Fruit juice contains about 8g of sugar and 150kJ per 100mL, so the enhanced water looks pretty good on a per-100mL basis. But fruit juice – with a recommended serving of 125mL-250mL – usually comes in a 200mL-375mL bottle, whereas enhanced waters come in 500mL and 600mL bottles intended for a single serve,” it said.
Although some companies produce low-calorie and sugar-free versions of enhanced waters, which solves the sugar concern, but there are better ways to get your nutrients, it said. “A small apple provides antioxidants equivalent to about 1500mg of vitamin C – a lot more than the 25mg in a bottle of Spring Valley Smart Water Goji & Wildberry, which claims to contain antioxidants.”
Acknowledging that nutrient-enhanced water is now a booming industry, Choice said but questioned the marketing campaigns associated with some brand such as the Coca-Cola Company’s Glacéau. It uses “names, graphics and packaging to convey an impression of healthiness,” it said.
A Coca-Cola spokesperson told NutraIngredients: "The Coca-Cola Company is committed to providing factual, meaningful and understandable information about all of our products. All of our labels are in compliance with FSANZ (Food Standards Australia & New Zealand) regulatory requirements.
“In 2010, after listening to our consumers here in Australia, we rolled out a new low calorie formulation across the glaceau vitaminwater range, in which the kilojules have been reduced per 500mL bottle to under 395kj (or under 95 calories). Glaceau vitaminwater is a great tasting and refreshing drink with vitamins and other nutrients".
Meanwhile, last year Mintel GMN reported evidence to suggest that switch to bottled water is at the expense of carbonated soft drinks as “a more permanent lifestyle choice.”