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Navigating complex global rules for soft drinks

Orange juice is 100% juice from oranges. Or is it? The answer, it seems, depends on where in the world you are. The US, for example, has 12 subcategories of orange juice. Photo: iStock.
Orange juice is 100% juice from oranges. Or is it? The answer, it seems, depends on where in the world you are. The US, for example, has 12 subcategories of orange juice. Photo: iStock.

Related tags Fruit juice Pasteurization Juice Us

For soft drink and fruit juice manufacturers looking to expand into new geographies, understanding global regulations is vital. However, this is no mean feat.

There is no common legislative framework and variations in compositional and labeling requirements between countries are significant. This inherent complexity is being exacerbated by the responses of some governments to issues surrounding health and added sugar.  

Lack of commonality

EU legislation is split into ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ categories.  Horizontal provisions refer to general factors such as labeling, additives and quality indications. Vertical provisions are brought in where specific rules are deemed necessary to cover certain products.

European Council Directive 2001/112/EC is a vertical regulation that deals specifically with fruit juices for human consumption. It covers labeling requirements across fruit juice, fruit juice from concentrate, powdered fruit juice, water extracted fruit juice and fruit nectar.

The directive’s goal is to improve customer information with rules for labeling and naming. It also states that the only ingredients that can be added to fruit juices are authorized vitamins and minerals included in Regulation 1925/2006 and additives listed in Regulation 1333/2008. In 2015, the directive was amended again to establish that fruit juice, by definition, must not contain added sugars.

In other territories, such as the US, there is no concept of vertical and horizontal legislation. What’s more, the term ‘food additive’ has a different meaning in a US context.

Here, food additives refer to any substance that may affect the characteristics of food. It therefore covers substances used in manufacturing, processing, treatment or packaging, not just ingredients. On the other hand, in the US, it is allowable for fruit juices to contain safe and suitable dry nutritive sweeteners.

Spotlight on orange juice

Orange juice is arguably the world’s number one fruit juice and consumers might naturally assume that the term always refers to 100% juice. However, there is no escaping the fact that mass production of any fruit juice requires processing intervention to extend shelf life and ensure product stability.

In many cases, this involves the addition of preservatives. Added aromas and flavors may also be required to counteract the taste implications of processing techniques such as pasteurization. Or fruits may need to be substituted for similar alternatives when demand outstrips supply.

A product classified as orange juice in one country may not meet the requirements of another. Most territories legislate that orange juice must be derived from edible parts of sound, ripe fruit, but beyond this there are many discrepancies.

Some places, such as Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Ecuador allow up to 10% of orange juice to be constituted from other similar fruit juice such as tangerine or mandarin. Italy legislates that products sold as ‘orange juice’ must contain orange juice at a level not less that 20g per 100cc. And Canadian legislation demands that orange juice shall not contain less than 1.20 milliequivalents of free amino acids per 100 milliliters.

In the US, there are 12 subcategories for orange juice, ranging from pasteurized, canned and frozen to manufacturing grade. Each subcategory has various requirements surrounding factors such as the minimum Brix ratio, use of added sweeteners and substitution of orange juice with citrus reticulata. 

Implications for manufacturers

Legislative differences can be a minefield for brands wanting to extend their global footprint. Much of the information is held in multiple documents issued by various authorities in native language only. To avoid being penalized for making false claims or misleading consumers, manufacturers need to conduct due diligence.

In order to maximize the cost-efficiency of manufacturing, products for multiple geographies need to follow common composition and labeling principles as far as possible.

So, any global go-to-market strategy should overlay business goals and capability planning with legislative knowledge on a country-by-country basis. Building a thorough understanding of each market’s requirements at the outset could save a lot of disruption further down the line. 

Leatherhead Food Research has launched a comprehensive Global Regulatory Guide on Soft Drinks and Fruit Juices. It covers the legislative requirements of more than 50 countries surrounding issues such as composition and labeling.  

Related topics Regulation & Safety

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Posted by Oliver Leedam,

Thanks for taking the time to comment Dr Sumfleth. In fact, Directive 2001/112 is still in force. It was simply amended with the introduction of Directive 2012/12 and it has also been amended in line with various Regulations such as those mentioned in the article.

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Posted by Dr. Bernd Sumfleth,

The now relevant EU Directive on Fruit Juice is Directive 2012/12/EU. The Directive cited in the article is no longer in force.

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