Advertising often involves bending reality just enough to entice people to a product without getting in trouble for outright lying. For example, back in the day McDonald’s Japan got in trouble with the Consumer Affairs Agency for the Roast Beef Burgers by showing an image of a knife carving into a round roast when the far less glamorous truth was that they were processed heat-fused pieces of meat.
Now, the agency has set its sights on Kirin Beverage, a major Japanese beverage company that also produces the drinks sold under the Tropicana brand in the country. The offense in question came from their cartons of Tropicana 100% Real Fruit Experience Melon Taste that was sold from June of last year to April of this year.
The carton has pictures of melon prominently displayed with “select musk melon,” “100% Melon Taste,” and “Melon Taste Fruit Juice 100%” written in various places. However, a closer look at the ingredients shows that it’s actually a blend of grape, apple, banana, and melon juices. To make matters worse, an investigation by the Consumer Affairs Agency revealed that of this blend, only 2 percent was actual melon juice.
Up until this point, you might have not even realized that there were both apple and grapes pictured on the original carton too. They were just pushed so close in the foreground that they were barely distinguishable, and a banana was stealthily positioned so as to resemble a melon rind at a passing glance. (See top photo).
Even sneakier, the claims of “melon taste” were written either in straight English or English rendered in katakana script. Granted “taste” isn’t a terribly difficult word for Japanese people to grasp, but it does make it easier to overlook. It was all enough for the Consumer Affairs Agency to deem Kirin Beverage in violation of the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations and issue an official order for the drink giant to knock off.
Kirin Beverage complied and redesigned the carton to remove all mentions of “melon taste” and replace them with “100% Fruit Juice” while also making the images of apple and grape more visible. The company also issued an apology: “We deeply apologize for the misleading display. We will further strengthen our checking systems for labeling and work to prevent it from recurring.”
▼ The new carton design
Readers of the news seemed less forgiving according to comments, with some calling for more in the way of penalties for such deception.
“I knew it! But even I didn’t expect it to be only two percent.”
“I just assumed all Tropicana was 100 percent…but ‘melon taste?’”
“I guess they’re not lying because it is 100-percent juice, but that’s a step over the line.”
“Always check the ingredients!”
“Just a warning? Don’t people get refunds?”
“It’s good to know that two percent was select musk melon.”
“Honestly, 100-percent melon juice would be pretty gross anyway.”
“No fines here?”
“They should have written ‘1,000-percent melon taste juice’ and then claim it was just a joke.”
“Even ‘100-percent melon taste’ is a bold claim considering 98 percent of it isn’t melon.”
I too was wondering if they could even make a claim of “100-percent melon taste” without it being 100-percent melon juice. Then again, in this age of KitKats that taste like sake and corn snacks that taste like Mountain Dew, anything is possible I suppose.
Going by the ingredients, Kirin didn’t seem to make any changes to the drink itself, just the package. So in the true spirit of journalism, I drank some juice.
It was delicious, and therein lies the problem.
I don’t really like melon all that much, so I probably wouldn’t be crazy about a “100-percent melon” juice or even a “100-percent melon taste” juice. But this was quite good and had that characteristic tanginess of apple and grape with a noticeable mellow undercurrent of banana.
The melon flavor was present, but definitely not 100 percent…maybe 40 percent or so if I had to make a call on the spot. I guess you could argue that of that 40-percent melon taste 100 percent of the melon taste was in fact melon taste, but Kirin Beverage made the right move to just abandon all this twisted logic and call a fruit juice a fruit juice.
Sources: NHK, Hachima Kiko
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