TIME justice

Supreme Court: POM Wonderful Can Sue Coca-Cola

POM Wonderful's 100% Pomegranate Juice
POM claimed Coca-Cola falsely advertised a drink that hurt their own sales. MCT—MCT via Getty Images

It's a juicy case

The Supreme Court unanimously voted Thursday in favor of advancing POM Wonderful’s false advertising lawsuit against Coca-Cola.

POM’s suit asserts that Coke misled consumers when advertising a Minute Maid beverage as a “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices.” Coke’s pomegranate-blueberry blend violated the Lanham Trademark Act — which prohibits false advertising statements on products — because the drink contains only 0.5% of the two juices, POM argues.

Eight Supreme Court judges (Justice Stephen Breyer recused himself from the case) unanimously overturned two lower courts rulings that the FDA’s approval of the drink should stand.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court, arguing that the FDA’s decision did not preclude all other trademark laws because the governmental agency “does not have the same perspective or expertise in assessing market dynamics that day-to-day competitors possess.”

POM’s lawsuit also alleged that Coke’s drink, which is 99 percent apple and grape juices, hurt sales of its own 100 percent pomegranate juice. The Court’s green light to the case means more details of the juicy argument will unfold in the coming months.

TIME Companies

Coca-Cola Drops Powerade Ingredient Linked to Flame Retardants

Bottles of Powerade and other Coca-Cola products in Orlando on Aug. 5, 2010.
Bottles of Powerade and other Coca-Cola products in Orlando on Aug. 5, 2010. Jon Elswick—AP

Brominated vegetable oil, which has been linked to a flame retardant, had already been dropped by PepsiCo from its Gatorade products following public scrutiny and a Change.org petition. The ingredient is not approved for use in the European Union or Japan

Coca-Cola will no longer use a controversial ingredient in its Powerade sports drink, the company confirmed Sunday.

A spokesperson for the company said its Powerade drinks were now free of brominated vegetable oil, an ingredient that has been linked to a flame retardant, reports the Associated Press. Coca-Cola has said before that the ingredient helps “improve stability and prevent certain ingredients from separating.”

Brominated vegetable oil has been the target of a Change.org petition from Mississippi teenager Sarah Kavanagh, who points out that the ingredient is not approved for use in the European Union or Japan.

Although Coca-Cola said the beverage was now “BVO-free,” the Powerade website and some bottles still list the ingredient, suggesting the change may still be coming into effect.

Last year PepsiCo said it would stop using the oil in its Gatorade products. Kavanagh’s Gatorade petition had more than 200,000 online signatures, while her Powerade one had more than 59,000.

[AP]

TIME Companies

Coca-Cola Profits Dip as Americans Drink Less Pop

The world’s largest beverage-maker sold more drinks overall worldwide but that didn’t make up for a drop in its vital North American market

Coca-Cola’s profits dropped by almost 8% in the first quarter this year, as the world’s largest beverage manufacturer sold less soda and grappled with a stronger U.S. dollar.

Profits fell for the Atlanta-based company despite an overall increase in sales of non-carbonated beverages around the world and a 2% increase in global sales volume, the Associated Press reports.

Soda sales in North America fell 1% as the company raised prices. Adding to challenges for Coca-Cola—and for its competitors, like PepsiCo, which is expected to report a similarly poor performance when it posts profits Thursday—is the fact that Americans are simply drinking less soda.

“Look, we have Coca-Cola, and we have another 500 brands,” said CEO Muhtar Kent in an interview on CNBC. “The key is to offer a wide variety of choices.”

[AP]

 

TIME Food and Beverage Industry

The Trend Miller and Budweiser May Want to Start Worrying About

ULTRA.F / Getty Images

Are you tempted to taste Hell? In the mood for a Hooker? Or perhaps it’s time to try Zevia? The latter may sound like a mood-enhancing drug, but it’s not. Neither are the others—not exactly, anyway. They’re all unfamiliar beverage brands, a few of the many increasingly showing up on the menus of casinos, airlines, and pro baseball stadiums.

Craft beers and indie soft drink brands have been mainstays at local restaurants, bars, and markets for years. Heck, craft beer is so mainstream that even Costco and Walmart are now known to stock a few interesting selections. Lately, unfamiliar labels are more likely to be seen even in mass-market hubs and attractions that traditionally have been dominated by the world’s biggest brands, often thanks to exclusive partnerships.

Airlines
In February, Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines announced it was getting Surly. Beers from Minnesota neighbor Surly Brewing Company with names like Hell, Furious, and Bender are now being sold in 16-ounce cans on Sun Country flights.

As NBC beer blogger Jim Galligan and, more recently, the Associated Press, have reported, Sun Country is one of several airlines to offer passengers beer options beyond the usual Miller and Budweiser products (which, it should be noted, Sun Country still sells). Shortly before Sun Country’s craft beer infusion, Southwest Airlines introduced a partnership with New Belgium Brewing, the Colorado-based brewer known for Fat Tire Amber Ale, among many other beers. Like all alcoholic beverages on Southwest, a can of Fat Tire—airlines almost always stick with cans, or plastic bottles, to avoid broken glass on the plane—will run an airline customer $5.

Samuel Adams, the largest of all craft brewers, has been available on JetBlue since last summer, Frontier Airlines launched a big craft beer initiative in 2012, and Virgin America brought beers from 21st Amendment Brewery on board in 2009, and welcomed Anchor Steam beer a few years later. Best of all, Horizon and Alaska Airlines recently expanded their craft beer options to include brands such as Alaska’s own Silver Gulch, and, in almost unheard-of fashion nowadays, the carriers offer beer and other alcoholic beverages on a complimentary basis on longer flights.

Casinos and Cruise Ships
Realizing that an impressive and unusual selection of beer and wine is not only good for business but practically necessary for the fine dining crowd today, casinos and bars along the Vegas strip have been ushering in craft beer brands in a hurry. In Connecticut, the Mohegan Sun resort and casino just introduced the Hooker Brewing Test Kitchen, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a spot for Bloomfield-based Hooker Brewing to make and sell experimental small-batch brews.

Cruise companies are increasingly playing up their craft beer selections as amenities as well: Celebrity Cruises, for instance, notes “up to 50 international craft beers” offered one ship’s club. There are also beer-themed cruises focused on small and unusual local brews from operators such as Crystal Cruises and Un-Cruise Adventures.

Baseball Stadiums
Craft brews are nothing new at pro and minor league ballparks. Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, boasts perhaps the best beer selection in baseball, with no fewer than 14 local craft brews sold during games. But there are a few caveats of note: These craft brews are seriously pricey (over $15 a pop in some cases), and sometimes these craft beers aren’t truly craft brews. For instance, last year, there was some uproar in the craft beer community regarding Yankee Stadium’s “Craft Beer Destination” concession stand. All of the brews sold there just so happened to be MillerCoors products, though they featured indie-sounding “crafty” names such as Blue Moon and Batch 19.

If fans find it strange to see less Miller and Bud sold at the ballpark, then it might be downright surreal for soft drink giants such as Pepsi and Coke to be replaced, even to a small degree. Yet this season at the Oakland Coliseum, the old official soft drink sponsor of the A’s (Pepsi) is out and a new one is being ushered in: Zevia, a naturally-sweetened, zero-calorie soda sold in flavors like cola, ginger ale, and black cherry. Zevia will be sold in bottles at all concessions stands in the stadium, and while Pepsi drinks will still be available for purchase, they’ll only be offered as fountain soda (not in bottles).

One branding consultant told USA Today that the ball club may have a hard time convincing fans that Zevia is the soft drink for them. “It sounds like a car made behind the Iron Curtain 50 years ago,” he said.

TIME coca-cola

LeBron James Gets His Own Soda

Miami Heat forward LeBron James smiles after a 100-96 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena
Miami Heat forward LeBron James smiles after a 100-96 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, Mar 18, 2014. David Richard—USA Today Sports/Reuters

Miami Heat star LeBron James is partnering with Sprite to introduce 'Sprite 6 Mix,' a specially branded cherry- and orange-flavored version of the popular lemon-and-lime soft drink. The new beverage hits store shelves nationwide for a limited time this month

LeBron James already has a best-selling sneaker line and a cartoon series on YouTube. Soon, he’ll have his own beverage, too.

The NBA All-Star is partnering with Sprite to release Sprite 6 Mix, a cherry and orange-flavored version of the lemon-lime soda. The drink will be available for a limited time nationally starting this month. Sprite 6 Mix will feature a crown on its label — a reference to the basketball player’s nickname, “King James” — and will be the company’s first soda developed in tandem with a celebrity.

James earned $42 million in endorsement deals in 2013, leading all NBA players, according to Forbes. He’s been a pitchman for the Coca-Cola Company, which owns Sprite, since he first entered the NBA in 2003. James has helped the company advertise several of its brands in that time—making improbable full-court three-pointers for Powerade, trying a court case for Vitaminwater and challenging Yao Ming to a battle of cultural stereotypes for Coca-Cola itself.

Sprite 6 Mix will get a 15-second TV spot all its own this spring. Whether James’ new soda will reach the cultural ubiquity of rap star Nelly’s energy drink Pimp Juice remains to be seen.

TIME Education

White House Sets New Limits on Junk Food Ads in Schools

Michelle Obama
U.S. First lady Michelle Obama speaks to students at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 11, 2013. Carolyn Kaster—AP

Part of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative

The Obama administration laid out new restrictions on the marketing of junk food and sugary drinks in schools on Tuesday.

The new rules from the White House and the Department of Agriculture prohibit advertisements for unhealthy foods on school campuses during the school day, including sugary drinks that account for 90 percent of such ads in school. An ad for regular Coca-Cola, for example, would be banned from appearing on a scoreboard at a high school football game, though ads for Diet Coke and Dasani water, owned by the same company, would be allowed. Junk food ads like a Coca-Cola scoreboard would be phased out under the new rules and would not have to be replaced overnight.

“The idea here is simple—our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in a statement. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”

Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak will announce the new regulations at a White House event Tuesday. The rules come as part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity. Industry heavyweights like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are backing the new regulations.

The marketing limits come after new USDA regulations that put a cap on the calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits on most food items that can be sold in schools.

“The new standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices,” Vilsack said in a statement.”

In addition to the limits on marketing of junk food in schools, the USDA rules to be announced Tuesday expand programs that feed hungry kids in need, allowing the highest poverty schools to provide free lunches to all students. The White House says that will add up to about nine million kids in 22,000 schools. The rules will also include guidelines for establishing overall wellness policies in schools, inviting parents and the wider school community to help develop standards for nutrition and physical activity.

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