Tropicana Pure Premium products and 4 other PepsiCo brands will soon bear the Non-GMO Project butterfly seal. The emblem will start appearing early next year.
PepsiCo has been one of the biggest opponents of state efforts to require labels on such foods, though now it seems the company is making extra effort to grapple the consumer market seeking organic and non-GMO foods.
“Consumers today have a desire for transparency from brands, and that desire is only going to increase,” said Björn Bernemann, vice president and general manager for the Tropicana brand in North America.
In 2013, the company spent close to $9 million to fight measures that would have imposed labeling on GMO foods in California, Oregon, and Washington State. PepsiCo spent another $11.45 million on lobbying against labeling at the federal level, both directly and through the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).
The GMA’s official stance on GMOs is that they are “not only safe for people and our planet, but also has a number of important benefits.” The group states on its website that GM technology “adds desirable traits from nature, without introducing anything unnatural or using chemicals, so that food is more plentiful.”
Other PepsiCo products already bear the Non-GMO Project label, including Naked Juice, Smartfood, and Stacy’s Snacks, but Tropicana is the largest PepsiCo brand to adopt the label. PepsiCo is even releasing organic Gatorade, though I’m not sure exactly what that means.
We should point out that in 2013, PepsiCo agreed to settle out of court for $9 million over a class action lawsuit that claimed the company engaged in misleading advertising when it used the terms “natural” and “non-GMO” on their bottles.
In truth, much of the beverages’ vitamin content came not from fruits and juices, but from added synthetic compounds. The plaintiffs in the suit claimed that PepsiCo gave the “the false impression that the beverages vitamin content is due to the nutritious fruits and juices, rather than the added synthetic compounds such as calcium pantothenate (synthetically produced from formaldehyde)” and “Fibersol-2 (a proprietary synthetic digestion-resistant fiber produced by Archer Daniels Midland and developed by a Japanese chemical company), fructooligosaccharides (a synthetic fiber and sweetener), and inulin (an artificial and invisible fiber added to foods to … increase fiber content without the typical fiber mouth-feel).”
But PepsiCo didn’t have to make any changes to its Tropicana Pure Premium or content with any lawsuits for Non-GMO Project certification since oranges are not genetically modified. The products to be labeled represent about 92% of Tropicana Pure Premium products. And – as far as we know right now – the juice contains no GMO additives.
Bernemann said the company decided to add the Non-GMO Project label basically because consumers want to be reassured about what they’re consuming.
“Tropicana Pure Premium is non-G.M.O., and it always has been. Some consumers, however, are expressing a desire to get beyond what brands are actually telling them, and we felt having external verification would give our consumers assurance,” Bernemann explained.
When Bernemann took over PepsiCo recently, the beverage producer was already in the process of getting certification for the labels.
“We are in favor of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” he said, referring to legislation that would pre-empt state regulation on GMO labeling, “which would create a uniform standard on the federal level for labeling foods and beverages.”
 The Daily Meal
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.