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Don’t Fall Victim To These Tricky Juice Labels

There’s nothing like making fresh raw vegetable or fruit juice at home with your own juicer. But let’s be honest, it takes time, energy and a commitment to keep up the routine at home. The availability and the variety of store-bought juice concoctions have absolutely exploded on the market and tempt us with convenience, fancy marketings and a bunch of healthy buzz words. Here’s the scoop on how tricky understanding juice labels can be at the grocery store and how to choose the best store bought juices for you and your family.

“100% Juice” Doesn’t Mean Anything

What does 100% juice really mean? Not much. Food companies are allowed to say 100% juice on the label even though their juice contains additional additives, flavorings or preservatives. In the case of V8, they add sodium (salt), flavoring, vitamin C and citric acid to preserve the juice for a longer shelf life. All of these added ingredients do nothing for your body and in some cases could harm you. This isn’t exactly a healthy dose of juice after considering the flavoring on the label could be made from petroleum that is often contaminated with carcinogens. Also, flavoring could have hidden MSG in it – which increases cravings and addiction (so food companies profit more). Companies that use flavoring won’t tell you exactly what’s in it either, they’ll say their formula is proprietary and keep you guessing.


“Concentrate” Is Just A Fancy Name for Syrup

Another way juice companies sabotage you, is by using shelf-stable juice concentrates instead of real juice. Juice concentrates are made from fruits and vegetables that are heated down to syrup and then have water added back in. The concentration process involves both adding in and subtracting chemicals and natural plant by-products in order to condense the juice. During the concentration process, fruits and vegetables lose flavor and this is one of the reasons why companies have to re-add “flavoring” to make the juice taste fresh.

The concentration allows juice companies to keep their juice shelf stable, preserved longer and allows them to save money during fruit processing. In other words, juice companies sell you an inferior product while making more money. 

“Not From Concentrate” Could Be Flavored

What if the label explicitly states “not from concentrate.” Does that mean that the product has no added flavors? No. Actually, that’s a big fat no! When most commercially available orange juices are made, according to the book Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice, the juice is stored in giant tanks and the oxygen is removed from them, which allows the liquid to keep for up to a year without spoiling. This storage makes the orange juice lose mega flavor. So the industry uses “flavor packs” to re-flavor the juice. Even if your juice says “100% juice” or “premium” on the ingredient label, it can still have these flavor packs, because they are not required to be listed on the ingredient label because technically they are derived from orange essence or oil. Sneaky, huh? Ever wonder why store-bought juice can achieve that consistent “trademarked” taste, bottle after bottle?  Now you know! (Please note: Uncle Matt’s is a brand that is 100% juice, not from concentrate that specifically does not use flavor packs.)


Many juice companies use an ingredient called citric acid to extend the shelf life of their product. Most people would think this citric acid comes from, well, citrus like lemons, oranges and limes, but it doesn’t. The ingredients most food manufacturers use to create citric acid are genetically engineered corn and sugar beets, by synthetically fermenting the glucose from these crops in a laboratory.

Also, some juice companies go as far as adding sugar (that could be from GMO sugar beets), high fructose corn syrup (from GMO corn) and/or other ingredients that could contain GMOs. Tropicana, Ocean Spray and Minute Maid are huge offenders of this – so it’s no surprise they were some of the companies who gave millions of dollars recently in Washington to stop GMO labeling. They don’t want you to know their juices are full of GMOs. 

Remember GMOs have never been tested long term on humans, and are linked to the rise in allergies, infertility and auto-immune disorders, not to mention they have increased the use of toxic pesticides in the environment by 500 million pounds.

It is absolutely critical we get GMO labeling in this country. We deserve the right to know what we are eating and the companies fighting against this basic fundamental right do not deserve our money. 

Juice GMO Companies

Synthetic Ingredients

The sneakiest of ingredients that can show up in juice are in the form of synthetic ingredients that seem natural but are actually man-made and created in a laboratory.

Naked Juice (owned by Pepsi Co) was recently sued because they claimed their juices were 100% All Natural but really contain these synthetic ingredients:

  • 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.
  • Inulin — an artificial and invisible fiber added to foods to artificially increase fiber content.

This example is just one of the reasons why it’s incredibly important to look at the ingredient list rather than the marketing lingo on the front of the label. (FYI – The Wall Street Journal just reported, Pepsi plans to drop the “All Natural” label on Naked Juice)

Also, make sure to watch out for other harmful ingredients like artificial food coloring. I was shocked to see that so many innocent looking juice brands use petroleum based dyes to color their juices, like Ocean Spray’s Red Ruby Grapefruit Juice.


Here’s the real killer, no pun intended. Most juice companies use traditional pasteurization or flash pasteurization to destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, molds, and other microorganisms to safeguard our health by heating the juice (this would be the second time your juice is heated if you are drinking juice from concentrate). But during this process, pasteurization also kills raw enzymes, minerals and vitamins – the reason that we are drinking the juice in the first place. Heat kills the bad stuff and good stuff, making the juice pretty much worthless to consume.

Juice companies sometimes even replenish the lost vitamin content with synthetic vitamins because there is barely any nutrition left after processing. In the book Pandora’s Lunchbox, Melanie Warner questions what happens during processing and determined “like vitamins, phytochemicals are being destroyed or removed in manufacturing and therefore aren’t particularly abundant in processed juices. Adding them back in wouldn’t work from a biological point of view, meaning they don’t function effectively when isolated from their natural fruit and vegetable habitat.” Furthermore, most companies create vitamins by chemical manipulation and synthesis, not from actual fruits and vegetables. 

Choosing The Best Juice

So you must be wondering, are there any store-bought juices that are nutritious to drink? I created this chart below to help you navigate the juice aisles more clearly and choose the best store-bought juice. Thankfully, there are lots of options for us! 

Store Bought Juice


It is absolutely critical that you choose organic juice first and foremost. The amount of pesticides that you could be consuming could be astronomical otherwise. We know that increased exposure to pesticides is linked to birth defects, nerve damage and cancer. The President’s Cancer Panel has urged us not to consume food sprayed with pesticides and doesn’t believe any amount is safe.


In an ideal world, you would always be able to consume a juice raw straight out of a juicer. Enzymes, vitamins and minerals start to degrade over time, so timing is important. If your juice is fresh, it’s important to drink it as soon as possible.


Cold-pressing is the most nutritious way to obtain juice. First, the produce is ground into a fine pulp. Then a press applies thousands of pounds of pressure to the pulp extracting every ounce of juice that the fruit or vegetable has to give. This process gets all the vital nutrients from the pulp into the juice. Cold-Pressed juices have a longer shelf life than centrifuge or slow juicers. Juice Press, Organic Avenue, and Luna’s Living Kitchen (One of my favorite restaurants in Charlotte!) all have raw organic cold-pressed juice available for purchase in their stores. Health food stores like Whole Foods sometimes makes their cold press juices in advance or carries brands like Suja, that are found in the refrigerator section. 


The next best thing to raw in-store cold pressed juice is HPP or High Pressure Processing. This method retains food quality, maintains freshness, and extends microbiological shelf life without the addition of heat. After juices are bottled, a high level of cool pressure is applied evenly to destroy any pathogens and ensure the juice is safe to drink while preserving all of the vitamins, enzymes and nutrients. Grocery stores like Whole Foods likes selling HPP juices because they safeguard the consumer from foodborne illnesses more effectively than raw juices. Suja is a popular organic juice brand that uses HPP, but also cold-presses their juice (and gave money in support of GMO labeling – yeah!). Their Twelve Essentials is one of my favorites. They also recently developed a line called “Suja Elements” that is more like a smoothie. It’s the type of product you’d choose over Naked Juice, Odwalla, or Bolthouse Farms Smoothies – since all of those are traditionally pasteurized with heat and can contain additives. See this smoothie comparison chart below for details:

Smoothie Comparison

Finding Organic Pressed Juice Near You

My friend Max Goldberg created the world’s first Pressed Juice Directory, where you can find organic juice wherever you are. He created this directory because he (like me) tries to eat 100% organic whenever possible and wanted the ability to find quality juice on the road while he traveled. I can’t thank him enough for this amazing tool! It makes finding organic juice and traveling so much easier. 

If you have any questions about choosing the best store-bought juice, let me know in the comments below. 

Also, if you know someone in your life that is still drinking a juice that’s on the “worst” side of the chart above, please share this post with them. Spreading awareness about how our food is produced and which companies we should support will change the marketplace! 

I’ve seen this with my own eyes 🙂

Food Babe


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347 responses to “Don’t Fall Victim To These Tricky Juice Labels

    1. I have been drinking the Boathouse Carrot juice and thought is was ok, the only ingredient listed is carrot juice.

  1. I confuse myself all the time with the wrong knowledge… thanks for the charts because that will help me so much in the future – just attach in my coupon book for safe keeping! I definitely do not eat enough fruits and vegetables and thought introducing juices like these would give me an edge, but I was, of course, choosing the WORST possible!!! Not anymore! Thank you!!!

  2. I really love getting the lowdown on so many things! I would like to know the lowdown on the vitamin products made from fruits & vegetables- how are they processed? Are they still considered food? Are all the enzymes & other factors still in place? Thanks!

    1. “Many juice companies use an ingredient called citric acid to extend the shelf life of their product. Most people would think this citric acid comes from, well, citrus like lemons, oranges and limes, but it doesn’t. The ingredients most food manufacturers use to create citric acid are genetically engineered corn and sugar beets, by synthetically fermenting the glucose from these crops in a laboratory.”

      1. Citric acid is not vitamin C. Vitamin C is ascorbic acid. Also, regardless of origin, citric acid is citric acid. If you looked at the citric acid in a juice, you wouldn’t be able to tell where it came from (and thus, it is in no way affected by the GMO or non-GMO status of its source). The “synthetic fermentation” she gets so freaked out about is similar to how pickles ferment – it’s a natural process of bacteria breaking down sugars and giving off one or more byproducts. “Synthetic” and “lab” should not be words that cause alarm – fermenting in a controlled environment is much more environmentally-friendly, safe, and cost-effective.

    2. Because it is not real Vitamin C but synthetic created in a lab. The body does not utilize the same way. I don’t know what these other 2 are talking about. Yes, vitamin C is not citric acid. But citric acid is usually GMo and it DOES matter.

      1. Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, but the same objections apply. It is made as a conversion from corn starch, which by production percentages is over 95% certain to be GMO, in the US at least.
        I sometimes buy such vitamin C powder to stir into juice when sick, but always look for a statement it was from organic corn or at least Non-GMO corn.

  3. All this time, I’ve been making my family drink V8, Naked Juice, and Odwalla. Thank you for all this detail on juices. I think I’ll be making my own juice from now on.

  4. I know Florida’s Natural Orange juice is not organic, but other than that flaw would you recommend it?

  5. After reading that, I’m going to stop drinking any juice. I live in a small town, so finding any of those best of juices here is impossible. I’ll just not drink any more juice.

  6. I am so very grateful that food babe has thoroughly researched products! I have learned so much from her and just want to make the world aware! I wish that we had a supermarket that had these juices. I do make juice however for my husband and I almost every day. Eating organic and reading labels is very time-consuming. I feel that it is worth all the effort for our health and not having to take pharmaceuticals. Thanks again food babe for all you do 🙂

  7. What are some of the best stores to find the truly organic juices? Trying to make the switch to all organic in our home it would be wonderful to know where to find the right juices!

  8. At our local natural foods store (Jimbo’s, in San Diego) we have a brand called “evolution” which is cold pressed, not heated, and with organic non-GMO verified options (not all of them though). It’s the best thing I’ve found around here so far aside from fresh homemade.

  9. I buy my boys juice that is certified organic but only contains 10 percent juice… is this okay you have? It also lists citric acid as a ingredient.

    1. Don’t worry about citric acid – it’s the same stuff you find in lemons and limes, and it helps the juice keep its color and flavor (like when you put lemon juice in a fruit salad to keep it from turning brown).

      If you looked at the structure of the citric acid in a juice with a very strong microscope, you wouldn’t be able to tell where it came from (and thus, it is in no way affected by the GMO or non-GMO status of its source). The “synthetic fermentation” she gets so freaked out about is similar to how pickles ferment – it’s a natural process of bacteria breaking down sugars and giving off one or more byproducts. “Synthetic” and “lab” should not be words that cause alarm – fermenting in a controlled environment is much more environmentally-friendly, safe, and cost-effective.

      1. Concerned, would you like to read my published research regarding what I just mentioned?

  10. I would like toknow about Florida’s Natural Orange Juice (with pulp & without pulp).
    I do make my own smoothies with forzen mixed berries, apples, bananas, spinach with Almond Breeze vanilla almond milk. I would like your opinion on this also. Thank you.

    1. Almond Breeze uses carrageenan in its products. You might want to look into that. The silk almond milk does not have it on its list of ingredients.

      1. That’s interesting. I had bought silk almond milk light a couple months ago and saw that it did have carrageenan in it, and I just read your post and checked the one I bought recently and saw that it doesn’t have it, so this must be a recent change which I do appreciate. However the cane sugar is not specified organic so that could be of concern as to whether or not it is GMO or not. Just thought I would expand on that. (I’m still going to drink it lol)

  11. Thanks for the info. Just bought some juices from the store and after reading your article I realize they have been flash pasteurized and I need to start checking labels and making sure I’m getting a good healthy product!!!! Now I know!!!

  12. Food Babe Hi

    I read your posts everyday because I am a distributor of Vemma which uses the mangosteen “Queen of the Fruits” as antioxidants — their core ingredient. It is a business opportunity that uses network marketing as the business model. Since organic and non GMOs is the way to go, have you looked into B.K. Boreyko’s product line on health and fitness. Always like to play the devil’s advocate in comparing health products since other network marketing health and wellness products are overpriced and fall short of the health and wellness that is promoted; Is the products that you are giving away also a network marketing opportunity. I would sign up under you if this were true since these are organic and non-GMO. My friend Terri would love for me to do this…

    1. you can’t be serious… don’t give people false information. vemma is not good for you at all.

  13. I was wondering if you have any information on a particular juice my local health market sells a lot of–
    Synergy organic & raw–
    Ingredients are -95%G.T.’s
    Organic raw kombucha*
    Blackberry juice*
    Passion fruit juice*
    Vegan and gmo free
    Seems right but I don’t want to be fooled.
    Thank you for all your info!

  14. Well after reading a couple articles about kombucha I guess I won’t be drinking the above Synergy juice with kombucha 🙁 ugh so difficult. Guessing in going to just buy whole foods fresh pressed juice and hunt down the ones on your list only.

    1. What articles are you referring to? We drink a lot of homemade kombucha around here and I’m always wanting to learn more.

      Kombucha is very easy to make at home. All you need to do is buy a SCOBY (or find a friend who has one). Then the only ingredients you need are water, sugar, and tea.

  15. Thank you so much! I am so glad and grateful for everything you do. We buy Uncle Matt’s and we will definitely will try Suja. Thanks and Blessings!

  16. I have a question. Knowing that Whole Foods doesn’t allow pesticides in its products, is it safe to assume their non organic orange juice is ok? Or other non organic items for that matter?

    1. While many tend to assume as much, Whole Foods Market makes no claim that all of their products are pesticide-free. Although WFM probably provides more pesticide-free options than any other retailer, there are simply not enough clean producers in the industry to sustain their business exclusively. If you want to avoid pesticides in that store or any other, you must shop for organic products, period. If the people supporting organic agriculture with their shopping dollars continue to take that stand, influence food producers and spread the word, perhaps the day will come when Whole Foods Market really can be pesticide-free.

  17. thanks so much for the info just wondering if you have any recommendations on trader joes juice I do majority of my shopping from there

  18. I am shocked to read this. I have purposely chosen 100% juice for my kids, without knowing the “from concentrate” was harming them. Explains their reaction when drinking it!

    I found “Synergy Organic and Raw” drink in the store today. It’s made from GT’s Kombucha. Have you tried it. Is is a sneaky drink, or one that is truly clean and healthy for me and my family???

    Keep up the GREAT work!

  19. I am sensitive to corn. No wonder my doctor told me not to drink manufactured juices. Apple juice really gives me trouble. Wonder if the amount of corn sugar varies by the type of juice?

  20. Is the target brand simply balanced organic juice okay? What about their other simply balanced products, are they considered healthly overall?

  21. Odwalla: Don’t ALL their juice labels say they don’t use GMO if a GMO choice exists? Is this a lie?

  22. Suja Juice is not the best. They use high pressure processing (HPP). Google it. Also there’s a class action lawsuit against the company. The best juice is made in your own kitchen.

  23. Hello, I am a student that is interested in started my own juice business. I was first thinking of doing a juice truck, but I now want to scale up and do something bigger. We want to start small and local and then scale up to the size of suja and evolution. Do you have any advice or tips on what kind of business you would like to see? We want to separate ourselves by using local products here in the Midwest, any feedback would be great! Thanks!

  24. Love all if your posts Vani. I save many of your articles, posts, links and have learned so much but some of your suggestions are hard to find where I live. Because of you I sought out sprouted bread by Silver Hills for my daughter – very similar to the one you suggest. And because of you we got rid of a few things with natural flavours.

    Do you have any suggestions for juice in Ottawa, Ontario Canada? I sure wish we had a Whole Foods store here! We just purchased a Vitamix which is great for smoothies which we love but my daughter also likes juice occasionally. We were buying Bolthouse and Arthur’s but now you have me worried. Is Arthur’s okay? I know you can strain juice with a Vitamix but not always convenient. Any suggestions aside from buying a juicer? We try to eat a non-GMO, organic whole foods diet as I refuse to let my family be a science experiment so any suggestions would be appreciated.

  25. Very informative article. I was about to write one on HPP myself as the 2 biggies have arrived in Honolulu in the past couple months. What do you think of Evolution Fresh compared to Suja? Equivalent?

  26. The problem with the Suja Elements juice is that, Who can afford to purchase it? I went to Whole Foods to get one to try and it was $8 on sale..
    Stick your own fruits and veggies in a juicer or blender.

  27. the information regarding NFC juices is not correct and misleading. Flavours are NOT permitted with NFC juices. Also a concentrate is NOT a syrup at all.

  28. I was surprised that you listed POM. I like their POM Coconut. Do you have any
    posts on the best coconut waters? Thanks!

  29. Even if you agonize over everything you eat over your whole life, you will still die someday. Spend the time you have with your loved ones instead of wasting it analyzing your food choices. Eat salad, avoid deep-fried twinkies more than once or twice for novelty and go about your business. Whatever time you spend researching to choose between super-ultra-organics will not be recouped in the form of an extended life span.

  30. I learned how hard it can be to buy good juice with the app called Buycott. If you all havent heard of it, it is fantastic. It allows you to scan a product in the store with your phone, and it will then tell you if the Company conflicts with any of a large number of personal campaigns that you can choose, anything from funding anti-GMO labeling to a number of different social catagories, such as human trafficking. And it is free..

  31. Most of this article is useful except for the piece about HPP pasteurization being an acceptable method. The major reason companies use HPP is to extend shelf life to MAXIMIZE PROFITS!! It is not done with the consumer in mind. Companies use HPP so they can keep their inventory on a shelf for a long period of time. It is not fresh and it is not raw. Do not drink HPP juice unless you like spending $ on overpriced sugar water. Drink RAW!!! Many cold pressed juice bars are raw, just be sure they don’t use HPP like pressed juicery.

  32. So frustrating – I”m so tired of trying to find healthy alternatives and then begin shot down again and again. I find it harder and harder to try and be healthy while working and raising a family. Juicing is great but does take a lot of time which I just dont have. I was excited (once again) after viewing the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead by Joe Cross and the advantages of juicing. I thought I was really being smart with taking my Odwalla to work because juicing at work —doesnt work. Ready to just give up. I do appreciate the truth though.

  33. While you do make some excellent points in regards to the what to look for I believe that you are giving companies that use HPP too much credit. While their products are “better” than most of the alternatives the HPP process robs the juice of many of the most beneficial nutrients. Many of the companies that are cold pressing juices and using HPP to increase shelf life and making claims that their juices are “raw” when in reality that is not the case. HPP processing is strictly about being able to get product into stores to maximize sales and profits. These companies are riding the juice wave and really do not care about the consumer. Don’t believe me than go and ask what the founders or Suja drink…hint it is not their own HPP product. You are better off making your own cold pressed juice or buying one of the many cold pressed juices (with no HPP) that are available through storefronts or delivery services.

  34. Thanks for the insight. “Good for you” doesn’t always mean that, does it!

    As a person who quite frankly can’t be arsed with juicing (mostly because of the clean up) and too cheap to pay someone else to juice it for me, I find the best thing is to actually eat a lot of fruit and raw veggies. Now that’s what Nature intended!

  35. I used to drink the bolthouse green goodness juice then when I read that it had lots of juice from concentrate I didn’t want it anymore I read about concentrate juice before and now I see that it also has natural flavour added which could mean beaver butt or its just a big question mark I’m glad we have our own juicer now and that is all we give to our kids and for us.

  36. I’ve been a fan of your site and advice, but I’m concerned that you list a product like Suja (which I’m sure is fine), but you also accept advertising from them. In this day and age, I’m afraid no one can be trusted, and now I’m feeling my trust fade in your site.

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