Flavoured water: sugary liquid with a healthy spin

15/11/2018

‘Healthy’ waters hide up to 5.5tsp sugar per bottle, analysis shows 

Vitamin water, sports water, coconut water and fruity- water – they’re marketed as good for us, but are they really healthy?

New figures from a LiveLighter analysis of over 35 flavoured water brands sold in Woolworths and Coles Melbourne stores found Aussies could be guzzling up to five and a half teaspoons of sugar in one hit.

The analysis revealed 29 of the 39 flavoured waters examined emphasised the products’ ‘natural’ properties on their packaging.

Meanwhile, in a survey conducted by LiveLighter, less than half (48%) of Australians aged 18-55 considered flavoured waters to be a ‘sugary drink’ – compared to 93% who knew soft drink was a sugary drink, and two thirds (67%) who regarded flavoured milk to be a sugary drink.[1]

Brands such as H2OCoco promised functional benefits, describing their products as ‘hydrating’ and ‘energising’ while a number of Cool Ridge varieties product names included ‘restore’, ‘immunity’ and ‘revitalise’ suggesting these drinks could improve buyers’ health.

LiveLighter campaign manager and dietitian Alice Bastable said this highlights the powerful influence sneaky food and drink marketing tactics have on what everyday Aussies see as ’healthy’.

“By cherry picking the favourable features of their products, beverage manufacturers are placing a ‘health halo’ on these drinks. This is concerning when we know almost a third of Australians trust health claims like ‘natural’, ‘low fat’ or ‘organic’ on products.” Ms Bastable said.

With 5.7 teaspoons of sugar per serve, H2Coco’s ‘Coconut water cocoespresso’ was the worst offender. Glauceau’s ‘Focus Iodine: kiwi and strawberry’ vitamin water was a close second with 5.5 teaspoons of sugar per serve.

 “While unflavoured coconut water contains naturally occurring sugars, some coconut water products also have added sugar, often in the form of fruit juice. It’s important to be wary of consuming too much added sugar– drinking just a few of these products each week can quickly push up our intake of added sugar.

Too much added sugar can lead to weight gain and obesity, which can increase the risk of 13 types of cancer as well as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.” Ms Bastable said.

Australians are not alone in this decision making; a number of international studies reveal consumers are more likely to believe a product is healthier if it carries a health or nutrition related claim than those that don’t[2][3][4][5]. Another study measured the effect of health and nutrition claims on pre-packaged foods and found health-related claims had a substantial effect on consumers’ dietary choices[6].

“Consumers may think they are making a healthy choice by choosing flavoured water over soft drinks, but given the size and the constantly expanding range of products and flavours available, they could be sipping down up to five teaspoons of sugar in one go. That’s more than the amount of sugar found in a McDonald’s soft serve! [7]

Ms Bastable said the findings reinforce the importance of looking beyond the health and nutrition claims on a product’s packaging to get the full story about what you’re purchasing.

“It’s encouraging to see so many Australians trying to make the healthy choice but rather than get sucked into the whirlpool of flavoured waters, the most natural drink of all, plain water, should be our number one choice,” Ms Bastable said.

“At the end of the day, you can trust water to hydrate, restore and revitalise and best of all – it’s free.”

LiveLighter’s survey of popular flavoured waters: The worst offenders

Product

How many teaspoons of sugar per serve*?

How many grams of sugar per serve?

H2 Coco: cocoespresso (bottle and serve size = 330ml)

5.7

22.7

Glauceau Vitamin water:

Focus iodine kiwi strawberry (bottle and serve size = 500ml)

5.5

22

Glauceau Vitamin water:

Antioxidant

(bottle and serve size = 500ml)

5.5

22

Glauceau Vitamin water:

Power dragonfruit

(bottle and serve size = 500ml)

5.5

22

Glauceau Vitamin water:

Revive

(bottle and serve size = 500ml)

5.5

22

Deep Spring: Lemon Lime and orange (bottle size = 1250ml. serve size = 250ml)

4.9

19.75

Mizone sports water: lime (bottle and serve size = 500ml)

4.6

18.5

Raw C: sparkling coconut water infused with watermelon lime (bottle and serve size = 400ml)

4.6

 

18.4

Mizone sports water: watermelon (bottle and serve size = 500ml)

4.5

18.3

Deep Spring: Orange and Mango mineral water (bottle size = 1250ml. serve size = 250ml)

4.3

17.5

*1tsp sugar = approx. 4 grams.

About the study:

In October 2018 LiveLighter compared the sugar content and health claims displayed on items that were promoted in the category of beverage and marketed as water which contained a range of additional ingredients including natural and artificial flavours, sugar, sweeteners, vitamins, minerals and other ‘enhancements’ in Woolworths and Coles (Richmond, Melbourne) stores.

What to do when choosing a ‘healthy’ drink:

  • Refer to the products nutrition information panel instead of relying on health claims to guide your choice. Find out which products are high or low in sugar by using LiveLighter’s tips on ways to cut back on sugar
  • Use the LiveLighter wallet card to compare similar products. This will help you determine what products contain too much sugar.
  • If you don’t like the taste of water alone, add fruit or herbs for flavour. For more tips, see our tips on jazzing up your water here.
[1] LiveLighter research analysed the health and nutrition behaviours of more than 2,000 Australians aged 18-55.
[2] Abrams KM, Evans C & Duff BR (2015) Ignorance is bliss.How parents of preschool children make sense of front-of package visuals and claims on food. Appetite 87, 20–29.
[3] Dean M, Lahteenmaki L & Shepherd R (2011) Nutrition communication: consumer perceptions and predicting intentions. Proc Nutr Soc 70, 19–25.
[4] Williams P (2005) Consumer understanding and use of health claims for foods. Nutr Rev 63, 256–264.
[5] Gorton D, Mhurchu CN, Bramley D et al. (2010) Interpretation of two nutrition content claims: a New Zealand survey. Aust N Z J Public Health 34, 57–62.
[6] Kaur A, Scarborough P & Rayner M (2017) A systematic review, and meta-analyses, of the impact of health-related claims on dietary choices. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 14, 93.
[7] 17.1 grams, or 4.275, of sugar in a McDonald’s soft serve. Source: https://mcdonalds.com.au/menu/soft-serve-cone/?/&ds_rl=1233290&ds_rl=1239767&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvtP7mPe73gIVFa6WCh1zrQpZEAAYASAAEgLAv_D_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds