The fruit juice scandal: how much apple juice is in yours?


A family-sized carton of juice is a familiar sight in fridge doors around the country, with the UK consuming around 970 million litres of the stuff.

From ‘tropical’ blends – ‘lychee & guava’ and ‘mango & passionfruit’ are among some of the more enticing iterations – to ‘super smoothies’ and ‘wonder’ drinks that promise not only to hydrate but also protect our wellbeing and boost our vitamin intake, we’re spoilt for choice.

But peer a little closer at the small print and our options are more limited than they first appear – thanks to the presence of one particular type of juice.

A recent thread on X (formerly Twitter) went viral for revealing the high percentage of apple juice in blends by brands including Naked and Innocent. Some products contained up to 85 per cent apple, despite, in many cases, bearing front labels that name all fruits under the sun apart from the humble malus domestica – a phenomenon for which the term ‘applejuicification’ was snappily coined.

This is nothing new. “The use of apple juice as a base in some juice and smoothie products is common practice, and has been for several decades,” states the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), of which Innocent is a member, “primarily to help balance the flavour ” – but it’s a sharp wake-up call for any of us parting with good money (sometimes up to 80p per 100ml) for bottles we assume will deliver a decent dose of pricey pomegranate or strawberries, say, but actually do nothing of the sort.

What does your favourite juice blend contain? Scroll down to find out...

Is ‘applejuicification’ acceptable or seriously misleading?

Granted, apple can be a helpful flavour balancer in juice blends. Its juice “dilutes flavours which would be too strong to drink on their own,” explains Telegraph food columnist and consumer champion Xanthe Clay, such as “blackcurrant juice, which would give you a headache if you tried to drink it by itself.”

It also acts as a sweetener when certain fruits aren’t perceived by companies to be palatable by themselves – meaning they can, crucially, get away with slapping ‘no added sugar’ on the label.

“Apple juice is really just sugar – effectively, it’s just adding sugar water,” she says. But with anything between 70 and 80 per cent of such ‘sugar water’ appearing in some of the most popular juice blends on the supermarket shelves, Telegraph nutritionist Sam Rice advises limiting your intake.

“Apple juice does contain some healthy polyphenols, vitamins and minerals and can be useful for hydration, particularly if diluted 50:50 with water, but due to its high sugar content, it’s best to stick to 150ml per day as set out by government guidelines.”

As for the labels behind which such high amounts of apple juice lurk, many are nowhere near as transparent as they ought to be, Clay argues. While the inclusion of apple juice as a main ingredient is clearly listed on the back of bottles, as it legally must be, the front-facing labels which entice consumers to purchase often highlight only the more enticing ingredients.

Naked’s Blue Machine, for example, does not name apple juice on the front label (promoting instead blueberry, goji berry and blackcurrant as its contents) but contains 71 per cent concentrated apple juice; Innocent’s Berry Set Go, meanwhile, is composed of a sturdy 83 per cent pressed apples – a fact that might evade you when lured in by its ruby-red colour and berry-centric name, even if the word ‘apple’ does appear nestled in a virtuous-sounding cluster of raspberry, cherry, goji and guarana (an antioxidant-rich extract from the fruit of an Amazonian plant, of which, the ingredients list states, there is just a “dash”).

Even the order of the wording on the front label plays a significant role in tempting consumers to splurge. Look at the M&S Strawberry & Dragon Fruit Drink with apple, says Clay: “to me, it implies that the majority is strawberry and dragonfruit and that there’s just a little bit of apple, when really it’s apple juice [at 77 per cent] with strawberry and dragonfruit.

On the label for Innocent’s Inner Winner, apple is listed quite low down even though it is the main component [70 per cent]. To me, that’s misleading,” she says. The latter, which is marketed as dragonfruit, lychee and baobab juice but whose ingredients list reveals just two pressed lychees along with one fifth of a crushed dragon fruit, and “some crushed baobab” (a mere 0.41 per cent). It costs £3.80 for 750ml (51p/100ml) – an eye-watering amount when one considers the cost of pure apple juice starts at around 99p for one litre (9.9p/100ml).

A spokesperson for Tropicana Brands Group, which represents Naked, says that in its bottle of Blue Machine, “blueberry, blackcurrant, and goji berry flavours dominate the taste and we have selected a product name that reflects this.”

They also point out that “apples are visually represented on the front of the pack, exact quantities of all fruits are shown on the side of the pack, plus full details are included in the ingredients list’’. A spokesperson for M&S, too, claims “we are always very careful with our product labelling because it’s important that our customers know what to expect.”

In which case, counters Clay, the ingredients should appear in the product name in order of their quantity. “[Products] should say what they are – and [in many cases] that’s apple juice. The bottom line is manufacturers don’t self-regulate well enough and there needs to be legislation on this, otherwise people think they’re getting something they’re not.”

Among the juice blends that clamour for our custom there are a few whose front labels are more transparent, and some which manage to deliver a palatable blend of fruits with no apple at all.

Tesco’s Tropical Juice Drink is an example of the latter, while Daily Dose’s ‘Framboise’ cold-pressed juice might be “a bit of a la-di-da name,” says Clay, “but underneath they’ve listed apples first, followed by strawberries, raspberries, lemon and mint, which is the order of their percentages in the product. That,” she acknowledges, “passes my test.”

Other fruit drinks with high apple juice content