/ Food & Drink

Have you fallen for flavoured water?

Bottles of VitaminWater

Can a drink with nearly five teaspoons of sugar really be ‘delicious and nutritious’? Not according to the ASA, which banned such claims from VitaminWater ads. But more sugary waters still lurk on shop shelves…

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently ruled against Coca-Cola for some of their advertising – a poster for its VitaminWater stating ‘enhanced hydration for the nation delicious and nutritious’.

Although VitaminWater contains a range of nutrients, such as B and C vitamins, each bottle also contains 23g (that’s nearly five teaspoons) of added sugar per 500ml bottle.

Glass of water – want sugar with that?

After complaints from the public regarding the advertisement, the ASA ruled that people would understand the word ‘nutritious’ to be a claim that the drink contained ingredients that were needed to stay healthy.

But it also said that consumers wouldn’t expect a ‘nutritious’ drink to contain this amount of added sugar. Because of this, they decided the ad was misleading and that it shouldn’t appear in its current form again.

Sugar aside, I also get a little offended at the suggestion that these drinks are a good way of getting my daily dose of vitamins and minerals – it feels like they’re trying to convince us that we need them to stay healthy. But these drinks don’t offer anything you wouldn’t get from eating some fruit and veg – well, nothing apart from few spoons of added sugar.

Compare and contrast

It’s tough though; sometimes you get bored with water and want an alternative. These flavoured waters sell the image that they’re a healthier option to fizzy soft drinks, but they’re not as healthy as you might expect.

Still, VitaminWater is by no means the most sugar-laden drink available. Drench, which advertises itself as ‘juicy spring water’, contains up to 40.48g sugar per 440ml bottle (depending on the flavour). That’s over eight teaspoons.

Although some of this comes from concentrated fruit juice, it’s not possible to see what proportion comes from fruit and how much is from added sugar.

By comparison, a can of coke (330ml) contains 35g sugar (albeit all added). But regardless of where the sugar comes from – added or from fruit juice – the calories at the end are the same.

What’s the alternative?

If you want to drink something other than water and want to know what you’re getting, take a quick glance at the ingredients list and nutrition info. If sugar comes higher in the ingredients list than any fruit juice it means sugar is the more abundant ingredient.

A teaspoon of sugar is approximately 5g so it’s easy to work out how much sugar you’d consume if you drank the whole bottle.

Then, even if you still go ahead and drink it (as I sometimes do) at least you know what you’re getting. Or if you want to avoid all that sugar you could add a slice of lemon to your water for an extra bit of flavour.


I am amazed that Vitamin has any sugar in it at all. I honestly don’t know what the attraction is with Vitamin.
I may as well go to the tap, fill up with water and add half a pipette of flavouring.

This Water is better because it actually tastes like a drink in its own right, rather than someone adding a drop of robinsons to water and then selling it as their own product.

As a diabetic I am delighted to see ASA taking the sugar content of advertised drinks seriously.

Some years ago, I had a battle with Waitrose who included a spread that was 65% sugar in a range aimed at children that was advertised as having “controlled sugare”. Also, at one time, an icecream was sold with “diabetc” on the container but without the sugar content being mentioned.

Clear guidance as to wording referring to foods with high sugar content is needed.

A reasonably sensible diet will provide most people with all the vitamins they need.

I’m not happy that vitamin content should be used in marketing food and drink. Firstly, it is persuading the public to buy something they don’t need and secondly, certain vitamins (A & D) can be harmful if taken in excess.

If vitamins are added to food, there should be a good reason. For example, vitamins are added to cornflakes and other breakfast cereals because the processing removes the natural vitamins.

G Bentley says:
15 November 2012

I have been drinking Drench for a couple of years believing it to new healthy drink option ‘spring water’ Having read this I am now quite concerned about the sugar level and will be watching label marking much more carefully Sorry britvic