Cheaper, but with added preservatives

Appletiser and Grapetiser are iconic South African products, sold for decades in cans and marketed as 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar, preservatives or colourants. In other words, positioned as a healthier alternative to traditional fizzy drinks. That the new variant in PET bottles now contains preservatives has raised some eyebrows.

“I can’t believe the Appletiser story, if it was 1st April I would think it was a joke – Appletiser, with preservatives – what a shocker. Big, cheap, bottles of Appletiser, with preservatives, is certainly very different from the exclusive ‘healthy’ product I am used to,” wrote a FOODStuff SA reader.

In today’s tough market conditions, it’s understandable from a business perspective why Appletiser has gone this route. The ’Tisers are also far more expensive than the other fizzies, and with packaging making up a sizeable chunk of production costs, one way of slashing the price was to put the product in cheaper plastic (PET) bottles.

But there was a trade-off – the ’Tisers in the plastic bottles are no longer preservative-free.

In a report in The Star, Delia Scott of Cape Town was less than impressed: “The labelling says ‘new value pack’ but only when you read the ingredients list do you discover that it’s got preservatives in it!” she said.

The article continues: Appletiser’s marketing director Neil Hobkirk has explained that while the quality of the ’Tisers in glass and can packs had always been preserved by pasteurisation, which entails heating the juice to 70ºC, this wasn’t possible with the plastic packs. “As a result, we are required to preserve quality by including FDA-approved food friendly preservatives.”

From this month, he said, all new packs of all ’Tisers – glass and cans included – will no longer feature the boast “no preservatives” on them.

This despite the fact that the glass and can packs will continue to be pasteurised and thus will not contain preservatives – only the ’Tiser products in the plastic bottles will contain preservatives. But the company was actively researching a technological solution which would preserve the product in the plastic bottles, without the need for added preservatives.

“Interestingly, in surveys with existing consumers, for 70 percent of them, the addition of preservatives to the plastic packs wasn’t an issue – the environmental impact was their biggest concern,” Hobkirk said.

And here’s the answer to that question: Appletiser is the most recent member of PETCO, an industry recycling body.

If I’d been surveyed on the labelling issue, I’d have suggested that the glass and can packs retain their “no preservatives” claim, as this remains true, and that the new plastic bottles carry a line, separate from the ingredients list, advising consumers: “Contains preservatives”.

That way we would really be in a position to make an informed choice as consumers – a cheaper ’Tiser with preservatives, or a more expensive original version, without preservatives.

Source: The Star