How Orange Juice Can Teach You to Save Money

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If you drink Tropicana's Trop50 orange juice, you paid twice as much as the "diet" product is worth. Here's how to avoid making the same supermarket mistake again.

A bottle of Tropicana’s Trop50 orange juice recently showed up in my fridge. I’m not sure who brought it – my boyfriend? My mother? – but I’m sure they overpaid by 100 percent.

Trop50 is marketed as low-calorie orange juice. “It’s made with the same pure, natural Tropicana orange juice you love, but with 50 percent less sugar and calories,” reads the product’s website.

But Trop50 is actually just watered-down orange juice. About half of the bottle is water, which means you’re paying the same price you pay for a bottle of regular OJ but getting half as much OJ! You’re basically paying for Tropicana to water down your orange juice – which you could do yourself for much less.

Trop50 is a perfect example of why Money Talks News constantly reminds you to read the labels on the foods you eat and the beauty products you use. It’s not hard. Here’s how I figured out that Trop50 is 100 percent rip-off…

1. Be skeptical

I first heard about Trop50 from one of its commercials featuring svelte actress Jane Krakowski. Immediately, two things struck me…

First, I found it odd that a celebrity was hired for an OJ commercial. Orange juice isn’t a high-end good that usually makes manufacturers willing to splurge on a big name. (Now I realize Tropicana was probably sexing up the product to compensate for watering it down.)

Second, I wondered how it’s even possible to make low-calorie OJ – sugar occurs naturally in oranges, so orange juice doesn’t contain extra sugar unless you add it. It’s not like diet soda: You can’t make “diet” OJ by removing the added sugar and replacing it with a calorie-free alternative.

2. Read the label

When that bottle of Trop50 showed up in my fridge, I went right for the ingredient list. That’s how I learned that the first ingredient is not orange juice but water.

Next I compared Trop50‘s Nutrition Facts to that of Tropicana’s Pure Premium regular orange juice. Check this out…

Trop50 Pure Premium
Serving size 8 ounces 8 ounces
Calories 50 110
Calories from Fat 0 0
Total Fat (g) 0 0
Saturated Fat (g) 0 0
Trans Fat (g) 0 0
Cholesterol (mg) 0 0
Sodium (mg) 10 0
Potassium (mg) 450 450
Total Carbs (g) 13 26
Dietary Fiber (g) 0 0
Sugars (g) 10 22
Protein (g) <1 2
Vitamin A (%*) 10 0
Vitamin C (%*) 120 120
Calcium (%*) 0 2
Iron (%*) 0 0
Vitamin E (%*) 10 N/A
Thiamin (%*) 10 10
Riboflavin (%*) 4 4
Niacin (%*) 4 4
Vitamin B6 (%*) 6 6
Folic Acid (%*) 6 15
Magnesium (%*) 6 6
*% of daily value

As you’d expect from a diet drink, Trop50 is similar to Pure Premium but with fewer calories, carbs, and sugars. But how can that be if Trop50 is half water? Well, that’s why you have to read the ingredient lists too. Check out this comparison…

Trop50 Pure Premium
Contains: 42% juice 100% pure juice
Ingredients: Filtered water 100% pure and natural orange juice
Not from concentrate pasteurized orange juice
Modified food starch
Citric acid
Malic acid
Natural flavors
Reb A (Pure Via brand)
Added vitamins and minerals: Potassium citrate N/A
Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)
Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
Magnesium phosphate
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1)
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6)

Now you see that the two products only have similar amounts of nutrients because Tropicana added nutrients to Trop50. They even had to add Vitamin C!

In fact, all of Trop50’s added ingredients are to make up for all the added water. For example, Reb A is a sweetener, modified food starch is a thickener, and citric acid gives foods a citrus-like sourness.

The moral of the story

If you want lower-calorie OJ, dilute your usual OJ yourself. Your OJ will last longer, saving you money, and you’ll still benefit from orange juice’s natural nutritiousness. If you’re concerned enough about calories to consider wasting money on Trop50 anyway, try a Vitamin C supplement instead. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper.

And the next time you’re at the grocery store, remember to think before you spend. The only way to not be duped by products like Trop50 is to know what you’re buying: Read the label on the back instead of the marketing hype on the front.

For more tips on reading labels, check out Trans Fat: When Cheap Means Costly and How to Read Beauty Product Labels.

Karla Bowsher runs our Deals page and covers consumer, retail, and health issues. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, leave a comment or contact her at [email protected].

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