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The Ribena Scandal Unveiled: Exposing the Truth Behind Misleading Claims

The Ribena Scandal: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Misleading Claims

For years, Ribena has been a popular fruit drink enjoyed by people all over the world. With its bold claim to contain four times more vitamin C than oranges, it seemed like a healthy and nutritious choice. But in 2004, a scandal broke that shook the foundations of Ribena’s advertising claims and revealed a shocking truth. In this article, we delve into the Ribena scandal and explore the reasons behind the misleading information.

The experiment that revealed the truth

In 2004, two New Zealand students, Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo, decided to conduct an experiment to see if cheaper juices were actually less healthy. They chose Ribena as their test subject because of its advertised high vitamin C content. However, when they tested Ribena to establish a benchmark, they were astonished to find that it contained a negligible amount of vitamin C. This discovery prompted them to take action and seek answers.

A search for answers

Devathasan and Suo contacted GlaxoSmithKline, which owns Ribena, to share their findings. Unfortunately, their concerns were dismissed and the company provided evasive answers. Undeterred, the students turned to organizations such as the Advertising Standards Authority and Brandpower to raise awareness of the issue. However, their attempts to raise awareness fell on deaf ears.

The Spotlight Shines: Fair Go and the investigation

Despite initial setbacks, the Ribena scandal gained traction when the consumer affairs show Fair Go decided to investigate the matter. Subsequently, an official commission of inquiry supported Devathasan and Suo’s claims. In 2007, GlaxoSmithKline was fined NZD 217,500 by the Auckland District Court for breaching the Fair Trading Act. The court also ordered changes to Ribena’s advertising practices. However, given GlaxoSmithKline’s stature as a pharmaceutical company, the fine seemed inconsequential.

Unraveling the motive behind the deception

The question that arises is why Ribena would fabricate claims about its vitamin C content in the first place. At first glance, it seems puzzling, since it would be relatively easy and inexpensive to add vitamin C to the product. However, a closer look at Ribena’s ingredient list reveals a possible explanation. The drink is composed mainly of blackcurrant juice concentrate, which makes up 32 percent of its composition. The process of producing the concentrate, NPR learned in 2017, reduces the drink’s vitamin C content due to the vitamin’s instability. Any change in the shape of the fruit affects vitamin C levels. As a result, Ribena’s advertising claims were divorced from its historical origins and production process, resulting in misleading information.

The impact on consumer confidence

The Ribena scandal is a cautionary tale about the importance of transparency and accuracy in advertising. When companies make bold claims about their products, consumers place their trust in those claims. But when the truth turns out to be very different, it undermines that trust and raises questions about other products and claims in the marketplace. The Ribena scandal serves as a reminder for companies to uphold ethical standards and maintain the integrity of their advertising practices.

Lessons learned and the way forward

The Ribena scandal had a significant impact not only on GlaxoSmithKline, but on the industry as a whole. It highlighted the need for better regulation and accountability in advertising to ensure that claims are substantiated and accurate. Consumers have become more discerning and demand transparency from the brands they support. As a result, companies must prioritize honesty, credibility and delivering products that match their marketing promises.

Bottom line

The Ribena scandal revealed a disturbing reality behind the company’s claims of high vitamin C content. What initially seemed like a minor discrepancy turned into a significant controversy that exposed the disconnect between Ribena’s advertising and the actual composition of the product. This scandal serves as a reminder of the importance of truth and integrity in advertising, and the need for vigilant consumers to question the claims made by brands. Going forward, it is critical that companies prioritize transparency and regain the trust of their customers through responsible marketing practices.


What was the Ribena scandal?

The Ribena scandal refers to a controversy that arose in 2004 when it was discovered that Ribena, a popular fruit drink, contained significantly less vitamin C than advertised.

Who discovered the misleading information on Ribena?

The misleading information about Ribena’s vitamin C content was discovered by two New Zealand students, Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo, during a school experiment.

How did GlaxoSmithKline, which owns Ribena, respond to the students’ findings?

GlaxoSmithKline initially dismissed the concerns raised by Devathasan and Suo, providing evasive answers and failing to adequately address the issue.

What action was taken against GlaxoSmithKline as a result of the scandal?

In 2007, GlaxoSmithKline was fined NZD 217,500 by the Auckland District Court for breaching the Fair Trading Act. The court also ordered the company to change its advertising practices.

Why did Ribena mislead consumers about its vitamin C content?

The motive behind Ribena’s misleading claims appears to be a disconnect between its historical origins and its manufacturing process. The concentration process used to make the drink reduces the vitamin C content, resulting in a discrepancy between the advertised claims and the actual composition of the product.

What lessons can be learned from the Ribena scandal?

The Ribena scandal highlights the importance of transparency, accuracy and ethical advertising practices. It underscores the need for companies to substantiate their claims and maintain consumer trust by aligning their marketing promises with the reality of their products.

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