Back to school warning: ‘healthy’ kids’ fruit drinks contain more sugar than soft drinks

Monday 13 April, 2015

Many popular children’s fruit drinks which promote themselves as healthy options have been found to contain up to 7 teaspoons of sugar - even more sugar than for the same amount of Coke.

An analysis by the Obesity Policy Coalition has revealed how popular lunchbox-sized fruit drinks on Australian supermarket shelves use healthy sounding statements on their labels despite their high sugar content.

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, says “Popular brands market these products as healthy, every day options for kids’ lunchboxes, when in actual fact many contain as much sugar, and sometimes more, than Coca-Cola. 

“Using marketing spin such as ‘30% less sugar’, ‘high in vitamin C’ or ‘free from artificial colours or flavours’ can make products appear to be a healthy option. But with some containing more than 7 teaspoons of sugar and as little as 25 per cent fruit juice per serve, they deliver a significant sugar hit without the fibre or nutrients children would get from eating a piece of fruit.”

Golden Circle Sunshine Punch was the worst offender with 7.7 teaspoons of sugar (30.6g) per 250mL serve which is more than for the same amount of Coke (6.6 teaspoons or 26.5g of sugar). 

Close behind was Golden Circle’s Pineapple and Orange Fruit Drink 250ml with 7.1 teaspoons of sugar (28.2g), while Pop Tops Orange Fruit Drink and Coles Apple & Blackcurrant Fruit Drink both had 6.9 teaspoons of sugar (27.5g) per 250ml serve.

These fruit drinks contribute added sugar to children's diets and can lead to excess energy consumption and poor dental health. Diets high in added sugar can lead to overweight and obesity, putting kids at risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and cancer in future.

The World Health Organisation recommends that added sugars make up a maximum of 10 per cent of people’s daily energy, and ideally no more than 5 per cent (or 6 teaspoons per day) for the biggest health benefit. Some of these fruit drinks deliver more than the ideal recommended sugar intake for adults in one hit.

“Most parents wouldn’t dream of putting soft drink in their children’s lunchboxes, however many of these fruit drinks should also be consumed occasionally, not every day. Water and a piece of fruit are much healthier choices,” Ms Martin says.

“The healthy-sounding labels are a big part of the problem. The OPC is urging parents to be wary of healthy-sounding claims on fruit drink products and to provide water with a piece of fruit as an alternative to a sugary drink. Whole fruit is a preferable source of vitamins because of its fibre content and it fills kids up as well.”  

Five healthy sounding kids' fruit drinks 

Product What the label says
Sugar per serve Sugar per 100ml
Golden Circle Sunshine Punch (250mL)
  • Fruit drink with vitamin C
  • 25% fruit juice
  • No added colours or preservatives
 7.7tsp (30.6g)
3.1tsp (12.2g)
Golden Circle Pine Orange (250mL)
  • Fruit drink with vitamin C
  • 25% fruit juice
  • No added colours or preservatives
 7.1tsp (28.2g)
2.8tsp (11.3g)
Coles Orange Fruit Drink (250mL)
  • 40% fruit juice
  • No preservatives
  • No artificial colours
 6.8tsp (27.3g)
2.7tsp (10.9g)
Pop Tops Apple Fruit Drink (250mL)
  • 30% less sugar (than previous formula)
  • No artificial colours, flavours or sweetener
  • 30% real fruit juice
 6.7tsp (26.8g)
2.7tsp (10.7g)
Prima Orange Juice (200mL)
  • No preservatives
  • No added colours
  • 25% fruit juice
 5.3tsp (21.2g)
2.7tsp (10.6g)
Note: Calculations based on 4g teaspoons.


Chart showing kids fruit drinks with equal or more sugar than Coca Cola

About the Obesity Policy Coalition

The Obesity Policy Coalition is a group of leading public health agencies who are concerned about the escalating levels of overweight and obesity, particularly in children.

The Obesity Policy Coalition is a partnership between Diabetes Australia - Vic, Cancer Council Victoria and the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University, with funding from VicHealth.