The Juicy Details: Breaking Down Common Terms & Labels Found on Fruit Products

— By Alex Bosse, Nutrition Education Professional for UMaine Cooperative Extension EFNEP (Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program)

Have you ever found yourself at the grocery store confused by the labeling on some of your favorite products? I know I definitely have, and my favorite food group (fruits) is no exception. Whether its products labeled as “100% fruit juice”, “fruit drink”, “fruit-flavored drink”, “fruit juice from concentrate”, “fruit juice not from concentrate”, or “fruit cocktail”, there are plenty of words and labels thrown around that are oftentimes difficult to understand and comprehend. In this blog we are going to demystify and break down some of these commonly used words and labels.

For more information on the MyPlate Fruit Group, check out our UMaine Extension Bulletin #4391 – Eating for Health with MyPlate: Fruits.

100% Fruit Juice vs. Fruit Drink vs. Fruit-Flavored Drink

Is there a difference between “100% fruit juice”, “fruit drink”, and “fruit-flavored drinks”? Yes, there is, and to tell the difference between these, it all comes down to reading the ingredient list and looking at how the products are labeled. We’ll break down some of the differences below.

100% Fruit Juice

  • 100% fruit juice is juice that comes entirely from real fruit without any added sugars, additives, colors, or sweeteners. When looking at food labels, be sure to look out for the words “100% juice”, as this means it is 100% fruit juice.
  • 100% fruit juice is considered a part of the MyPlate Fruit Group, whereas “fruit drinks” and “fruit flavored drinks” are not. While the amount of fruit needed each day differs for everyone, current dietary guidelines recommend that the average adult consumes 2 cups of fruit a day. The following counts as 1 cup from the fruit group:
    • 1 cup of fruit.
    • ½ cup of dried fruit
    • 1 cup of 100% fruit juice
  • While 100% fruit juice is a great way to incorporate more fruit into your diet, it is recommended to not drink more than 1 cup of 100% fruit juice a day, as fruit juice is high in calories and doesn’t provide the fiber that whole fruits provide which improves digestive function and makes us feel fuller.

Juice Drink

  • Juice drinks are products that contain less than 100% fruit juice and often contain added sugars, flavorings, sweeteners, and additives. Typically juice drinks are nothing more than sugar water with a small amount of fruit juice and other ingredients added in. Juice drinks have less nutrients than 100% fruit juice.
  • How can I tell if what I am looking at is a juice drink? First, look to see if the product is labeled as “100% fruit juice.” If it is not, then it is likely a juice drink or fruit flavored drink. Words such as “cocktail”, “beverage”, “nectar”, words that have “-ade” at the end of the name (i.e. lemonade), “fruit punch”, and “fruit drink” can help you tell if it is a juice drink. Another great way to tell is to look at the ingredients list on the Nutrition Facts Label. If sugar (commonly labeled as sucrose, fructose, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, or maltodextrin) is in the top two ingredients, then it is most likely a juice drink.

Fruit Flavored Drinks

  • Fruit flavored drinks contain no real fruit juice and contain added sweeteners and flavorings to make the product taste fruity or sweet.
  • Like juice drinks, look out for similar keywords, and always make sure to look at the top ingredients on the ingredients list. Ingredients on ingredient lists are always listed in descending order by weight, so the first ingredient that is listed is found the most in a product. If the top ingredients are water and sugar then the product is likely a juice drink or fruit-flavored drink.

From Concentrate or Not from Concentrate? That is the Question

Have you ever wondered what the difference between from concentrate and not from concentrate means? Is one safer to consume? Is one more healthy? When juice products are marketed as from concentrate and not from concentrate, it all comes down to how they are processed.

Not from concentrate juice is juice that has been pressed or squeezed, is pasteurized to remove any pathogens, and then is packaged and sold.

From concentrate juice means that the juice is extracted from the fruit and the water then is removed. This ensures that the juice takes up less space when being transported. After being transported, water is added back to the juice, and it is then pasteurized, packaged, and sold.

All in all, from concentrate and not from concentrate juices are both pasteurized to remove pathogens so they are safe for the public to drink, and as long as additional ingredients, such as sugar for example, are not added to concentrated juice, then there is no nutritional difference between the two.

Fruit Cocktail

Fruit cocktail. You either love it or hate it. As a kid, it was one of my favorite sweet treats at the school cafeteria and at home for a snack or dessert. Contrary to its namesake, fruit cocktail doesn’t contain any alcohol, but is rather a blend of diced fruits in juice or syrup. Typically, it is found canned in stores, but it can be made fresh at home as well (and is even great added to dishes like yogurt, gelatin desserts, salads, baked goods, and marinades!)

When looking for fruit cocktail, as well as other canned fruits at the store, be sure to look at the label to see if it is “in 100% juice”, “in extra light syrup”, “in heavy syrup”, or “no sugar added”, which is traditionally made with an artificial sweetener. While fresh fruit is always the most desirable option, fruit cocktail is a readily available shelf-stable pantry item that can liven up dishes and pack the fruity punch you need throughout the day.

To reduce added sugar, try opting for fruit cocktail in 100% juice or no sugar added fruit cocktail, opposed to fruit cocktails in syrup as these varieties of fruit cocktail are typically high in added sugars and calories, which don’t provide any nutritional benefits. Draining the juices will help to remove excess added sugar as well.