Fruitree tropical
Fruitree Tropical old (left) and new (right).
  • Fruitree has two versions of its fruit drinks on shelves at the same time, as it moves towards new, low-sugar formulations.
  • At least one consumer was deeply unimpressed by accidentally buying the new formulation.
  • We tried old and new for ourselves and the verdict was very mixed – but the difference is certainly huge.

Fruitree, the popular juice brand of Pioneer Foods, has radically reformulated its drinks from "fruit nectar" blends – with lots of added cane sugar – to "fruit drink" blends with no extra sugar. But until it runs out of old packaging both versions of these drinks are on shelves at the same time, and that has left at least one consumer fuming.

On Tuesday the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) dismissed the complaint of a consumer who had bought the new version of Fruitree Tropical by accident, and thought she had been misled by similar packaging used for two different juices.

Pioneer told the ARB that it had changed its recipe to comply with new regulations around sugar, but was still selling its old drinks until it ran out of one-litre packaging for the old.

We found an old version of Fruitree tropical in a one-litre box on the shelf next to the new, reformulated version in a two-litre box, and tested it amongst the Business Insider South Africa team. 

Here is what we found.

Both old and new are called "Tropical", but that is where the similarities end.

Fruitree cups

The juices are very different in colour, smell, and taste – and fans of the old will not necessarily be fans of the new.

But in an office taste test we found fans of both. Some described the original "fruit nectar blend" as tasting more authentically of fruit, others said the new "fruit drink blend" was less cloyingly sweet.

The new formulation contains slightly more water – but you can't really tell.

Old Fruitree juice box bottom

The main ingredient in Fruitree tropical, both old and new, is "purified water". But where the original was 40% derived from fruit, the new version owes only 32% of its origin to something that was once fruit.

Fruitree box

As the front of the box also makes clear, the new version of Fruitree Tropical is flavoured with apple – a juice much beloved for its sweetness by companies cutting out cane sugar – and orange. The original, on the other hand, was flavoured primarily by orange and pineapple.

Out: banana, peach, and lemon – and sugar, of course. In: apple and guava.

Fruitree sugar

Pioneer says the main object was to remove the cane sugar that is now taxed as a health measure. But its new and old Tropical versions share only three fruit ingredients: orange, pineapple, and passionfruit. Gone entirely are the banana, peach, and lemon of the original.

Fruitree new ingredients

Entirely new to the mix is the sweet apple, and guava puree.

Both versions share three different non-nutritive sweeteners: Acesulfame K, Sodium cyclamate, and sodium saccharin.

The new version is notably less sweet, but less so than the nutritional values would suggest.

Old Fruitree values

Our tasters were universal in their finding that the Fruitree Tropical tastes much less sweet than the old, even if they were divided on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. But the taste results were not in keeping with the dramatic fall in sugar, and so energy value.

The old version of the drink was 8.2% sugar, making for 149 kilojoules in every 100 millilitres. The newer version, with sweet apple juice but minus the added cane sugar, is made up of only 1.9% sugar, for 46 kilojoules in every 100 millilitres – a 70% reduction.

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