A California woman sued Trader Joe's in federal court for implying there are health benefits from drinking its bottled alkaline water, which she claims the company can't back up with reliable scientific studies, Food Navigator reported.
The plaintiff states there is no more benefit from drinking Trader Joe's alkaline water than any other bottled or tap water — although the company is charging more for its product by claiming it contains electrolytes for taste and has a pH of 9.5.
Anthony Almada, president and chief science officer of consultancy IMAGINutrition, told Food Navigator that the evidence that alkaline water has health benefits is "suggestive at best."
Trader Joe's is one of many companies marketing bottled water claiming to be healthier because of added electrolytes, vitamins and minerals, infused hydrogen gas — or just being untreated "raw" water featuring no additions or processing at all.
These branded offerings claim special benefits for those who consume them, and they tend to charge premium prices as a result. However, it's debatable whether any of the label claims for these water products are actually true. According to some dietitians, all most people really need to replace electrolytes lost during exercising is plain water and a balanced diet.
Water has became a trendy space. Bottled water surpassed other beverages such as soda as the most popular drink in the U.S. in 2016, so the audience for such specialized products is growing. And there is a lot of money to be made by marketing bottled water products as distinct and offering more appealing benefits than the competition.
Vapor-distilled Smartwater — made by a Coca-Cola subsidiary — racked up $821 million in sales during the past 52 weeks ending in March, according to IRI. Live Water charges $37 for a glass jug of 2.5 gallons and $15 for refills at one San Francisco grocery store.
While a lawsuit like the one filed against Trader Joe's could convince consumers to avoid certain types of branded bottled waters claiming health benefits, it could also attract more people to the products — especially if the company wins. And winning is a distinct possibility, according to lawyers interviewed by Food Navigator. They said it's almost impossible for plaintiffs to prove that a company has falsely made health benefit claims. Merely stating on the label that water with added electrolytes provides superior hydration or is refreshing is a relatively safe position and difficult to disprove.