Pom - Wonderful?

By Andrea Karim on 25 April 2007 (Updated 9 June 2007) 28 comments

The health benefits of pomegranates are something like folk wisdom outside of the Western world, and like green tea, are only starting to seep into the American consumer's consciousness. Not only are pomegranate-derived juices very popular, but the flavor is showing up in weird places, like yogurt. You know a flavor has made it once it's enshrined in yogurt.

Anyway, because the pomegranate is SO popular with everyone right now, I have to raise my objections over the company that really got the craze going. POM Wonderful, with their snazzy bottles and their brilliant marketing and their Oprah endorsement, found a way to turn acres of unwanted fruit trees into a massive trend. And bully for them. But I'm not buying it.

Well, I'm not buying POM Wonderful. Here's why:

  • It's just too expensive for what you get out of it. The POM Wonderful at my local Safeway sells for $4.50 for a 16 oz bottle. Custom bottles means a higher cost. Nice advertising means higher costs. I've noticed that POM changed their packaging from their distinctive glass bottles to distinctive plastic bottles. You may or may not know how I feel about that already.
  • Although POM claims now that neither they nor any of their subsidiaries conduct animal testing, all of their health claims (see below) were based on animal testing that they paid for. While I like pomegranate juice, I don't like the way POM went about makreting the product using all sorts of health claims about it - health claims that were taken from their OWN studies. It reminds me of that Kentucky Fried Chicken poster that explained how KFC can be a healthy part of a balanced diet. Sure, pomegranates are better for you than fried chicken, but doesn't it seem cynical that the company that is finding all these benefits is the same company that stands to make so much money from people believing in the benefits?
  • POM's juice cocktails contain more juices than just pomegranate, blueberry, and cherry. (POM does make pure pomegrante juice as well)Although the cocktails are pretty darn tasty, they're still getting away with giving you less pomegranate for your money. POM Wonderful's Pomegranate Cherry juice contains: pomegranate, cherry, apple, pineapple, plum, and aronia juices.

Here are my preferred alternatives:

  • Knudsen makes a variety of pure juices, one of which is pomegranate. That's pure pomegranate juice, with no other juices added. This was going to be my end-all solution to the issue of pomegranate juice, but this stuff is almost as expensive as POM. I swear that, a couple of years ago, it didn't cost as much - so I look for it on sale. When it goes on sale, it's maybe 70% the cost of POM Wonderful. I almost never see POM Wonderful on sale, but that might be because it's very popular here.
  • Trader Joe's sells organic, pure pomegrante juice at HALF the price of POM Wonderful - about $4 for 32 fl oz. Trader Joe's the solution to many of my frugal problems, but unfortunately, isn't a solution for people who live outside of metropolitan areas. Trader Joe's also does a nice variety of other juices - I like aronia and cherry.
  • I don't drink pure juice anymore - I like to cut it with soda water. It makes the juice go further, and I can reduce my caloric intake without sacrificing a tasty treat. Pure juice sugars are absorbed much more quickly by your blood stream than the sugars from, say, raw fruit because juices don't have nearly the amount of fiber to slow down the sugar absorbtion. A 16 oz bottle of pomegranate juice has roughly 300 calories - that's a lot, especially for something that doesn't really satisfy hunger or anything.

(Photo by kowabungat)

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Guest's picture
Guest

I loved reading your article about the different pomegranate juices, thanks for doing the research. POM was actually my favorite before I read you post, and then it wasnt, and then it was again :-) whew!

When you said POM Juice wasnt 100% Pomegrante juice, I was confused. I was convinced for the price I was paying it was, so I looked at the bottle, and found it to be 100% pomegrante juice??

I also looked on their website and found that claim to be true I also learned a lot. They grow ALL of the pomegranates used to make the juice! They also claim to be the largest growers of their special pomegrantes (The "Wonderful" variety) in all of north america!! Thats no small peanuts.

Also, I almost threw up in my mouth when you said the research was all done on animals!!!! I thought, I'm done with POM! But I found out through a online medical journal they spent nearly 20 million in medical research - most of which conducted on HUMANS at places like UCLA, Anderson Cancer center, world famous Mayo clinic, Johh Hopkins University. They also have stated to have stopped all vivisection testing, as of last year. They have a bunch of PDF's on the research - none of which was conducted on animals and a great deal of cool health related stuff and best of all...RECIPE'S! I learned more on their site in 25 min then my 1st semester in Medical School @ Loma Linda!

So, my conclusion was...this stuff is what is...100% juice and really-really good for ya -and a lil pricey :-)

Guest's picture
Guest

Yes, thank God they quit testing on animals and used HUMANS instead. Why is this better? Hurt the human, but safe the rat? Good luck, doctor.

Guest's picture
Guest

You know why we don't feel bad for the humans? Because THEY signed up for it. The rat did not.

Andrea Karim's picture

You don't WORK for POM, do you? I'd be really really wary of the "facts" that you can get from their web site.

They do offer 100% pomegranate juice (and that was mentioned in my original article before I edited the hell out of it - thanks for pointing that out), but the cocktails are the ones that concern me - when I buy something like pomegranate blueberry juice, I don't expect to drink pineapple juice.

POM does probably grow all of their pomegranates. The owners of Fiji Water (the Resnicks) ended up with endless pomegranate orchards - I originally read that it was part of another business deal. Faced with tons and tons of rotting pomegranates, which don't fetch enough money on their own, the Resnicks (some say Linda came up with the idea of creating newfound demand for their product by determining that pomegranates are better for you than other fruits. POM Wonderful was born. Owned by Roll International, they have done an amazing job generating demand where there wasn't any before.

I did actually SAY in my article that they quit testing on animals. I'm glad that they responded to customer demands when they heard about the boycott of their product. But my point isn't simply that they tested on animals, but that they used animal testing to justify claims about the health benefits of their product.

Let me put it this way: Would you fully trust "scietific tests" that show that you should have 3 servings of dairy per day, when the tests are paid for by the Dairy Council (nothing against dairy in particular, just an example)? Consider that POM was doing tests to determine if pomegranate juice can help with erectile disfunction.

http://www.peta.org/feat-pom-victory.asp

http://www.friendsofanimals.org/news/2006/september/pomegranates-are-won.html

http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/4148

I was going to type of a rant about the cruelty of testing on rodent penises, but then I started laughing too hard.

Guest's picture
Guest

Ms. Andrea,
you're correct - this site IS about helping people save money. i feel the need to point out the fact that YOU made it about animal rights by inserting a mini-diatribe about POM testing on animals in order to make your argument more convincing.

thanks for the factual information about alternative, less expensive brands. perhaps there are other more appropriate venues for your opinions on animal rights(which, by the way, i largely share.)

peace,
bunny

Guest's picture
Ash

I am a first-time visitor to Wise Bread, and I just wanted to say that I didn't share this sentiment of bunny's when I read about POM and the tests they have funded in the past. I learn over and over again in various classes I take as an undergrad college student that one of the first things to find out about when considering the validity of the results of research findings is, "Who commissioned the research?" I find the information offered up by Wise Bread to be objective and useful.

Guest's picture
Guest

Do you believe what the government has told you about the "health risks" of smoking marijuana?

Non-government sanctioned tests have shown benefits not risks. But that's not what this countries leaders are telling us.

What the fx up with that?

Andrea Karim's picture

This site aims to help people save money. POM is expensive, among its myriad of other sins.

Guest's picture
Brian

If you are looking for a very tasty and economical way to get your Pomegranate, I LOVE the Jarrow Formulas Pomegranate Juice Concentrate. It is basically pure pomegranate juice (from the POM Wonderful variety in California)that has had 4 times water removed from it. It is like a pomegranate syrup because it has been concentrated. Nothing else is added to the product and no other processes are involved. I add it to yogurt, smoothies, sparkling water, and use it in recipes. It is amazing. You can find it online at the internet nutrition websites. Just type 'Jarrow Formulas Pomegranate Juice Concentrate' into a search engine and you will find it.

Jessica Okon's picture

Some cool recipes for and with pomegranate syrup.

When, I was growing up we called pomegranates "Chinese apples." Me & my friends were forbidden to bring them into the house because they can be messy, even to this day I find it more fun to crack one open outside and enjoy the juicy mess.

Andrea Karim's picture

Thanks for the info, Brian! 

Thanks for those links, Jessica. I do so love pomegranate syrup, too.

Jessica Okon's picture

That concentrate is the same thing as the syrup, molasses, etc. Go to your local middle eastern market for the best prices!

Guest's picture
Emma

It's actually quite easy to make your own pomegranate juice if you have a blender and a strainer. Depending on how much the fruit is in your area, it may be significantly cheaper too. Here's how it works:

1) Get a pomegranate, and peel it into water. You don't have to worry much about separating the white stuff from the seeds because in the water the seeds sink, and the white stuff floats.

2) Skim out the white stuff, and let the juice from the seeds leech into the water. You can keep this mixture for a while.

3) When you want a glass, just dump some in the blender, add sugar as desired, and blend. Strain into a glass.

This way, you also get to control the amount of sugar in the juice (which is usually quite high) as well as how concentrated it is. Just beware that with no preservatives, the blended juice doesn't keep long, so drink it up!

Guest's picture
Eva

I used to love POM, despite the steep price.
I'd always cut it with water, cause straight up was just too intense, sweet & tart at the same time. I'm almost willing to bet that it used to be "not from concentrate", at the very begining, but I may be wrong.
Costco carries now the half gallon bottles for $9.99 which is what Publix used to have sales on. But unfortunately the quality went waaaaay down. A bottle purchased yesterday that tastes like blueberry juice, none of the distinct pomegranate taste and it's translucent... Boo. Now looking for a new brand.

Guest's picture
POM believer

First, let me tell you that due to a variety of reasons I am in fact very proud to work for POM Wonderful. As a technical adviser for POM that is very familiar with some of the topics discussed, I was very dismayed to read your post above.

Thus, allow me some comments:

1. POM Wonderful juice has a higher price point because it is expensive to produce juice in a way that is adequate to maintain the healthful properties of the pomegranate fruit. There are several other 100% pomegranate juice products in the market, but the quality of the final product is usually heavily degraded. Have you ever wondered why POM juice is sold in the refrigerated section of the stores? Answer: to maintain freshness and prevent degradation of nutrients, color and flavor. The other 100% pomegranate juices sold in the stores are usually brown and have a terrible taste. It’s cheaper to make cheap juice.

2. I’ll refrain from commenting on your point related to animal testing.

Studies performed with POM Wonderful pomegranate juice are carried by preeminent research institutions and published in accredited peer-reviewed scientific journals. In fact, out of the many studies that are carried with POM Wonderful pomegranate products - the company has spent >$25 Million in research - many end up not being published because the results are inconclusive. I understand that for skeptics it is sometimes hard to believe, but POM's owners have actually sponsored so much research because they whole-heartedly believe in the incredible properties of this fruit.

3. POM Wonderful 100% juice blends are in fact made with 100% juices. A quick take at the ingredient label in the back of the bottle shows pomegranate juice as first in the ingredient list, followed by blueberry, or cherry, etc. According to labeling law, that means that the highest content of juice in that blend is in fact pomegranate juice, and the remainder juice ingredients are present in smaller contents. Now, looking at labels of "equivalent" products from POM's competitors, the first ingredients are typically apple and white grape. That means that these juices are largely made with "filler" juices, and pomegranate juice usually shows up as one of the last ingredients in the list (indicating low content). Drinking POM juice blends, consumers get more bang for their buck.

For more information on juice authenticity, see www.pomtruth.com

Guest's picture
Druid

Read about your bosses ties to the Fiji junta.

Andrea Karim's picture

POM Wonderful juice is delicious and probably gives a decent dosage of anti-oxidants. I still think it's a waste of money, overall.

In fact, out of the many studies that are carried with POM Wonderful pomegranate products - the company has spent >$25 Million in research - many end up not being published because the results are inconclusive.

I'm sure that there are millions, maybe billions, of dollars spent every year on research that draws inconclusive results, across all industries. On one hand, great, I'm glad the company is not publishing inconclusive results and trying to skew the findings in their favor. On the other hand, the fact that so much is spent on research that DOESN'T prove the pomegranate juice has many benefits might be a more telling point. The sad thing is that industries keep pouring more and more money into research to prove that they have the magic bullet - the secret ingredient that is the key to health. The fact that plenty of studies prove the pomegranate juice does next to nothing in terms of improving health is actually fairly conclusive in and of itself. You have to keep doing more studies, hoping that one of them will eventually have something to show for it all, right?

Every industry does this, so I don't mean to call out POM unfairly. And again, the product is good, although I wouldn't consider it much better than the juice at Trader Joe's.

Guest's picture
POM believer

"... many end up not being published because the results are inconclusive"

Your response to my comments is disingenuous to say the least. Let me clarify the statement above:

For people in academia and very familiar with scientific research, having inconclusive results does not mean that there are no benefits. The benefits are there, except that the statistic rigor required by a clinical study to show significant differences is not easy to achieve.

The majority of the studies show benefits in a number of areas that you and your readers would be surprised to know about, but they are above all preliminary studies. The reason why so much money is spent on research is that multiple iterations of studies with increased level of complexity have to be carried by very reputable research centers to ensure clinically meaningful results.

Andrea Karim's picture

I'm not in academia, so I'm not sure how many reports are multi-million dollar studies are sponsored buy colleges and universities to prove that a fruit drink is good for you. Is the number very high?

We await YOUR studies, which will surprise us with their findings, with a great sense of anticipation. Let us know when those countless iterations produce something of value that passes a peer review.

My point, of course, is not that your pomegranate juice isn't tasty or healthy; it does taste good, and it probably is quite good for you. Simply that it's probably just not worth all the extra expenditure. You may have noticed that this site promotes careful spending and frugal living.

I see that you've apparently stopped funding on animal testing. That's a good thing.

 

Guest's picture
Guest

It is pricey. On that note it is so funny the that I will go into the store and price compare on items and hesitate at buying a 5 dollar juice but wont think twice about dishing out 5 dollars a pop for cocktails after work! theres definitly somethinh in that stuff that my body needs and craves and it never lasts more than 1 or 2 minutes after opening it! Havent tried any other brands.

OH, get rid of that ugly picture of the open pomegranate on the top of the page. It looks like a diseased internal organ or something!

Andrea Karim's picture

It's funny - I used to find lots of different available brands of pomegranate juice in the store, and now I'm seeing more POM Wonderful and less everything else. It's possible that they are totally trampling the competition, and the bottles are cute, so probably hard to resist.

I might be alone in finding an open pomegranate really pretty. Then again, I don't mind watching open heart surgery, so maybe there's something wrong with me.

Guest's picture
WiseTraveler

I lived in the Middle East where Pomegranate juice is common.
REAL Pomegranate juice looks and tastes nothing like what Pom is serving up and for the price they are ripping-off the public.

Pom is over charging for cocktails with apple, pineapple juice etc.
Basically you're paying a lot for the equivalent of welch's or treetop box juice in deceptive packaging.

Real pomegranate juice is a bright pink/red almost magenta color and is not clear.
Try juicing your own at home if you don't believe me or just google it.

Pom is not the healthiest for you. The healthiest for you is fresh, non shelf stable, and with all the fiber not strained out.

Don't be fooled.

Guest's picture
Guest

Interesting - they're being sued over their health claims.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870465400457551787175723803...

Guest's picture
Guest

So what if the bottles are cute? Why are you beating down this company for putting out a superior product? I don't work for POM but I'm a product designer. I appreciate good marketing when I see it. Sometimes you need a gimmick to get your point accross to the public. I'm middle eastern and grew up eating pommegranate when I saw Pom putting it on the map here in the U.S, I thought more power to them.

Andrea Karim's picture

I love pomegranates and pomegranate juice. My issue is specifically that the marketing raises the price of the product, as does paying companies to perform studies that claim that pomegranates have more health benefits than they really do. The bottles are cute, but it doesn't enhance the product at all.

Guest's picture
Guest

With all the hype Pom Wonderful offers, do we have any information on the relative antioxidant properties of Pom Wonderful vs. Trader Joe's organic pomegranate juice, for example?

Is there any reason to believe Pom Wonderful's publicity that says that their pomegranates are superior to other's pomegranates?

Guest's picture
Galena

i'm an avid couponer and I love pom. They have a coupon out right now for $2 off 48 oz and you can almost always find $1 off the smaller bottles. They also have pom light which is 50% juice and 50% water....or 48% pom juice and 2% blackberry and 50% water and that is my favorite. I don't consider it a bad deal at all, even though it may cost me 6.99 after the coupon if I cannot find it in the reduced section - because I spend a hundred dollars a week on white bread, cereal and bad processed food. Any money I'm spending on something that is actually good for me AND tasty is a bonus. The Pom Lite is healther even though it has "added water" (it does cost less) since there is too much sugar in 100% juice. I could drink three 48 oz a day if I could afford it. And Pom WON their lawsuit by the way - the judge said that there IS heath benefits to it, besides it being one of the tastiest drinks around.

Andrea Karim's picture

No, they do not. And despite what their marketing minions are paid to come here and post, they actually lost their lawsuit.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/21/ftc-pom-wonderful-false-adverti...

POM put out many spin-worthy articles SOUNDING as though the FTC lost the lawsuit, but in fact, POM is no longer allowed to make the health claims that they had previously been making.