In 2002, POM Wonderful debuted, hitting the refrigerated super premium juice market with its distinctive bottle shape, creative marketing and the backing of scientific research promoting the health benefits of pomegranates and pomegranate juice. Its unique figure eight shape, featuring the contours of two pomegranates, afforded the brand instant consumer recognition, as did its distinguishing dark red color and heart-shaped letter O. And as the first company to market pomegranate-based products throughout the United States, POM Wonderful had a sharp competitive advantage.
Privately held, POM Wonderful uses the variety of pomegranate called Wonderful and is the only company in the industry that grows its own pomegranates, highlighting its unique ability to supervise a growing and picking process from start to finish domestically in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Competitors, including Purely Juice, Naked Juice and Fruitmost, import at least some of their pomegranates from Iran and other countries in the Middle East—places whose exporting standards do not always meet American standards.
With an infusion of capital to the tune of US$ 25 million into American and international studies researching the health benefits of its product, POM Wonderful has managed to present findings that have earned it a devoted fan base. Biochemist Michael Aviram, Head of the Lipid Research Laboratory at Rambam Medical Center, Technion Faculty of Medicine in Israel, was the first to hail the pomegranate as heart healthy and capable of multiple healing and preventive benefits.
“The antioxidant quantity, as well as quality, is better than other antioxidant-rich juices,” explains Aviram, who also pioneered the search into the antioxidant benefits of red wine. “It contains more polyphenols concentration, and more potent types of polyphenolic antioxidants than other juices. Finally, it is most protective against atherosclerosis developments and its cardiovascular complications.” In addition to these heart-healthy research results, a preliminary UCLA medical study on pomegranate juice has shown promising findings for men with prostate cancer.
But POM Wonderful’s initiative soon hit a few snags. When PETA learned that the company was conducting animal testing, they demanded that it cease all such studies immediately. POM Wonderful initially resisted, but after PETA staged a boycotting campaign spreading negative publicity about the company, POM Wonderful finally succumbed.
In a letter to PETA, POM President and CEO Matt Tupper declared that “Neither POM Wonderful nor its related entities provide funding for ongoing animal testing on POM Juice (or POM Tea). Moreover, there are no plans to do so in the future.”
Other organizations have found fault with a different aspect of POM Wonderful’s operations. In 2005, Welch Foods brought some of POM Wonderful’s advertisements to the attention of the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division (NAD), the self-regulatory mechanism of the US advertising industry. The ads, touting the product’s healthful benefits, declared “Cheat Death…Eight ounces a day is all you need” and featured a noose around a POM Wonderful bottle’s neck. After investigation, the NAD sided with Welch Foods and asked POM Wonderful to scale back its claims, which the company did.
Nevertheless, POM Wonderful’s ads are still aggressive. Their catchy slogans are creative and memorable and get the point across succinctly and humorously. One ad says “The Antioxidant Superpower: The Power of Pomegranate Juice” and features the distinctive POM Wonderful bottle with a red cape. Another ad still features “Cheat Death,” but offers the subtitle “The Antioxidant power of Pomegranate Juice” in place of the original, controversial line. The ads, certain to appeal to consumers of all ages, continue to pave the way for POM Wonderful’s attraction as a medical wonder.
POM Wonderful continues to grow with annual retail sales generating US$ 100 million in 2007. With its success in the pomegranate and pomegranate juice market, POM Wonderful has expanded its products to include POM Tea in a number of flavors that claim the same antioxidant benefits as the pomegranate juice. The company has added POMx Pills and POMx Liquid, both of which offer the same antioxidant power as an eight-ounce serving of POM Wonderful juice, but concentrated in a pill or a teaspoon of liquid. It has also launched POMx Iced Coffee, a drink that contains all the antioxidant benefits of a POMx Pill (no, it does not taste like pomegranate). This November, consumers can also try POM Wonderful in a new shape and texture: Red Mango, a popular retailer of authentic nonfat frozen yogurt in the United States, has begun to offer a POM Wonderful frozen yogurt flavor.
These days, it is POM Wonderful that is on the offensive. This summer, after being tipped off by competitor Frutzzo that according to testing they had conducted, Purely Juice was selling adulterated pomegranate juice with added sugar, POM Wonderful filed suit against Purely Juice.
The US District Court in California found Purely Juice guilty on a number of counts. According to the court’s decision, “It was widely known in the super premium juice industry that there were serious issues of adulteration with pomegranate juice concentrate originating from outside the United States,” and yet Purely Juice continued to import the concentrate.
Furthermore, the court found that consumers purchase pomegranate juice for its health benefits. Purely Juice, which had falsely advertised its product as 100 percent pomegranate juice when it knew it was not, stole certain profit and goodwill from POM Wonderful, leading customers to believe that POM Wonderful’s more expensive price was unduly inflated. Purely Juice was only able to market its juice as considerably less pricey than POM Wonderful because the product it was advertising was not the product it was actually selling.
As to whether POM Wonderful’s juice is actually better than that of its competitors, Aviram focuses on the reality. He says, “I studied the POM Wonderful variety and know that it is most potent. Other brands may also be potent, as long as they are really 100 percent pomegranate juice and not a diluted juice.” So far, consumers agree with Aviram’s synopsis, helping to keep POM Wonderful’s success in the palm of their hands.