24 July 2011

The Grapefruit Showdown: Raw vs. Del Monte

Do you ever wish vegetables didn't taste quite so "vegetabley"? 
-V8 Commercial 2011

Conversation Overheard

Recently, I overheard a discussion about grapefruits between three people (the names have been changed to protect their privacy). Jane was in the act of eating a raw grapefruit, creating a small pile of rinds as she peeled it.  Bob and Mary, who were in the same room while this activity was taking place, engaged Jane in a conversation. 

Mary: Hey Jane, do you eat a grapefruit every day?
Jane: Yes, it's healthy.
Bob: Where did you buy it?
Jane: At a regional chain supermarket.
Mary: Is it organic?
Jane: No, that's expensive. I'm on a budget.
Bob: Is organic really better anyway?
Mary: I don't think so.
Jane: Tastes the same.
Bob: I eat Del Monte® Fruit Naturals® - this way I don't have to deal with the rinds, or eat the nasty white part on the skin.

Note that in addition to the name of the company having a registered trademark, so is the term “fruit naturals.” What does it mean exactly when something is trademarked?  According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, “A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods.” [1] Apparently, Del Monte has created a product consisting of natural fruit, which they have cleverly claimed as unique by simply reversing the order of the words.  Didn’t Mother Nature – or God – invent natural fruit? And just what is this nasty white stuff, anyway?  

A Grapefruit’s Natural Packaging – Plastic is Unnecessary

In a 2009 article published by the New York Times:
“The underside of the peel, called the albedo, contains carbohydrates and vitamin C but is especially rich in a soluble fiber called pectin, said Dr. Renee M. Goodrich, associate professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Florida. ''We are beginning to see links between consumption of such fiber and cholesterol lowering,'' she said. [2]

The albedo is also called mesocarp or pith.  According to their official Del Monte® Fruit Naturals® website, “They're picked at their ripest, then perfectly peeled, prepared and packed in 100% juice–all in handy 6-7 oz. plastic cups with easy peel-off lids.”  They even remove the seeds and that disgusting albedo for you!  And let’s face it – we live in a busy world.  Taking two minutes to peel a grapefruit is just too much time.  Why should you waste that time, when you can spend a mere two seconds removing the “easy peel-off lid”?  Not to mention, what do you do with those rinds?  It’s much easier to throw away the plastic packaging. 

But wait, if you are eco-friendly, you might want to throw away the non-recyclable lid, and then deposit the “green” cup in a recycling container.  (If you don’t believe that Del Monte® cares about the environment, visit this website: www.freshdelmonte.com/sustainability-environment-waste-recycling.aspx.)  In 2008, they launched a “Going Green” project for all their employees, giving them personal coffee cups and plastic cups (presumably the latter is for drinking water or the wide assortment of Del Monte® fruit juices). 

This will surely cancel out the negative environmental impact caused by the millions of plastic cups that consumers throw away after using them for the entire 5-15 minutes it took them to consume the “natural fruit.”  In reality, the percentage of aluminum, paper, and plastic that gets recycled is less than 100% – the actual statistic will vary widely depending on the source. (And if you want to learn some interesting things about plastic, go here: www.bagitmovie.com.)

In addressing the nutritional content of a raw grapefruit versus fruit-in-a-cup, there are several sources.  If you look on the official Del Monte® Fruit Naturals® website www.delmontechilledfruit.com/fruit-products/fruit-naturals, you will notice there are two varieties of the red grapefruit product: the regular one in 100% fruit juice and the “no sugar added” one.  On the product page, there is a charming hand-drawn graphic inviting you to “click to read nutrition facts.”

 Nutrition Facts and Ingredients

Once you click, you will learn that the regular 7-ounce version contains “about” two servings of 126 grams each.  Each serving has less than 1 gram of fiber, 13 grams of sugars, 60 calories, 2% of vitamin A and 100% vitamin C of the daily values based on the 2,000 calorie diet.  The “no sugar added” version has less calories – it also happens to be in a 6.5-ounce cup.   Per serving, this version has only 40 calories, slightly more fiber at .5 grams, only 6 grams of sugar, 10% of vitamin A (more than the regular kind!) and 100% vitamin C of the daily values based on the 2,000 calorie diet.  They have conveniently left out the ingredients. We are led to assume it contains only grapefruit.

One website called ShopWell.com™, still in the beta phase, seems to have a very comprehensive database of food products, their nutritional value, and list of ingredients.   For the regular red grapefruit, it lists the following ingredients: Grapefruit, Reconstituted White Grape Juice, Reconstituted Red Grapefruit Juice, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (to preserve quality), Ascorbic Acid (to protect color), Citric Acid, Color Added. [3] The “no sugar added” red grapefruit contains the following: Grapefruit, Water, Sorbitol, Ascorbic Acid (to protect color), Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (to protect quality), Citric Acid, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose, Color Added. [4]

The obvious offenders in both versions are potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate – both of these ingredients are synthetically produced by laboratory chemical methods.  The regular version contains reconstituted white grape juice and reconstituted red grapefruit juice.  What exactly is that anyway?  The USDA has produced a 15-page document called “United States Standards for Grades of Grapefruit Juice.” The document defines reconstituted juice as a “product obtained by thoroughly mixing the concentrate with the amount of water prescribed on the label or other appropriate directions.” [5]

What is concentrate then?  The FDA has the answer to that question in a document published in its Health and Human Services department regulations § 146.132:

“If the grapefruit juice is prepared from concentrate, such sweeteners, in liquid form, referred to in paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this section, also may be used. When prepared from concentrated grapefruit juice, exclusive of added sweeteners, the finished food contains not less than 10 percent, by weight, of soluble solids taken as the refractometric sucrose value (of the filtrate), corrected to 20°C, and corrected for acidity by adding (0.012+0.193x–0.0004x2), where x equals the percent anhydrous citric acid in the sample, to the refractometrically obtained sucrose value by the first method prescribed in ‘‘Correction of Refractometer Sucrose Readings for Citric Acid Content for Lemonade,’’ by Yeatman, Senzel, and Springer, ‘‘Journal of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists,’’ vol. 59 p. 368 (1976). [6]

Let’s dig a little deeper.  What are these acceptable sweeteners in liquid form?  If we refer to paragraph (a)(2)(iii) of this section on the topic of Optional Ingredients, we will learn that these are defined as “one or any combination of two or more of the dry or liquid forms of sugar, invert sugar sirup, dextrose, glucose sirup, and fructose. Sweeteners defined in part 168 of this chapter shall be as defined therein.” [6] If we refer to part 168 of this chapter, I have to wonder if we will continue to be led further down the spiral of elusive definitions.  


You don’t even have to refer to part 168 to continue the seemingly endless scavenger hunt. In paragraph (a)(3)(ii) of this section on the topic of Labeling, we’ll learn that “if any nutritive sweetener is added, the principal display panel of the label shall bear the statement ‘‘Sweetener added.’’” [6] What if the nutritive sweetener is already part of the concentrate, and it’s not present in addition to the concentrate mix?  What if “two or more of the dry or liquid forms of sugar, invert sugar sirup, dextrose, glucose sirup, and fructose” are not qualified as nutritive sweeteners, and therefore does not have to be listed? 

The FDA gives a decent overview on how it regulates the listing of ingredients, in its Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide: Contains Nonbinding Recommendations:

15. Do ingredients of standardized foods have to be listed when the standardized food is an ingredient in a non-standardized food?

Answer: The sub ingredients of a food that is an ingredient in another food may be declared parenthetically following the name of the ingredient or may be declared by dispersing each ingredient in its order of predominance in the ingredient statement without naming the original ingredient. 21 CFR 101.4(b)(2) [7]

To truly understand what all this means, the average consumer will likely feel overwhelmed, and if curious enough like me, will feel the desire to go back to college and study chemistry and biology.  But Del Monte® has made it easy for the consumer.  All they need to know about the Fruit Naturals® red grapefruit in 100% fruit juice is that it contains sugar. Because of the way the definitions are set up to cross reference each other without explicitly stating anything clearly and concisely, Del Monte® can simply list “sugar” as an ingredient, hoping that most of us won’t spend hours trying to get to the bottom of what that really means.  Anyway, even if the FDA makes recommendation for labeling food, they are “nonbinding recommendations.”

To confirm the ingredients listed by ShopWell.com™, I visited three different H-E-B markets in Austin, Texas, and I could not find either of these two grapefruit products.  A friend visited Central Market – a grocery store that prides in selling healthy items – and could not find them either.  I also went to Sunflower (formerly Newflower), and I did not find them either.  It seems my only options are ordering online through Amazon.com, Costco, or Sam’s Club, along with a large-screen television.  But just to be sure, I sent an email to Del Monte® and have requested the actual list of ingredients.

Dear Del Monte,

Can you please send me the complete list of ingredients for both the Fruit Naturals Red Grapefruit and the Fruit Naturals No Sugar Added Red Grapefruit?

On your website, I can only view the nutrition facts, but I would like to know the list of ingredients.

Thank you,

p.s. I would also like to know where I can purchase these products? I have visited three HEBs, one Central Market, and one Sunflower market and have not been able to find them.

Dear Alexandra, 

Thanks for visiting our Del Monte website and for your email.

The ingredients you requested are listed below and below that you will find some stores in your area that carry these products. 

*Red Grapefruit in 100% Juice: Grapefruit, Reconstituted White Grape Juice, Reconstituted Red grapefruit Juice, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (To Preserve Quality), Ascorbic Acid (TO Protect Color), Citric Acid 

*No Sugar Added Red Grapefruit: Grapefruit, Water, Sorbitol, Ascorbic Acid (To Protect Color), Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (To Preserve Quality), Citric Acid, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose.

We checked our information for you, and it shows this product has been sold in the past 90 days at the stores listed below. Before making a special trip, we recommend you call the store to be sure the product is in stock. If you've already checked these stores recently, it may also be help ful for you to let your store manager know about your interest in this item.

Fruit Naturals Red Grapefruit NSA and Fruit Naturals Red Grapefruit packed in100 percent juice.
Austin TX 78745

Randalls Food Market
2025 W Ben White Blvd
Austin TX 78704-7518
(512) 4433083

Fiesta Mart
5510 S Interstate 35 Ste 250
Austin TX 78745-3293
(512) 3737800

Randalls Food Market
6600 S MO Pac Expy
Austin TX 78749-1431
(512) 8914350

I appreciate the opportunity to respond and hope this information is helpful.

Mike, Del Monte Consumer Affairs

Del Monte. Nourishing families. Enriching lives. Every Day.

Del Monte® does a thorough job of revealing its practices.  The Living a Healthy Lifestyle section of their corporate website has a Nutrition Q & A. [8] Below are some of the questions and answers relevant to the investigation in this article:

Why do you only list certain nutrients on your products?

The Food and Drug Administration regulates nutrition labeling. The nutrients listed on all of our products are required by law to be listed. 

Why do you use High Fructose Corn Syrup in your products?

High Fructose Corn Syrup is a sweetener that is made from corn that has virtually the same sweetening power as sugar, provides the same amount of calories as table sugar and is used by our bodies just like table sugar. In the food industry, High Fructose Corn Syrup does more than just sweeten a product — it helps retain moisture and food structure. It also allows flavors to blend and increases the shelf life of a product.

What is sucralose and why do you use it?

Sucralose (Splenda®) is made from regular table sugar, but is altered by replacing three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with three chlorine atoms.

High fructose corn syrup is a probable suspect in Del Monte® Fruit Naturals®, and it is a likely explanation for its extraordinarily long shelf life of 15-21 months. Try keeping a raw grapefruit for 3 months – no natural fruit is intended to last that long, unless you preserve it the good old-fashioned way as a jam or jelly preserve. Fruit Naturals® are not being preserved as jams or jellies – they are being preserved much in the way that Walt Disney has supposedly been cryogenically frozen – trying to capture the raw and “natural” state of an organic being. Except that food processors like Del Monte® use modern high-pressurization machines to do so, in addition to preservation chemicals.

Remember the “no sugar added” version of red grapefruit?  Even though it has no sugar added, it does contain the following artificial, non-nutritive sweeteners: sorbitol, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose.  In its Nutrition Q & A, Del Monte® does explain its use of sucralose, openly admitting the fact that it is simply regular table sugar that has been chemically altered.  What about the other two sweeteners?  These, too, are synthetic, laboratory produced chemicals. 

Vitamin Content

Many people will argue that the canned (or plastic-cupped) versions are actually better for you because they have increased vitamin content.   Both versions of the Fruit Naturals® red grapefruit – the regular and the “no sugar added” – contain 100% vitamin C of the daily values based on a 2,000 calorie diet.  But what is 100%?  How much vitamin C is that?  The USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center website [9] has published a chart of Dietary Reference Intakes prepared by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.  According to this chart, the Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes of Vitamins can range anywhere from 75 mg for an adult female to 90 mg for an adult male. [10] Therefore, we can likely assume that Fruit Naturals® will contain roughly 75 mg of vitamin C for a 126-ounce serving.

How much vitamin C does an equivalent serving of raw grapefruit have?  Only 39 grams.  You can look up this same information on the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference on www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search. This fact gives fruit-in-a-cup advocates the fodder they need to continue claiming their packaged product is superior to the real thing.  Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, can exist naturally in living organisms, but it can also be industrially synthesized.  Fruit Naturals® lists ascorbic acid as an ingredient.  Could this be a reason why it has a higher content of vitamin C than a freshly tree-picked raw grapefruit?


Large corporations with large marketing dollars to spend can potentially convince consumers of just about anything.  Del Monte® says on their website that you can “Experience Fruit Undressed™,” which is a “fruit that’s stripped down to its bare goodness; no skins, seeds or cores.” [11] Following that logic, if a human wants to be sexy and undressed, should he or she skin themselves down to the muscle?  Isn’t a fruit in its natural state already “undressed”?  How are Del Monte® Fruit Naturals® that come individually packaged in small plastic cups, and then packaged together in sets in cardboard, be less undressed than the actual fruit?

Also, watch those labels. A grapefruit should only have one ingredient: grapefruit.




  1. Very interesting blog. I actually found your site, while searching for the answer to exactly how are the seeds, rinds and albedo removed from the actual grapefruit itself. I'm wondering if it's some sort of chemical peel? Thanks for all your research!

  2. I found this as well while trying to find something on how the rinds are removed. Pretty amazing document you assembled here. Thanks!

  3. Glad I came across this post - great work! :)