(Reuters) - A California woman is suing the maker of Tropicana claiming it is squeezing consumers by touting the best-selling U.S. orange juice as "100% pure and natural" when it is not.
In her federal lawsuit, plaintiff Angelena Lewis said Tropicana Products Inc, knowing consumers "want and demand natural products," deceives them in its advertising and packaging for its Pure Premium juice, including cartons featuring an orange with a straw stuck into it.
Lewis said the unit of PepsiCo Inc (PEP.N) actually puts the juice through extensive processing, adding aromas and flavors that change its "essential nature" and give it a longer shelf life.
This deception lets Tropicana charge more than rivals and helps fuel more than $5 billion of annual sales worldwide, according to Lewis, who lives in Vacaville, about 55 miles northeast of San Francisco.
"While Tropicana claims that 'making Tropicana orange juice is truly an art' it is far more a science," said the complaint filed on Friday in Sacramento, California. "The resulting product does not taste like fresh squeezed orange juice."
Tropicana's website says Pure Premium has 16 fresh-picked oranges squeezed into each 59-ounce container.
In a statement, Tropicana said it "remains committed to offering great-tasting 100 percent orange juice with no added sugars or preservatives. We take the faith that consumers place in our products seriously and are committed to full compliance with labeling laws and regulations."
The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Sacramento, California and alleges violations of U.S. consumer fraud laws.
It seeks class-action status on behalf of all U.S. purchasers of the juice, a halt to the alleged deception and compensatory, punitive and triple damages.
Sarah Westcot, a lawyer for Lewis, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Last year, trade publication Beverage Digest said Tropicana held a 28.2 percent market share for orange juice and orange juice blends sold in supermarkets. PepsiCo is based in Purchase, New York.
The case is Lewis v. Tropicana Products Inc, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, No. 12-00049.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Andre Grenon