Listen to this article


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
New Carton Design (as of January 2007)
Type Fruit juice
Manufacturer Suntory
Country of origin United Kingdom
Introduced 1938
Color Purple
Flavour Blackcurrant Strawberry Blueberry

Ribena (/rˈbnə/ ry-BEE-nə) is an English origin brand of fruit-based uncarbonated and carbonated soft drink and fruit drink concentrate that until 2013 was produced by GlaxoSmithKline. On 9 September 2013 it was announced that Ribena had been purchased by Japanese multinational Suntory.[1]

The original and most common variety contains real blackcurrant juice. The name derives from the botanical name Ribes, the genus to which the blackcurrant belongs.


Ribena was originally manufactured by the Bristol-based food and drink company HW Carter as a blackcurrant squash. Development research into pure fruit syrups for the manufacture of milkshakes had been done at the Long Ashton Agriculture and Horticulture Research Station in North Somerset using a pectinase enzyme process; Ribena was essentially invented there by Dr. Vernon Charley, a scientist at the University of Bristol[2] in 1933.[3] The blackcurrant variety was found to contain high levels of vitamin C. The drink was launched in 1938 under the name Ribena (from the botanical name for the blackcurrant, Ribes nigrum). During the Second World War, other fruits rich in vitamin C, like oranges (from Florida), became almost impossible to obtain in the United Kingdom, due to the U boat campaign. Blackcurrant cultivation was encouraged by the Government, and the yield of the nation's crop increased significantly. From 1942, almost the entire British blackcurrant crop was made into blackcurrant syrup (or cordial), almost all of it manufactured by Carters, and distributed to the nation's children for free without the Ribena brand name, giving rise to the lasting popularity of blackcurrant flavourings in Britain. Production moved to the new Royal Forest Factory[4] at Coleford in the Forest of Dean in the autumn of 1947, where production takes place today. Carters was bought out by the Beecham Group (now part of GlaxoSmithKline) in 1955.

There have been various incarnations of carbonated "Sparkling Ribena", sold in cans — throughout the 1980s and early 1990s there was a can-based version simply named "Ribena". In about 1993, "Ribena Spring" was launched, a gently carbonated version in ready to drink bottle form, which was discontinued and replaced with "Ribena Spark", another can-based carbonated edition, in the late 1990s. Ribena Spark was finally discontinued in 2011.

It is claimed in advertisements for Ribena (as well as on their cartons and bottles, and on their web-site) that 95% of all UK and Irish farmed blackcurrants are used in their drinks. This has now been changed to "nearly all of British blackcurrants are used in Ribena". Some of the juice for Ribena is pressed by Somerset-based cider maker Thatcher's.

In 2004, Ribena launched the "Ooh" and "Aargh" Versions of Ribena cartons, which featured a hot, chilli spiced Ribena ("Argh"), and a smooth, cooling and iced effect Ribena ("Ooh"). But were removed from sale shortly after[citation needed]

In June 2007, a new raspberry flavoured Ribena was released; it was discontinued, and was relaunched in 2010.

In April 2008, Ribena released a new product with 100% juice content. According to the company's website, new juices have no sugar addition and contain higher amounts of vitamin C and other antioxidants.[citation needed] However, this product has not proved to be a success, and was discontinued in 2009.[citation needed]

In April 2009, Ribena introduced a strawberry flavour of their highly popular cordial beverage. The "New" label only applies to the drink bottles and cordials; cartons of strawberry Ribena (which do not feature the label) have been in production for years.[citation needed]

A study conducted by the Australian Consumers' Association for Choice magazine in January 2007 revealed blackcurrant juice (from concentrate) only constituted 5% of the Ribena Fruit Drink product.[5]

In 2012, Ribena released a new range of fortified juices named "Ribena Plus". As well as having no added sugar, they are also fortified with additional vitamins A & E to help support immunity (only the Blackcurrant and Apple & Peach flavours have the addition of the extra vitamins. The other two flavours, Mixed Berries and Raspberry & Apple, are fortified with calcium instead).

In April 2013, Ribena along with Lucozade was put up for sale by its founder GlaxoSmithKline. Sir Andrew Witty (Chief Executive of GlaxoSmithKline) said that "there has been a lot of interest for the two brands".[6] The eventual sale, announced in September, was for £1.35 billion.[1]

Sugar content[edit]

The Food Commission in the United Kingdom has criticised the sugar levels in regular Ribena, as have several newspapers and publications. Ribena has since launched a low sugar version.[7][8]

In 2001, a formulation of the diluted Ribena cordial, sold as Ribena Toothkind (and endorsed by the British Dental Association), was judged by the United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority to have been advertised in a misleading manner, and claims that the drink did not encourage tooth decay should be removed from the packaging. The opinion was upheld by a hearing in the High Court.[9]

Vitamin C controversy[edit]

In 2004, Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo, two high school students from Pakuranga College in Auckland, New Zealand, conducted a science experiment to determine the vitamin C levels of their favourite fruit drinks. As Ribena advertising refers to "four times the vitamin C of oranges", they were surprised to discover the levels of vitamin C were much lower at 22 mg/100mL in the syrup compared with another product, Just Juice, at 72 mg/100mL. After contacting the manufacturers of Ribena, their concerns of "intentionally misleading and quite inappropriate" claims were dismissed, and they were told the claim related only to the blackcurrant fruit, not the product.

Their case was taken up by a television consumer affairs show Fair Go, which broadcast the story nationwide on TV ONE in October 2004. Following further testing, in March 2007, the New Zealand Commerce Commission brought 15 charges in the Auckland District Court against GlaxoSmithKline under the Fair Trading Act. In addition to the misleading representations that the Ribena range "contained four times the vitamin C of oranges" in its advertising and packaging,[10] cartoned ready to drink Ribena falsely claimed on the label to have 7 mg of vitamin C per 100mL or 44 per cent of the recommended daily intake when it had no detectable vitamin C content.

In Australia, where the same products were on sale, GlaxoSmithKline issued a statement one week before the New Zealand court case confirming labelling discrepancies on its Ready to Drink range to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and undertook to remove all references to vitamin C from its labels.

On 27 March 2007, GlaxoSmithKline pleaded guilty to all 15 charges and was fined NZ$217,500 by Auckland District Court for misleading consumers, and were ordered to run a series of corrective advertisements and place a statement on its website.[11] Since the court case, GlaxoSmithKline has issued a statement on its official Ribena website;

Only products in the Ready to Drink category were affected by the Commerce Commission concerns about Vitamin C content information. Until the Commerce Commission began its investigation into some Ready to Drink products, GSK was unaware there was an issue with the vitamin C information on them. As with the ‘four times’ claim, we took similar prompt action to correct this more than a year ago.

GlaxoSmithKline claims of prompt action and being unaware of the issue appear to be in conflict with the claim of the two high school students to have contacted Ribena manufacturers with their concerns in 2004, and a television broadcast of the story nationwide on TV ONE in October 2004.

GlaxoSmithKline maintains the issue only affects Australia and New Zealand, and Ribena sold in other markets, such as the United Kingdom, contain the levels of vitamin C stated on the product label.[12]


Ribena has sponsored a few theme park attractions. These include Berry Bouncers at Chessington World of Adventures, Rumba Rapids at Thorpe Park and Berry Bish Bash at Alton Towers. The contract ended in 2007 and all Ribena logos were removed from the attractions.[citation needed] From September to December 2003, Ribena sponsored the cd:uk music show.

See also[edit]

  • Tango - similarly bought by Beecham in 1950s but sold in 1986.


  1. ^ a b Angela Monaghan "Ribena and Lucozade sold to Japanese drinks giant",, 9 September 2013
  2. ^ "Bristol Scientist creates Ribena". Bristol: University of Bristol. 27 March 2007. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "Brand Profile: Ribena". Retrieved 2011-07-05. 
  4. ^ "Old Photos of Coleford and district — H W Carter". Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  5. ^ "Foods that make kids fatter faster". Choice magazine. January 2007. 
  6. ^ Rupert Neate Lucozade and Ribena up for sale,, 24 April 2013
  7. ^ "Ribena, Glaxo and me". The Ecologist magazine. 1 November 2003. 
  8. ^ "Soft drinks or liquid candy?". The Food Commission. 29 January 2004. 
  9. ^ "HEALTH | Court rules against Ribena". BBC News. 2001-01-17. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  10. ^ "Schoolgirls study nabs food giant". New Zealand Herald. March 2007. 
  11. ^ "Ribena maker fined $192,000". The Age. March 2007. 
  12. ^ Vasagar, Jeevan (27 March 2007). "Schoolgirls rumble Ribena vitamin claims". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 

External links[edit]