Grins Beverage Company Raises Issues With USDA Proposal

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Grins, a better-for-you beverage with a growing following among schools and retailers on the East Coast, has a bone to pick with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over its latest proposed rules about food and beverages in American schools.

Grins Enterprises applauds the USDA’s efforts to improve the quality of food and beverages America’s children receive, and the “Smart Snacks in School” proposal made earlier this month includes a lot of common-sense standards that will improve young people’s diets.

Grins, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., is a beverage company committed to improving the health and well-being of America’s children. From that perspective, Grins disagrees with some key assumptions behind these rules.

The USDA’s proposal would allow only milk, water and 100 percent fruit juice in middle and elementary schools. High schools would be able to sell additional beverages, including diet soda and other calorie-free flavored beverages, and other drinks with 50 or fewer calories per 8-oz. serving.

Pure apple juice contains more than two times that amount of calories. While 100 percent fruit juice is a more natural product with more vitamins than soda and sugary juice drinks, parents and children should realize that it still contains a lot of calories and sugar, without providing the fiber and other benefits a person would receive by eating a piece of whole fruit, said Grins Director of Operations Nathan Battle.

“The proposed rules give the impression that juice is this super-healthy alternative to the sodas we’ve all been drinking too much of, and that’s just absurd,” Battle said. “We want to make sure kids and parents get the facts they need to make healthy choices.”

At 50 calories per 8-ounce serving, Grins meets the standards to be sold in high schools, but so does something else the company doesn’t think is helpful in the fight for healthier kids—diet soda.

While artificial sweeteners don’t add to a young person’s calorie load, they have been scientifically proven to interfere with natural appetite control, and often make people crave even more sugary foods.

“At Grins, we don’t think these are the right tools to use in the fight against childhood obesity,” Battle said.

Grins was born at the front lines of that fight, after a school foodservice manager told Battle he was unhappy with the beverage options he had to serve to his students.

Working with a respected expert in the organic and natural foods industry, Grins was developed as a better-for-you beverage with no artificial sweeteners or colors. It has fewer calories than the average sugar-sweetened beverage, and fewer than half the calories of 100 percent apple or orange juice. Grins also delivers a reasonable dose of essential vitamins, along with great taste in three flavors–Citrus Punch, Grape and Strawberry Kiwi.

“Most of us need 64 ounces or more of fluid each day,” Battle said. “Would water be ideal? Sure, but most of us are so used to drinking hyper-sweetened beverages that it’s just not realistic that we’re going to drink water all day.”

Grins is now offered in many school districts in the Southeast, and a growing number of retail and convenience stores along the East Coast, including all Wilco Hess convenience stores, and Whole Foods stores in the Triad area of North Carolina.

School foodservice managers in particular find it a useful product to steer kids away from less healthy options. One administrator told the company that Grins essentially replaced Gatorade—a drink with more artificial ingredients and more sodium than Grins—within a few months of appearing on campus.

The proposed USDA rules would make it harder for schools of all levels to sell Grins as an alternative to higher-calorie beverages, and Grins has submitted its concerns to the USDA.

“Grins can be a fun, healthy part of an active lifestyle, and a growing number of schools, retailers and young athletes are discovering this,” Battle said.

Grins, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., is a better-for-you beverage with no artificial flavors or colors. It has no caffeine or carbonation, 50 calories per 8-ounce serving, real sugar for sweetness, fruit and vegetable juices for color and knockout flavor. Grins is The Official Beverage of Happy People, and seeks to promote a positive, can-do attitude and lifestyle. Grins is currently sold in a growing number of school systems in the Southeast, as well as retail and convenience stores on the East Coast.