POM Wonderful markets its juice as an “antioxidant superpower,” a necessity with countless benefits. While POM juice is actually good for you, POM Wonderful’s environmental practices are not. The pomegranate tree itself is a decent crop, as it requires little water and is drought-resistant. Additionally, POM grows their pomegranate trees, processes them, and bottles the juice all in California’s central valley. This impressed me, as it helps save transportation costs both in terms of money and environmental impact. However, POM Wonderful and its parent company, The Wonderful Company, leave a lot to be desired in terms of sustainability. The owners of The Wonderful Company, Steward and Lynda Rae Resnick, own problematic brands such as Fiji Water and use plastic packaging for virtually all of their products. I also could not find any indication that POM Wonderful was trying to be more sustainable, and the initiatives that the Resnicks are taking to improve their environmental impact seemed performative to me. Additionally, POM was not transparent at all about their bottling process or their labor practices.
POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice is, as it claims, 100% pomegranate juice. While the pomegranates are not certified organic, they are Non-GMO Project verified. Unfortunately, pomegranates are generally grown with pesticides. POM Wonderful does not provide any information about whether their specific farm uses pesticides. Pesticides can contaminate the soil around the plant where it is applied, and pesticide runoff from farms can contaminate water supplies. Pomegranate trees are also drought and heat tolerant, which is good because POM gets its pomegranate juice exclusively from California-grown pomegranates. However, irrigation is still necessary to grow pomegranates, especially in a commercial setting. But for California, an area that is drought-prone and already has the majority of its water go to the agriculture sector, pomegranates are a good choice. POM also claims that it has invested in irrigation research to make its water usage more efficient, but provides no concrete evidence of this. POM is unfortunately packaged in a plastic bottle; however, it is recyclable. I gave this category a 1.8 because in a state like California, where water is a limited resource, it is important to grow crops that are not water-intensive.
POM grows all of its pomegranate trees in the California central valley, specifically in the San Joaquin Valley. In fact, all of their bottling is also done at this location. This is great because it reduces transportation costs; if POM was getting their pomegranates and plastic bottles from different locations across the U.S., transportation costs and emissions, including gasoline and packaging, would increase drastically. POM also boasts on their website that all of their pomegranates are hand-picked, but I couldn’t find any information about how their farm workers are treated. I did find employee reviews from their packaging factories, however. Employees said that they were treated well, but with short breaks and sometimes poor management. While I like that POM is pretty self-sufficient in their production to reduce materials transport costs, they do ship their products nationwide in the U.S. and to 50+ other countries. Unfortunately, POM did not mention whether they made efforts to minimize transport costs when shipping their products out from California. Overall, I felt like I was lacking in information for this section; I wish POM was more transparent about their manufacturing and shipping process.
POM Wonderful was founded in 2002 by Stewart and Lynda Rae Resnick and is still owned by them. POM Wonderful is owned by The Wonderful Company, which owns many brands including Wonderful Halos, Wonderful Pistachios, various wine companies such as JNSQ, and most significantly, Fiji Water. Even if we ignore the terrible impact of bottled water on the environment, Fiji Water is still problematic. Fiji Water’s main selling point in the West is that it is “exotic,” as it is sourced from Fiji. While this is problematic in itself, Fiji Water also has a history of questionable ethics and sustainability. When the Fiji government tried to raise taxes for the Fiji Water corporation, Fiji Water responded by laying off workers until the government stopped trying to tax them. Additionally, while the Fiji Water corporation has access to Fiji’s clean underground springs, 12% of Fiji residents don’t have access to any clean water at all. This shows that Fiji Water disregards the lives of actual Fijians, exploiting their land and the aesthetics of their country for profit. Outside of Fiji Water, the Resnicks have been involved in even more controversies. In 2006, they came under fire for using animal testing to prove that their pomegranates had specific health benefits. After a public outcry, they eventually switched to using animal-testing-free research. On a more positive note, the Resnicks say they have spent $25 million on irrigation research to increase water use efficiency, $22 million on solar panels, $41 million on fuel cells, and have founded the Resnick Sustainability Institute at the California Institute of Technology. However, no information was provided about the results of these million-dollar investments. Additionally, while the Resnick Sustainability Institute seems to be doing great research into sustainability, the Resnicks’ donations to it seem very performative, since their companies such as Fiji Water have made no efforts to be more sustainable. While the Resnicks have taken some actions to improve their environmental impact, I have to give them a 0 in this category as their companies continue to negatively impact the planet without any efforts to be more sustainable, either now or in the future.