True (?) Lemon For your Water

Here’s an interesting product. Many people are trying to switch from sugary or diet soft drinks to water. But they can’t seem to bring themselves to drinking unflavored H 2 O. Adding some flavor makes the difference, and a wedge of  lemon is probably at the top of the list.

Alas, what if you don’t have a lemon on hand?

Or don’t want to cut a single wedge out of a lemon for your glass of water?

True Lemon aims to be your solution. According to the company website:

David Schleider, a chef by training … spent three years creating and perfecting True Lemon … was often frustrated with lemons: they are inconsistent in taste, messy to use, spoil easy, and inconvenient. And from a chef’s point of view, they are labor-intensive …


[He found] a way to duplicate authentic, fresh-squeezed lemon taste but in a crystallized, shelf-stable manner that was convenient to use any time, anywhere.

The product claims to be 100% Natural, unsweetened, and made from lemons. Sounds cool. We took a look what’s inside…

What you need to know:

We expected the ingredient list to be just lemon, but what we saw was a bit surprising:

Citric Acid, Lemon Oil, Lemon Juice, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C). Contains Soy

What are all these things, and how did “made from lemons” turn into 5 different ingredients?

Turns out that a lemon can be deconstructed into various elements. Each of them can them be used for different purposes. This is pretty much what happened here:

Citric Acid is what makes lemons acidic. But in this product, and in most processed foods, it is actually cheaper to manufacture in a lab. Citric acid is produced through the use of Aspergillus Niger, a mold that feeds on cheap corn syrup glucose.

Lemon oil and lemon juice are from lemons.

Organic evaporated cane juice is a synonym for sugar. because it is added in such a small amount, the nutrition label can legally state 0 sugar and 0 calories. But it’s hard to reconcile the presence of this sweetener with  “unsweetened” marketing claim on the front of package.

Ascorbic acid is vitamin C. It is naturally found in lemons, but evaporates almost the minute a lemon is squeezed or cut. So in processing, lab-made ascorbic acid is added back to the product. By the way, ascorbic acid is considered a good preservative. That’s why squeezing lemon juice on sliced apples will keep them from browning.

Last but not least, why does True Lemon contain soy? Last we checked, soybeans have not found their way into lemon trees.

The answer lies in the manufacturing process of this product. A tiny amount of soy lecithin is used to create the lemon flavored crystals. Since people with allergies may be sensitive to soy even in such small quantities, the FDA requires marking its presence.

Bottom line: this product is probably a good way to wean yourself of off sodas and sugary drinks when a lemon is not available (Does that ever happen?). But we are a bit uneasy with the product name (“True Lemon”) and sell-info on front compared to the ingredient list on the back.

Get Fooducated: iPhone App Android App RSS Subscription or Email Subscription

Follow us on twitter: on facebook:

  • Megan Wood Jervis

    I had no idea that citric acid was produced that way! Going to have to try to avoid it now.

    • Davvik11

      Why?  They make insulin in a similar way (they use ecoli).  When certain organic chemicals are produced in a lab it can be safer and more highly monitored.  Also, you eat mold every time you eat bread (with the exception of quick breads), certain cheese, and certain preserved meats. 

  • Catherine

    What is so laughable about this is the assertion that lemons are just so darn labour intensive.  Seriously….

  • Louis-Maxime

    Squeeze a lemon(or an orange, or a lime…) in a bottle full of water.  Bing.  The solution to putting taste into water existed.  No new product to introduce in your life.  No lab.  Natural.  Simple.  Tested.  Good.  Problem solved.  Questions?

  • Jen

    How hard is it to keep a few lemons in the fridge and squeeze a wedge into your water?  And on the days that you don’t have any on hand- gasp- you can drink your water plain!  Wouldn’t it be great it the food companies channeled their energy and money into producing and distributing whole food! 

    • Anna

      Umm… food companies aren’t generally producing/selling “food”.  Those people are called farmers.  LOL!

  • Mark

    I can understand the marketing appeal of this.  You take your bottle of water with lemon (or other citrus) squeezed into it to work or school.  What do you do when your bottle is empty.  Most people don’t want to carry a lemon and a sharp knife with them everywhere they go.  What they probably don’t realize is that if they refill their water bottle when it’s half full, they’ll stretch out whatever juice they put it in further and probably won’t mind the diminishing flavor – unless they’re still drinking a lot of soda, too.

    Admittedly, I take a large bottle of ice water with me to work (20oz) and sometimes I put juice in it.  Over time I went from soda to bottled waters but got tired of seeing all the added ingredients.  I moved from those to water with the occasional bit of juice in it but mostly just ice water the whole time I’m at work.

  • Andrea T

    I keep a bottle of lemon essential oil on my desk at work. It’s small and fits in my palm and can be used in a bottle, cup or glass of any size. One or two drops in my water is all I need.

    Another idea: Squeeze citrus juice, freeze in ice cube trays, add that a cube to water if it fits in whatever’s holding the water.

  • Carol

    Just came back from a backpacking trip and this would have been perfect. Not sure I would use it back home, but when backpacking you wouldn’t bring fresh lemons and it is almost impossible to find simple dried lemon & sugar drink mixes anymore… most have fake and foul-tasting sweeteners plus other junk (colors,flavors). At least with this product you could add your own sweetener (sugar, if you are exercising a lot as when hiking/backpacking) or none. The acidity is also important when at high altitudes, and vitamin C another plus as fresh produce is too heavy to bring. They should market this to backpackers/climbers.

  • Susan Cactuswren

    *Sigh*. As far as I’m concerned, anything that does not perceptibly taste sweet can be considered “unsweetened”. I’ve used this product. It does not taste even slightly sweet. Therefore, miniscule percentage of sugar to the contrary, it is correctly labeled “unsweetened”.

  • Susan Cactuswren

    *Sigh*. As far as I’m concerned, anything that does not perceptibly taste sweet can be considered “unsweetened”. I’ve used this product. It does not taste even slightly sweet. Therefore, miniscule percentage of sugar to the contrary, it is correctly labeled “unsweetened”.

  • Lelliott1

    Thank you for this. I was just getting ready to write to True Lemon to ask them why they added a kind of sugar to a product that is seemingly on lemon, lime or orange. Interestingly, the grapefuit does not contain any  type of sugar; unless I am misinterpreting what malic acid and lactic acid do/are.

    I will be interested to see the response from the company.

  • Bottom Line Up Front

    I love ice tea with lemon.. Many places don’t carry lemon, and this is great to keep with me. It tastes much better than lemon juice packets.

  • Christine

    True Lemon also makes different types of packets. The one pictured here says “for water” but there is another kind that is a small rectangular shaped packet made with slightly different ingredients. The ingredient list on this type is: citric acid, malic acid, lemon oil, lemon juice, and ascorbic acid. It is good for both cooking and for flavoring drinks and I feel tastes just like squeezing a lemon wedge into a glass of water.

  • Boeser Wolf

    Also, think GMO as the citric acid and ascorbic acid most likely come from GMO corn. The soy definitely comes from GMO soy. Caveat emptor! If it sounds too good to be true, it mostly likely is.