Food manufacturers use claims that imply their children’s snacks are a healthy alternative to confectionery.
However, Which? research has found that the following popular children’s snacks contain up to 84% of the free sugars a child aged four to six should have in a day (19g). And some contain more free sugars than three Jelly Babies (14.7g).
Bear Fruit Yoyos, strawberry
Packaging claims: Pure fruit, 1 of your 5 a day, no added nonsense, no added sugar, high in fibre, never from concentrates, only whole fruit and veg, with the same natural sugars as an apple.
Reality: Although the Yoyo is made entirely from fruit, it has been processed, blended and reconstituted into a shape so the sugar in it counts as free sugar.
A strawberry Yoyo contains 8g of free sugars per pack, or 42g of free sugars per 100g. An apple contains no free sugars and around 10g total sugar per 100g.
8g is 42% of the free sugars children aged four to six should eat in a day, or 25% of the free sugar maximum intake for children aged seven to 10.
Yoyo says that to make 100g of strawberry Yoyo it bakes 380g of apples, 205g of pears and 65g of strawberries, totalling 647g of fruit. This means 130g of fruit is concentrated into a 20g packet. While the Yoyo won’t fill you up as much as 130g of fruit, it contains all the sugar that is in this much fruit.
We contacted the makers of Yoyos, which disagree that its products contain free sugars and told us: ‘The cellular structure of the fruit is retained in our products so we are classified as dried fruit’. However, efforts to further clarify how the ingredients were mixed together and combined fell flat.
Robinsons Fruit Shoot Fruit Bars Summer Fruits
Packaging claims: 1 of your 5 a day, no added sugar, no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners, high in fibre, great for lunchboxes
Reality: This product contains concentrated strawberry, and concentrated raspberry juice as well as dates, apple and natural flavourings. Similarly, because the fruit is processed and reconstituted it counts as free sugar. A 25g bar contains 16g of sugar, 84% of the free sugars that children aged four to six should have in a day.
We contacted the company that makes Robinsons Fruit Shoot bars. It said: ‘We would also like to point out that focusing on one nutrient only, in this case sugar, without considering what else that food provides is not entirely helpful.
‘Many children do not consume enough fibre, for instance, which Fruit Shoot bars can also help provide.
‘Unlike many other similar fruit snacks, Fruit Shoot Bars do not contain any added sugar or sweeteners and the sugar in the bars is naturally occurring sugar from the fruit.’
Fruit Bowl Strawberry Yogurt Flakes
Packaging claims: Real fruit in tasty yogurt, natural colours and flavours, yummy treat, fruit made fun, perfect for little lunchboxes, ideal as a snack.
Reality: 60% of this product is made up from yoghurt-flavoured coating, which contains sugar, palm fat, whey powder, rice flour and 3% yoghurt powder as well as emulsifiers and glazing agents.
The fruit flakes make up the remaining 40% and contain concentrated apple juice, fructose-glucose syrup, strawberry purée, sugar, wheat fibre, palm fat plus gelling agents and natural flavourings.
These flakes contain no whole fruit, only concentrate and purée, plus added sugar in three forms. Per 21g packet this contains 13g of free sugar. While some of this will come from the milk and yoghurt, it won’t be very much.
Fruit Bowl responded saying: ‘While Fruit Bowl Yogurt Flakes are made with real fruit and only natural colours and flavours, we make no claims such as high fibre or one of a child’s five a day on this range.
‘As a brand, Fruit Bowl are proud to have made tasty fruit snacks and treats for families for over 20 years.’
Whitworths Frootz Strawberry Juicy Fruit Drops
Packaging claims: 100% fruit. No added sugar. Great for lunchboxes, snacking and sharing. No artificial ingredients, colours, flavours or sweeteners. One of your 5 a day.
Reality: These contain 71.5g of sugar per 100g or 12.9g per 18g packet, all of which is free sugars and come from concentrated apple, strawberry, lemon and elderberry juices, plus apple purée and banana flakes.
Whitworths did not respond to our request for comment.
Humzingers Raspberry Fruit Sticks
Packaging claims: 1 of your 5 a day. Each 13g stick is the equivalent to 67g fresh fruit. Packed with 100% goodness and no added sugar. A perfect for a healthy snack or treat. High in fibre.
Reality: While the label states this contains ‘Dried Pear, Dried Grape, Dried Apple, Dried Apricot, Raspberry Purée (3%), Apple Fibre, Natural Flavouring, Natural Colour’, it doesn’t say that to make this into a ‘stick’ the ingredients must be blended or puréed and reformed, making all the sugars in this product ‘free’: 52.7g per 100g or 6.9g per 13g serving.
Humzingers told us: ‘In our product, the sugars are naturally occurring from the dried fruit (96%). We also add a very small % of fruit puree which is 100% natural to give the product moisture and required texture. The product is gently cold pressed together, there are no “binding agents” added to press into a stick shape’.
The products in the table, along with other fruit-based snacks, need to be clearer about the amount of sugar they contain and that they fall under the PHE definition of free sugars. Although they contain vitamins and minerals from the fruit, they don’t have the same fibre, and the amount of sugar they contain is much closer to sweets.
Like dried fruit, they can stick to teeth so shouldn’t be given in between meals as snacks.
What are free sugars?
- Free sugars, as defined by Public Health England, are ‘all the sugars naturally present in fruit and vegetable (including legumes) juices, concentrates, smoothies, purées, pastes, powders and extruded fruit and vegetable products’.
- In England, around a quarter of children aged four to five are overweight or obese and a similar number have tooth decay by the age of five.
- To combat this, the government recommends we get 5% of our calorie intake from ‘free’ sugars – found in soft drinks, cakes, jams, biscuits, breakfast cereals and confectionery as well as honey, syrups and fruit concentrates and purées.
- Latest research shows children aged four to 10 get around 13.5% of their calories from free sugars.