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Candy Review: Back-To-School Fruit Snack Roundup

Categories: Candy,Candy For Kids,Candy Reviews,Foreign (non-US) Candy,Gummi/Gummy Candy,Soft Candy

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Fruit Snack Boxes

Back-to-school season is here once more. Yes, it’s the season for pencils, books, teachers’ dirty looks… and school lunches. Whether homemade or bought, lunch is the highlight of every student’s (and working adult’s) day, and keeping those lunches fresh, interesting and tasty can be a real challenge.

Fortunately, there’s an easy shortcut that many parents (and Candy Addicts) are already aware of: even the most boring of bologna sandwiches and pallid of PBJs can be made more exciting by adding a side of candy.

Not just any candy though, but a special lunchbox-sanctioned candy, packed into tiny single-serving pouches and transformed with a token amount of fruit juice into something viewed as a nutritionally acceptable complement to your carrot sticks and ham-and-cheese-on-white. A small source of candy joy in an otherwise boring day, for kids and adults alike. I’m talking, of course, about the fruit snack.

But not all fruit snacks are created equal, and that’s where we come in. Aided by my Assistant Taster (otherwise known as my sister Angela), I taste-tested four popular options to determine which brand will give you the most bang for your buck, considering such factors as nutrition, taste and fun. Will a store-brand snack stand up to pricier treats licensed with cartoon characters or jazzed up with gimmicks like liquid centers? And just how much fruit is actually in these things, anyway? Read on to find out.

Castle Adventures

No Name Castle Adventures

Description: A store-brand snack from The Real Canadian Superstore. (No Name is Superstore’s cheaper store brand, the other being the more-upscale President’s Choice.) Would these generic gummies be able to knock the name-brand ones from their throne and become rulers of the fruit snack kingdom?

Nutrition claims: “Made in a peanut-free facility,” 100% of your recommended daily dose of Vitamin C, 100 calories per 25 g pack.

Fruit content: “Made with fruit juice concentrates.” Concentrated pear juice is fourth on the ingredient list.

Appearance: The snacks come in the shapes of a knight, dragon, king, wizard, princess and castle. The shapes are somewhat blobby looking with less detail than the package shows, and without the legend on the box, I might have had trouble telling which human figure was which. (The King [bottom center in the photo above] is a dead ringer for a gummy Virgin Mary, for example). All of the colors have a slight transparency to them except for the green and blue, which are solid and matte-looking – they look as if they might have come from a different assortment.

Taste: We enjoyed the Castle Adventures’ distinctive, if artificial-tasting, fruity flavors – “The blue tastes like raspberry, not ‘blue flavor,’” my Assistant Taster said – but didn’t care for their extremely soft, almost gluey texture. They’re so soft that they stick to the roof of your mouth, and trying to work them loose made me feel like a dog with a glob of peanut butter in its mouth. These are thickened with corn starch and pectin rather than gelatin, so they’re tentatively vegetarian friendly (some artificial colors do contain animal content, but if you’re a vegetarian, you’ll probably know which ones to watch out for).


Real Fruit Minis

Dare Real Fruit Fruit Snacks Minis – Wild Kingdom

Description: The “healthiest” of the fruit snacks we tested, with the highest fruit content, and the lowest calories per pack, as well as having no artificial flavors or colors. Ironically, they’re also the most “candy-like” of all the snacks we tested, being based on the popular Dare Real Fruit Gummies. Would these fruit-filled contenders prove to be as delicious as they are good for you?

Nutrition claims: No peanuts, fats, artificial flavors or artificial colors. 80 calories per 25 gram pouch. Surprisingly, no Vitamin C to speak of. (I thought that was the default vitamin for all sugary foodstuffs claiming to be healthy?)

Fruit Content: “30% fruit juices from concentrate and fruit puree.” Fruit juice and fruit pulp are the second and third ingredients on the list, after sugar. These snacks contain six different types of fruit juices and three types of fruit purees, not just the cheap (and nutrition-light) apple and pear used by all the other snacks we tested.

Appearance: A pear-shaped blobby sort of thing, and three other slightly different pear-shaped blobby things. (According to the box, they’re a hippo, a snake, a dolphin and a scary-looking penguin with a gigantic beak – or is it a pelican?) The colors are orange-brown, red and purple. (When you don’t use artificial colors, you’re going to be making some sacrifices, I guess). The box says there are actually 5 flavors: cherry, orange, blueberry, strawberry and raspberry.

Taste: After the overly sweet and gooey Castle Adventures snacks, the Real Fruit snacks were a welcome relief. We enjoyed their more subtle, natural fruit flavors, though my Assistant Taster wasn’t so keen on their “overly firm” texture, which didn’t bother me at all. (They’re thickened with gelatin, making them non-vegetarian-friendly, as well as the only “true” gummy we tasted.)

They’re not as pretty as some of the other fruit snacks we tasted, but we suspect that kids will be too much of the “Candy! In my lunch!” mindset to care. Parents who are concerned about artificial colors and flavors in their children’s diets, as well as adults looking for a healthier, but still delicious, lunch treat, should consider picking some up.

Buy Dare Real Fruit Snacks Online:


Gushers

Betty Crocker Fruit Gushers – Variety Pack

Description: A childhood favorite of mine (and of other Candy Addicts too, I suspect). They’re part of a lineup that includes Fruit by the Foot and another childhood favorite, Sodalicious, which I was unable to find for the purposes of this review. All these years later, will this liquid-filled favorite still hold water? (I know… that was terrible.)

Nutrition: “Naturally and artificially flavored,” 20% of your daily requirement of vitamin C, 90 calories per 25.5 g pack.

Fruit content: Though the pack makes no claims about the amount of fruit in Gushers, calling them only a “fruit-flavored snack,” they actually had the same fruit content as the Real Fruit Fruit Snacks, with “concentrated pear puree” as the second-highest ingredient. Who’d have thought?

Appearance: A hexagonal “jewel” shape in a variety of colors. They’re very soft and sticky/oily on the outside, so they tend to stick together in the pack and deform easily.

Taste: This was the assorted pack, so there were three different assortments: Strawberry Splash (actually an assortment of several different colors), Gushin’ Grape (with “tropical flavors”) and Sour Triple Berry Shock. When you bite into their soft exterior, the liquid within does indeed come gushing out, so I guess the snack delivers.

Their unusually sticky texture must come from the fact that they are thickened with agar-agar, a seaweed derivative. That also means they’re vegetarian-friendly, at least as far as thickeners are concerned.

Overall, I’d sum up most of the flavors in one word: Sweet. Very sweet. They have an overwhelmingly sugary, stick-in-your-teeth quality that my Assistant Taster and I must have been more willing to overlook when we were children. However, the Sour Triple Berry flavor, and the occasional non-sweet flavor in the other two assortments, were rather nice. They weren’t what any true sour-head would consider sour, but they had a pleasant tanginess to them, made refreshing by the liquid inside. I think I actually prefer them to the similar Maynard’s Juicy Squirts Sours I reviewed last week.

If my sister and I are anything to go by, kids will like these for the “fun” factor, but if you’re an adult, you’ll probably want to stick with the Sour Triple Berry. And with their surprisingly high fruit content, you won’t even have to feel too bad about enjoying them.

Buy Fruit Gushers Online:


Scooby-Doo

Betty Crocker Scooby-Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks

Description: A popular brand of snacks that comes in a variety of popular cartoon-character shapes: Dora the Explorer, Transformers, and so on. I went for my childhood favorite, featuring a bunch of mystery-solving kids and their talking dog. But licensing agreements don’t guarantee quality – would these name-brand snacks prove superior to more generic treats?

Nutrition: “Naturally and artificially flavored,” fat-free, 25% of your daily vitamin C requirement, 90 calories per 25 g pouch.

Fruit content: Apple and pear juice are fourth and fifth on the ingredient list.

Appearance: A lime-green Mystery Machine and the decapitated heads of Scooby (blue), Shaggy (purple), Fred (yellow), Daphne (red) and Velma (orange), perhaps illustrating the aftermath of the lost episode where they didn’t figure out in time that the axe-wielding phantom was really Old Man McCreedy. The photo doesn’t do them justice – they were a little squished, but I could definitely tell which character was which by more than just the color.

Taste: A soft, rather than chewy snack – these had what I consider to be the “traditional” fruit snack texture. Like the Castle Adventures, they’re thickened with pectin, but the texture is much firmer. My sister and I agreed that these had the best texture out of all the snacks we tasted, and also the best fruit flavors of the three artificially-flavored snacks. My sister summed them up as follows: “I want to eat more of these – Scooby Doo is awesome!”

Buy Scooby-Doo Fruit Flavored Snacks Online:


Conclusion:
The surge of bright colors and sugary flavors caused us to experience a brief sensory overload, but we managed to stave off our sugar highs, stop staging candy dramas in which the Virgin Mary teams up with the Scooby Gang to fight the evil Blob Animal menace, and tally up the final scores. By the time we cleared away the carnage of discarded wrappers, some snacks had emerged as the clear winners, and others, the losers.

The Castle Adventure snacks had decent flavor, but bad texture, and Gushers, a childhood favorite, scored surprisingly low for their “tooth-hurting sweetness,” though the sour flavor wasn’t bad. For taste and texture, my sister’s favorite was the Scooby-Doo, while I liked the Real Fruit for their fruit content and more natural fruit flavors.

Yes, school lunch season is upon us, but there’s no reason to fear – with the right fruit snack, even a boring lunch can become something to look forward to. I hope this review has aided you in choosing the right fruit snack for you!

(Note: The leftover snacks were donated to our local food bank – because every kid should experience the joy of lunchtime candy.)



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7 Responses to “Candy Review: Back-To-School Fruit Snack Roundup”

  1. 1
    amy says:

    fruit snacks are typically so soft that they aren’t enjoyable to eat. I really like the true gummy type.

  2. 2
    Angie says:

    Betty Crocker fruit snacks are awesome. The Scooby Doo ones are a favorite at my house and rarely last but a few days.

  3. 3
    Staracasm says:

    I’m gonna buy myself some fruit snacks and pack myself a lunch. This qualifies as a fruit, right?

  4. 4
    diane says:

    my kids like all those fruit snacks !!!

  5. 5
    Candy Addict » Candy Review: Dare Realfruit Fruit and Yogourt Gummies says:

    [...] fruit flavors and colors. We’ve previously reviewed them in fruit-snack form as part of our Back-to-School Fruit-Snack Roundup. As far as candy goes, they’re about as guilt-free of a choice as you can get – and pretty darn [...]

  6. 6
    Candy Addict » Candy Review: Jelly Belly Superfruit Mix says:

    [...] As a fad, superfruits are getting a little long in the tooth, but apparently Jelly Belly hasn’t quite got the memo – it’s only now releasing this blend of acai, Barbados cherry, blueberry, cranberry and pomegranate-flavored jelly beans. The Jelly Belly Superfruit Mix is made with real fruit juice and natural flavors, colors, and sweeteners. They’re also apparently “A Good Source of Antioxidant Vitamin C.” Hmm – last time I checked, so were Betty Crocker fruit snacks. [...]

  7. 7
    Candy Addict » Candy Review: Nuclear Warheads Sour QBZ says:

    [...] coating of sour sugar. They didn’t look like gummies, more like the soft pectin jelly of lunchbox fruit snacks. (They have both pectin and gelatin in the ingredients.) I received three red QBZ, and one each of [...]

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