- Despite the term’s implication, some fruit spreads actually contain less fruit than regular jam.
- Price is no guarantee of taste; our testers rated one of the cheapest jams among the best and one of the most expensive as the worst.
The term “fruit spread” somehow sounds so much healthier and fruitier than plain old jam. The reality, however, is that while jam has its own food standard and strict definition, fruit spread and spreadable fruit don’t. And in the absence of any clear definition or standard, fruit spread or spreadable fruit could be just about anything fruity and spreadable – which covers a lot of ground when food technology is involved. Some are essentially regular jam with a fancy name; others are cleverly concocted to be significantly lower in kilojoules and sugar.
Then there are spreads that are simply a fruity blend of marketing and sugars.
- “100% fruit spread” may conjure images of chunky fruit minus all the fattening sugar you’d find in jam, substituting sugars from fruit (usually from concentrated grape, apple or pear juice) for regular sugar does precious little for the waistline – although some have a few less kilojoules per teaspoon overall.
- Watch out for so-called fruit spreads that simply use the term because they don’t contain enough fruit to call themselves jam; we found two brands with only 30% fruit, below the minimum of 40% required for jam.
CHOICE put a range of jams and spreads to the test, asking 65 ordinary consumers, all staff members, to taste a selection of widely available strawberry varieties (one of the most popular flavours). The 10 products our trialists liked best are listed alphabetically in our What to Buy. Perhaps surprisingly, one of the lowest kilojoule spreads tasted just as good as its sugar-heavy cousins. Our test also found price is no indication of taste. In fact, one of the most expensive spreads was least popular overall.
Please note: this information was current as of May 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Brands taste tested
- Bonne Maman Strawberry
- Charles Jacquin Strawberry Fruit Spread
- Coles $mart Buy Strawberry Spread
- Cottee's Delightful Strawberry Spread
- Cottee's Strawberry conserve
- Golden Circle Strawberry Conserve
- Grandessa Strawberry Conserve (ALDI)
- Hero Strawberry
- Home Brand Strawberry Jam (Woolworths)
- IXL All About Fruit Strawberry Spread
- IXL Strawberry Conserve
- Monbulk Strawberry Spreadable Fruit
- Ouverture Strawberry Fruit Spread (ALDI)
- Rose's Summer Strawberry Gourmet Conserve
- St. Dalfour Strawberry 100% Spreadable Fruit
- Weight Watchers Strawberry Fruit Spread
- Wilkin & Sons Ltd Tiptree Organic Strawberry Reduced Sugar Jam
- Woolworths Select Strawberry Jam
- Yackandandah Strawberry
- You'll Love Coles Strawberry Jam
- Young Maid Strawberry Jam
Jam: A preserve of whole fruit, slightly crushed, boiled with sugar.
– Macquarie Dictionary
Fruit spread: A healthier-sounding version of jam.
Preserving your jam
Jam seems relatively indestructible; before refrigeration, making jam was one of the few ways people could store fruit for later use. Properly made, the sealed jars are sterile until opened and the high sugar content puts the brakes on the growth of food-spoilage bacteria. But as anyone who’s retrieved a long-opened jar of jam from the back of the fridge knows, it can still go mouldy on the surface.
All the spreads in our test carry a recommendation that you refrigerate them after opening, which is good advice for maximising their safe life. But in the case of lower-sugar varieties, refrigeration is absolutely essential, even though they may contain a preservative, as once opened they deteriorate rapidly if left at room temperature.
Leaving the lid off a jam jar, even for a short while between spreading on toast, allows mould spores floating in the air to settle on the surface. Put the lid on as soon as possible to keep your jam mould-free for longer.
Can you safely scrape any mould off the surface and eat the rest? Moulds have invisible filaments that can burrow deep into a soft food, so it’s safest to throw the jam away as soon as you see any.