17 July 2016
A review of 224 snack bars by CHOICE has found some of the biggest brands are tricking consumers
by depicting images of real fruit on pack even though their products are loaded with added sugar
and contain minimal actual fruit ingredients.
The results come at a time when expert bodies such as the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration are calling on consumers to limit their intake of added sugars to reduce the risk of obesity and tooth decay.
"Unfortunately, when it comes to snack bars, relying on marketing messages and brand names in the supermarket is no recipe for finding real fruit in processed foods and can leave you drowning in a sea of added sugar," says CHOICE head of media Tom Godfrey.
CHOICE's review found the "fruit" ingredients in snack bars often owe more to chemistry than agriculture, for example:
- Aldi's Hillcrest Chewy Muesli Bars Strawberry & Yoghurt depicts fresh strawberries on its box but instead it contains "strawberry flavoured fruit pieces" which consist of fruit puree concentrates, flavour and a range of additives.
- Kellogg's K-Time Twists Raspberry and Apple claims to have "raspberry and apple fillings" however it contains no actual raspberry - just raspberry juice concentrate and only 2% apple.
"K-Time Twists are packed with sugar, juice concentrate (a form of added sugar), apple powder, fructose (another added sugar), brown sugar (more added sugar), a range of thickeners and other additives. It's a stretch to depict actual fruit on pack," Godfrey says.
"The fruit content of some products is farcical. If you're putting your kid's lunchbox together you'd be far better off with fresh fruit and some wholegrain crackers."
CHOICE's findings also come following a recent report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which found that more than half of Australians are exceeding recommendations around the daily intake of added sugars.
"It's little wonder we're consuming too much added sugar when you consider our review found brands using healthy-sounding product names such as Go Natural and All Natural along with references to fruit and yoghurt in a bid to trick you into thinking you're making a healthier choice," says Godfrey.
"Making matters worse, there is currently no requirement in Australia for food companies to detail added sugars on packs. This makes it easier for the junk food giants to sweeten the truth with their dodgy 'health halos' on pack.
"It's time added sugars were listed on nutritional panels and different kinds of added sugars clearly identified in the ingredients list to help consumers navigate around the junk food industry's marketing trickery.
For CHOICE's full report visit: choice.com.au/snackbars.
When choosing snack bars:
- Read the ingredients list first – ingredients are listed in order of most to least.
- Aim for products with a short ingredients list consisting of whole foods and no added sugars and salt.
- Check for real fruit and veg ingredients, not just juice concentrates and powders.
- Look for bars that have no more than 600kJ in a serve, the recommended limit for a snack.
- Consider them all to be 'sometimes' foods.
 Includes cereal, muesli, nut, seed and raw snack bars