Study reveals unacceptable sugar levels in lunchbox “fruit snacks”

Posted 27 Jan 2022.

livelighter sugary lunch snacks study

Following a recent audit, we are cautioning parents not to be fooled into thinking that packaged snacks labelled as ‘fruit' are healthy options for their children, with most looking more like a lolly bag.

Of the 56 packaged fruit snacks available in two major supermarket chains in Australia, more than two-thirds (68%) were found to contain unacceptable levels of sugar, with many products hiding added sugar sources behind healthy-sounding names.

Crunch&Sip Project Officer, Alex Dreyer, said findings from the nutritional audit were both concerning and disappointing.

"While parents and carers are doing their best to provide healthy options in their children's lunchboxes, food manufacturers are letting them down by using sneaky marketing tactics, including imagery of fruit on their packaging, the use of words like ‘natural' and ‘fruit' within their brand and product name, and positioning their products in the health food aisles of supermarkets," Mr Dreyer said.

"More than two thirds of the packaged snacks we analysed contained over 15g of sugar per 100g, but more shockingly, 43% were made up of at least half sugar.

"Despite their healthy sounding names, ingredients such as fruit paste, concentrated puree, fruit juice concentrate, and corn syrup are just added sugar, and another sneaky way that brands use a health halo to market their products to parents.

"Sugars found naturally in snacks like plain yoghurt and whole fruit come with the goodness of protein, calcium and fibre so there's no need to avoid these types of foods, it's added sugars that parents need to be on the lookout for."

In addition to the increased cost associated with buying packaged style "fruit snacks" in favour of real whole fruit, Mr Dreyer said there was a cost to children's health and learning.

"Sugary foods can cause sugar crashes. For kids, this usually occurs just after recess or lunch time, affecting classroom learning," he said.

"While dietary fibre found in whole fruit slows down digestion, helping to stabilise blood sugar levels and avoid the sugar crash, none of the packaged fruit snacks in our audit met the recommended minimum of 3g dietary fibre per serving, which would help to do this. Instead, they weighed in at 1.5g per serving compared to whole fruit's 4g per serving.

"With food manufacturers not required to separate added and naturally occurring sugars on their product's nutritional information panel, it's important for parents to know how to make healthy, informed choices about the products they buy for their children."

Crunch&Sip tips for making lunchboxes healthier:

• Learn how to read nutrition labels to give confidence when choosing and comparing products
• Keep the Crunch&Sip wallet card handy when at the supermarket to help make decisions on the best products to buy
• Check out Crunch&Sip's healthy snacks recipes for healthy lunchbox options here

For more information

• We deliver the LiveLighter program, which aims to encourage Australian adults to lead healthier lifestyles - to make changes to what they eat and drink, and to be more active. You can find lots of great tips, resources and information at LiveLighter.

Found in:  News - 2022 | View all news