Do you ever have a super strong association with a food product? After college, I was fortunate enough to work as an office production assistant for an indie movie in New York City. During this time, one of my main duties was to go to Costco to buy snacks for the production office. (By the way, if you’ve never been to a Costco in NYC, they have elevators in them that you can put your shopping cart on, which was pretty wild to me at the time, but I digress.) Most of the items on the food list were basic snack stuff: bananas, pretzels, chips, Cokes, and seltzers. But one item that was always on the list was something that I had only a passing familiarity with: fruit snacks. To this day, any time I see or sample a fruit snack, all I can think of is piling a gigantic box of them into my grocery cart and then putting it on the escalator along with similarly huge items and struggling to fit them all into the teeny production car.
I’m far from an expert on fruit snacks (or at least I wasn’t until I wrote this article). So, what exactly are they? They’re sweet, they’re sugary, they’re gummy. But are fruit snacks candy? Let’s find out.
Are fruit snacks candy?
At the risk of getting a tad philosophical here, we must ask ourselves, “What is candy, anyway?” According to dictionary.com, candy is “any of a variety of confections made with sugar, syrup, etc., often combined with chocolate, fruit, nuts, etc.” States define it a little differently. As Avalara notes, a collective tax agreement between 23 states defines it as “a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruits, nuts or other ingredients or flavorings in the form of bars, drops, or pieces.” These definitions certainly seem like they might apply to fruit snacks, but what exactly are fruit snacks made out of?
What ingredients are in fruit snacks?
According to the label for Welch’s mixed fruit snacks, they contain, “Fruit puree (grape, peach, orange, strawberry and raspberry), corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, modified tapioca starch, gelatin, concord grape juice from concentrate, pectin, citric acid (acidulant), lactic acid, natural and artificial flavors, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), vitamin A palmitate, sodium citrate, coconut oil, carnauba wax, annatto (color), turmeric (color), red 40, and blue 1.” You’ll note that the first three listed ingredients contain two forms of sugar. And, while fruit puree is in fact made from fruit, it’s concentrated and sugary, providing another sweetener to the mix.
So, wait, are fruit snacks candy?
It’s a tough question to answer definitively, but certainly, given their ingredients and the amount of sugar and processed components they contain, fruit snacks are candy-ish at least. While they are lower in sodium and calories than some of the more indulgent confection varieties, their nutrition profile is fairly similar to something like gummy bears. And the health benefits of fruit puree are minimal.
So, whether or not you consider fruit snacks candy, you might consider putting them in the “occasional treat” category instead of “healthy snack.” In any event, make sure they’ll fit in your car before buying a big box of them at Costco.