I haven’t bought jam in years. I’m one of those crazy people who actually makes their own, despite it not actually being any cheaper than buying it from the store.

However, back during my organic phase [1], I did buy a lot of organic jam, and the main brand I turned to was Crofter’s.

So when a box arrived at my door unannounced – that is, there was no warning that it was coming [2] , I was a bit perturbed and then intrigued by the collection of “superfruit” spreads.

Crofter’s is a company from Port Perry, Ontario that specializes in fruit products – from jam to juice, everything they make is organic. I’ve been a fan of their stuff for many years, and if I didn’t make my own jams and preserves, Crofter’s would most likely be the brand I’d seek out; their stuff is all certified organic, comes in a diverse range of products and is not overly sweet.

However, I’m not a real fan of the idea of “superfruit”, which is what this new line of spreads (they’re not technically jams because of the sugar to fruit ratio) purports to be. The line of four flavours all start with a base of morello cherries and red grapes and then also include “superfruits” (fruit thought to have anti-oxidant properties) from 4 different continents. North America is represented by a blend of blueberries and cranberries; South America by maqui and passionfruit; Europe has black currants and pomegranate, and Asian includes raspberries and yumberries.

The problem with superfruits is, of course, that the evidence surrounding the anti-oxidant properties of these products is still sketchy. Nutritional scientists still don’t know exactly how anti-oxidants work in terms of reacting with other components of a fruit or vegetable (for instance, beta carotene in carrots is extremely beneficial, but equal amounts of beta carotene in other fruits and vegetables not so much). As well, the amount of anti-oxidants required to be of nutritional benefit often far exceeds that of a typical serving, which can mean significantly increased calorie intake if you actually try to get a full daily dose of the antioxidant in question from something like, say, oh, a fruit spread.

So the benefits of including a “superfruit” are negligible, unless someone sits down and eats the whole jar in one sitting.

As a marketing scheme, I’m not buying it, and I don’t like the misleading impression of health in a jar.

Where the marketing does get me is the packaging – each flavour includes the image of a black bear holding a giant version of the main fruit flavouring agent. That could just be me, I’m a sucker for bears, but this is definitely something that will differentiate the products on the supermarket or health food store shelves. Given the cuteness factor, I’d rack it low (at a child’s eye level) and would expect it to go home in the carts of health-conscious families.

So let’s look at the line of spreads in terms of what people should really be considering – how do they taste? I’ve only cracked open the black currant version so far, but it’s really nice. The ingredients list starts with organic fruit (organic morello cherry, organic red grape concentrate, organic black currant, organic pomegranate concentrate), organic fair trade cane sugar, natural fruit pectin and ascorbic acid. While the base is cherry and grape, the black currant flavour really comes through. I get very little pomegranate in the product. Since the majority of the sweetness comes from the fruit and not the sugar, the spread is not cloyingly sweet. It tastes like real fruit. The spread is thick with whole back currants, so it’s also nicely textured.

The press release indicates the spreads contain “more” anti-oxidants (although it doesn’t say how much more) and 40% fewer calories per serving that standardized jams. The lower calorie count is a good thing, and doesn’t affect the flavours at all – if anything you can taste the nuances of the fruit and not just sweetness.

These spreads retail for $5.49 at major retailers and natural food stores across Canada. If I didn’t make my own stash, I’d buy these despite the silly superfruit/anti-oxidant claims, but I do wish they had just marketed them as some kind of “global flavours” line instead of trying to make people believe that a little blob of jam will make them healthy.

[1] I was diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity in 2002, and switched to an almost all-organic diet for many years. Am less stringent about it now, but will still choose organic over conventional whenever possible, especially in terms of processed foods.

[2] PR people – seriously, DO NOT DO THIS!! I mean it – always, always, always contact me first to ask if I want the samples you’re sending out and to arrange a delivery time. I work alone in a home office in a high-rise and we don’t have a concierge. If you use a deadbeat courier company, your package could end up left in the stairwell and the crackheads who hang out there aren’t going to write about your products. ALSO – and especially – don’t send me stuff unsolicited and then send me a barrage of emails asking when I’m going to  write about the stuff I never wanted in the first place.