Donate |

Spread it on: Best jellies and jams

Some inexpensive brands tasted better than pricier ones

Consumer Reports magazine: January 2013

Illustration: Alisson Sieffer

Smucker’s (“bringing you the goodness of jams, jellies, preserves, and smiles”) and Welch’s (“makes the most delicious jams, jellies, and spreads”) are two of the biggest names in jellies and jams. And most of their products did well in our tests. But other brands­—365 Everyday Value grape, Bonne Maman, and Trader Joe’s strawberry—scored at least as high. And Smucker’s Simply Fruit was just OK.

Among the lower-rated products was the priciest one in the bunch. The label on Stonewall Kitchen, $7.05 per jar (31 cents per tablespoon), says, “Whole, sun-ripened, sweet strawberries make our strawberry jam an exceptional American classic bursting with memories of summer.” Not according to our trained tasters, who found a musty off-taste in some of our samples.

Ratings are based on how the products tasted plain.

The top four all have a strong grape flavor and are quite sweet. Differences weren’t very noticeable. The lower-rated Market Pantry is a looser gel and creates a gummy feeling in the mouth. “Concord,” by the way, simply refers to the type of grape used to make jelly and juice.

Bonne Maman and Trader Joe’s have big fruit flavor and big strawberry pieces; Welch’s strawberry flavor has a hint of grape; Smucker’s Seedless is thicker than most of the tested jams, with a uniform texture; and Smucker’s Low Sugar has some fresh strawberry flavor but is a bit sour and more runny than others. The lower-rated strawberry jams have off-tastes. Archer Farms lost points for a slight medicinal flavor; Polaner and Smucker’s Simply Fruit taste a tad pruney.

Bottom line. The very good grape jellies taste similar, so choose by price. The very good strawberry jams have slightly different textures. Choose Bonne Maman or Trader Joe’s if you favor strawberry chunks; Smucker’s Seedless if you don’t like seeds. Try Smucker’s Low Sugar if you’re looking to limit sugar. And note that the words “all fruit” or “simply fruit” didn’t guarantee a tastier jam. Our experts also rated the nutrition of each jelly and jam—based on calories, sodium, and sugars—and judged the products good or very good. Polaner All Fruit is the only one with fiber (3 grams).

Since you might want to eat your jam or jelly with toast, see our report on sliced bread alternatives and buying guide and Ratings for toasters and toaster ovens.

What's the difference between jams and jellies?

Jellies are made from fruit juice and may include sweeteners, spices, pectin, or preservatives.


Jams and preserves (the two terms can be used interchangeably, according to federal rules) blend crushed or chopped fruit with the ingredients in jellies.


Spreadable fruit, by the way, is a term that's sometimes seen on products but has no official federal definition.


Reduced-sugar products contain at least 25 percent less sugar per serving than a specified alternative product. There’s no federal definition of “low sugar,” claimed by one Smucker’s jam.


   

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters!
Choose from safety, health, cars, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Food News

Connect

and safety with
subscribers and fans

Follow us on:

Cars

Cars New Car Price Report
Find out what the dealers don't want you to know! Get dealer pricing information on a new car with the New Car Price Report.

Order Your Report

Mobile

Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more