A good quality frozen fruit bar is a refreshing and low-fat snack and the world has discovered this. On a steamy summer afternoon, nine tasters were delighted to sample seven brands of frozen strawberry fruit bars, ranging in hue from light pink to deep red (due in part to some help from beet juice concentrate). All of the bars contain strawberries, water, sugar, stabilizers (guar gum, carrageenan) and citric acid, in varying amounts. Some have more than one type of sugar. Strawberries have a vitamin C content that rivals that of citrus fruit, and all but one of our bars have a recommended dietary allowance between 20 to 35 percent of vitamin C in a serving. Sunkist Strawberry Frozen Strawberry Fruit Sorbet Bars come in inexplicably low at 6 percent. Whole Foods Market 365 Strawberry Fruit Bars and Trader Joe’s Strawberry Fruit Floes are the only ones to list strawberries as the first ingredient.
The 365 brand was the winner, the favorite for five tasters and second favorite for two. “Fresh fruit taste and little strawberry seeds visible,” said one taster. “The only real contender,” said another. As it happens, Trader Joe’s Strawberry Fruit Floes contain exactly the same ingredients as the 365 brand, listed in the same order at the same weight, and sell at the same $1.99 price for the same number of bars. It wasn’t a surprise that tasters offered similar comments to describe both bars. (We called Trader Joe’s and they do not give out information on their vendors.) Edy’s Outshine (“unappealing and tasteless”) and Fruttare (“Pale color and unknown aftertaste”) tied for least favorite.
Edy’s Outshine Fruit Bars Strawberry
$3.69 for six 85-gram bars
The brand tied for least favorite with comments like this: “A strong unpleasant taste,” “very strong aftertaste that almost hurts the back of the palate,” “pale color, pale flavor, insipid taste.” And one drew an un-smiley face and wrote: “Bland taste, no outstanding characteristic.” Others: “OK. Tastes like fruit. Could be strawberry,” “This one had great flavor — very well balanced. It would be perfect if it was a little creamier.”
Food Club Fruit Bars Strawberry Flavored Ice
$2.69 for six 87-gram bars
People loved the “vivid red color” and used words like “pretty,” “bright,” and “intense.” One wrote, “closer to color of strawberries.” Not exactly (it uses beet juice concentrate to pump up the visuals). Apparently the color didn’t influence the flavor and many found the taste lacking: “Not great strawberry flavor,” “tasted stale and not fresh strawberry.” The consistency was “nicely icy, I would like this on a 97 degree day,” said one. Another echoed: “Popsicle texture, like a kid’s treat,” “strawberry fragments.”
Fruttare Strawberry Ice Bars
$4.49 for six 56-gram bars
Fruttare Ice Bars joins Unilever’s other frozen treats: Breyers Ice Cream, Popsicles, Good Humor, Klondike, and Starbucks ice cream. The package is bilingual with strawberries third on the ingredient list. This one received three thumbs down from the tasters and tied for least favorite. “Mushy, but nice pieces of real strawberry,” “slimy consistency, unpleasant taste on palate.” For others it was an unappealing color and lack of flavor: “Looks like bubblegum, doesn’t taste enough like strawberry,” “horrible, tasted like soap.” But others had a different take: “Creamy, with a well-balanced flavor, not too sweet.” “I found actual chunks of fruit.”
Sunkist Strawberry Frozen Fruit Sorbet Bars
$3.99 for six 78-gram bars
A brand known for its citrus and other fruit products had a surprisingly low 6 percent vitamin C content per bar and didn’t fare well in this tasting. Water and strawberry preceded strawberry puree in the ingredient list. And this was reflected in the comments. “If I were blindfolded I’m not sure I would identify this as strawberry,” “no fruit or seeds present,” “texture slimy and unpleasant.” The flavor was called “tart” by a few, with a “chemical aftertaste.” One named it her favorite and said it “looks and tastes like raspberry sorbet and is less sweet.”
Stop & Shop Strawberry Fruit Ice Bars
$2.79 for six 82-gram bars
Another brand with a striking hue. “Darkest in color,” “bright pink,” “color very strawberry.” Yes, the ingredients included a double dose of red beet juice concentrate and annatto for added color. Strawberries were the second ingredient, after water and before sugar. The flavor: “Concentrated strawberry taste,” “tastes most like frozen strawberries.” Others found the flavor less appealing: “Weak with no zip,” “tastes like medicine.”
Trader Joe’s Strawberry Fruit Floes
$1.99 for four 118-gram bars
Strawberries are the first on this ingredient list, and most judges took note: “This one provided a true strawberry taste, with just the right amount of strawberries throughout.” Two chose it as a favorite. “I like the dark color and bits of fruit. Tastes like summer.” “The color is appealing with seeds of strawberry and fresh strawberry flavor.” Tasters were mixed on texture. One found it “a bit icy,” while another praised it as having a “nice texture, not just frozen liquid.” One naysayer proclaimed: “Reminiscent of Kool Aid, bland and uninteresting.” And one person might have been onto something when she wrote: “It is hard to differentiate between some of these.”
Whole Foods Market 365 Strawberry Fruit Bars
$1.99 for four 118-gram bars
Chosen as favorite by most and second favorite by two others, 365 brand won kudos from nearly everyone. Many cited the fruity taste. Strawberries are at the head of the list: “Realistic strawberry fragments,” “made of real fruit and had a bit of texture,” “refreshing.” As for appearance: “Pretty color,” “had the look of watermelon and tasted like frozen strawberries.” This sign of authenticity: “Little strawberry seeds visible.” The texture got high marks: “Smooth and not too icy,” “not watery.” However, a number of tasters found this brand very sweet.
Debra Samuels can be reached at email@example.com.