11th October, 2005 A bit dry this one but fun to do, none-the-less.
The advertisement showed a picture of a typical tarted up ad-mans effort of toast and jam. But then I looked at the label...

The company, IXL, is owned by Coca Cola who also own Grinders Coffee. Hence the reference.

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Dear Sir,

Have you ever started a job and found that it sort of kept getting bigger and bigger?

This letter is a little like that. Bear with me and I will explain. I recommend that you get a mug of coffee, Grinders of course, before pressing on. Or a can of Coke, if you must.

First cab off the rank and the initial impetus for this letter was your currently running advertisement that shows a jar of IXL Apricot Conserve and two pieces of jammed toast. As always I am fascinated by this type of ad as it bears no resemblance to the real world of us jam eaters. The main question is:

How do you take a bite out of the toast and not get jam on the underlying bread?

The sub-question relates to the obvious mauled under-slice. I know it is hard to believe but it looks as if it has been cut to provide a totally unreal artistic prop to the top slice. Unbelievable, eh? But wait, there's more: what toast eater is dumb enough to stack up his toast and get jam on the bottom of the top piece? This is serious stuff we are talking about here.

I was sort of fine up until then but, in the spirit of research and general high-spirited derring-do, I bought a jar of the jam (Ok, conserve. It's something of a fine line between jams and conserves.). Things went down hill rapidly from there. Now, to put your mind at ease I am only talking about the label, not the jam. As jams go, it is going rapidly. Les Enfants Newbery have given it a three and a half wooden jam spoons out of a possible five. But it is being judged against Granny Newbery's gold ribbon apricot jam so the bar is quite high.

But the label! Well, let's look at a few things.

Firstly, apricots are the second ingredient and are listed as constituting 50% of the product. This means that the first ingredient, sugar, must be greater than or equal to 50%. Obviously it cannot be greater than, so it must be 50%.

This leaves 0% available for the remaining three ingredients: pectin, citric acid and sodium citrate.

Secondly, the product is described as the 'finest quality' and 'home gourmet'. Home made and 'finest' jam does not generally use pectin, citric acid and sodium citrate. Lemon juice, maybe, but that is all.

Next we come to the sodium level; 4mg/100g. The apricots probably add 1 or 2 milligram so, assuming no undeclared sodium metabisulphite, the rest must come from the sodium citrate. This means that the sodium citrate is present at about 10mg/100g. Is it functional at this level? By the way, you list sodium citrate as an acid but I suspect it is more properly listed as an acidity regulator.

While we are sticking in the jam spoon, the Australian Food Standards Code does not permit the use of the “ < ” symbol in nutrition panels. It requires the use of the words “LESS THAN”. And, if the truth be known, it should read “LESS THAN 1” but I confess I disagree with FSANZ on that.

Your nutrition panel has the serving size for the product listed as 15g. I suggest that the amount of richly applied, sumptuous, glossy jam on the toast in the advertisement may just exceed 15g. I must confess I come from a school of thought that favours the thick layer of jam, none of this skimpy smearing routine for me, but there does seems to be just a tiny disparity between label and advertisement. No?

Finally, I am puzzled by the requirement to 'refrigerate after opening'. As jam making was a way for my Neanderthal relatives to conserve their summer fruits for use in winter, it seems a bit off for the product to need refrigeration. Surely if it is preserved, it is preserved.

It is home gourmet, after all.

That's all. I trust you day will improve.

Yours, stirring gently,

J. Cosmo Newbery.