Jam

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 10 jam brands.

We also look at organic vs local, and give our recommended buys.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

What to buy

What to look for when buying jam:

  • Is it local? With the UK producing strawberries, raspberries and other jam fruit throughout the summer months, there is no need to buy jam from products grown abroad. Cut down on food miles by opting for local.

  • Is it homemade?  Making your own preserves, from fruit you've grown, using Fairtrade sugar, is one of the most ethical options.This way you can know exactly where all ingredients have come from and avoid nasty chemicals and their environmental impact by buying organic fruit. 

  • Is it Fairtrade? Workers on fruit farms are often treated very poorly, both in the UK and abroad. If you want to buy a tropical flavoured jam, or support producers abroad, look for Fairtrade. Or in the UK, chose a brand that commits to workers' rights.

Best Buys

Our Best Buys are organic and Fairtrade options from:

Locally-produced jam will always be a good option - particularly organic jams.

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying jam:

  • Is it grown using pesticides? Made from petroleum, chemical pesticides threaten bee populations, contaminate water sources, and cause large-scale destruction of habitats. Look for organic to avoid fruit grown with these chemicals.

  • Is it packaged in plastic? The oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish by 2050. Go for a glass jar, particularly one made from recycled materials, or make your own and reuse the packaging.

  • Profits over people? Seasonal workers on fruit farms face multiple problems, often given dismal housing and poverty wages for the few months that they are employed. If you are going to buy jam produced abroad, opt for Fairtrade. In the UK, check that the farm has clear commitments.

Companies to avoid

We would recommend avoiding supermarket own-brand jam, particularly from those that score poorly in our supermarket guide:

  • Asda
  • Tesco
  • Iceland
  • Sainsbury's

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20)

Biona fruit spread [O]

Company Profile: Windmill Organics Ltd
13.5

Meridian fruit spread

Company Profile: Meridian Foods Ltd
13

Meridian organic fruit spread [O]

Company Profile: Meridian Foods Ltd
13

Baxter's jam

Company Profile: WA Baxter & Sons Ltd
11.5

Traidcraft jam [F,O]

Company Profile: Traidcraft plc
11.5

Tiptree jam

Company Profile: Tiptree Jam Company
10.5

Tiptree organic jam [O]

Company Profile: Tiptree Jam Company
10.5

Whole Earth fruit spreads [O]

Company Profile: Whole Earth Foods Ltd
9.5

Frank Cooper's jam

Company Profile: Premier Foods Plc
9

Gales Lemon Curd

Company Profile: Hain Celestial Group Inc
6.5

Hartley's jam

Company Profile: Hain Daniels Group
6.5

What is most important to you?

Animals
Environment
People
Politics
Product sustainability

Our Analysis

There has been a flurry of activity in the organic and fair trade arenas. So is all this choice good?

Critics have argued that it's environmental madness to import foods that we can produce in the UK, such as fruit for preserves and honey, from the other side of the world. The resulting pollution adds to the menace of global warming. But what if we are also similarly concerned with the plight of impoverished producers in the Third World?

Cutting edge environmental thinking suggests that if we're to manage climate change equitably in the long-term, then everybody on the planet should be given an equal right to pollute, by giving them a fairly distributed carbon ration.

Fairtrade, organic or local?

This means that consumers wishing to support workers in the Third World can ignore the food miles issue and look out for brands that carry the Fairtrade mark.

Companies offering Fairtrade products are indicated by an F next to the brand name in the table. The Fairtrade label only applies to suppliers from the Third World. Therefore, honey and fruit preserves travelling from places like Australia, the US and New Zealand should probably be avoided. Consumers wishing to support regional producers can buy honey and preserves locally or from local farmers markets.

Pesticides

Pesticide residues have been found in almost half of the UK's fresh fruit. The World Wildlife Fund claims that "orange production requires more intensive use of pesticides than any other major crops."[3] Most of the residues will be confined to the peel, but this may be a worry if you're a fan of marmalade.[3] One solution to this problem is organic jams. Companies offering organic preserves are indicated by an O next to the brand name in the table. FO next to the brand means that a Fairtrade organic certified product is available.

Packaging

The best environmental option will be to buy spreads in glass jars. Most of the companies who responded to our request for information used some recycled glass content in their jars.

Animal Issues

The issue of gelatin in jam has been given the elbow. The Vegetarian Society were not aware of any jams or preserves in the UK containing gelatin.[4]

Making your own jam

Fruit picking is characterised by temporary contracts, long hours, low wages and poor health due to inadequate training in pesticide use. Making your own preserves, from fruit you've grown, using Fairtrade sugar, is one of the most ethical options. Simple recipes can be knocked up using fruit, sugar and a largish pan. If you make your own, you can restrict the amount of sugar as well. The fruit to sugar ratio for traditional jams is 450g (1lb) sugar to 450d (1lb) fruit. High levels of sugar are linked to obesity, heart and liver disease, diabetes and tooth decay.[1] There is also some evidence that sugar can cause mood swings, hyperactivity and poor concentration in children.[2] The fruit spreads offered by Biona, Meridian and Whole Earth do not contain any added sugar or other sweetener.

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References

  1. 'Sweet Smell of Excess,' The Ecologist 11/03 
  2. 'What not to feed your child,' The Observer 10/4/05 
  3. 'Is it ok ... to drink orange juice?' The Guardian 10/1/06
  4. Food Magazine: No 71 2005