I'm sure I've mentioned it on this blog before, but I grew up with numerous systemic food and environmental allergies. I was treated for and grew out of the food allergies, for the most part, while my environmental sensitivities still remain. None of the allergies were life-threatening, but my parents forbid me to consume any amount of the offending ingredients, among which were wheat, milk, and sugar. Just think about that. I was a kid who couldn't eat wheat or milk or sugar. The vast majority of meals and snack foods contain at least one of those things, if not all three.
So suffice it to say, it was a big deal to me when my reactions to such foods waned and my parents' resolve to keep me away from the banned substances abated. The first domino to fall was sugar. The world of tooth-rotting candies opened up to me for the first time when I was in my early tweens, and I quickly became a Starburst connoisseur. I'd go through an entire box during the course of a two hour movie, maybe sharing one or two pieces with my friends, reluctantly. I don't eat them nearly as much today, but when I saw Trader Joe's offered their very own store brand knockoff version, I had to try them.
Interesting. I thought I'd easily prefer the Trader Joe's version, but I'm not blown away. There's something odd and unfamiliar about TJ's candies that's hard to reconcile, especially after my decades-long affinity for name brand Starburst.
There are a lot of similarities, ingredients-wise, and also a few differences. Both have "corn syrup" as the number one ingredient. That's something I'd expect from mainstream candy companies, but not necessarily Trader Joe's. At least it's not high fructose corn syrup in either case. The second ingredient in both cases is "sugar," although the TJ's version specifies that it is, in fact, cane sugar. TJ's product employs the use of coconut oil in place of Starburst's hydrogenated palm kernel oil. I guess that's good. We don't want hydrogenated oils if we can help it.
Surprisingly, Starburst lists fruit juices from concentrate higher in their ingredients than Trader Joe's, which does contain "fruit juice" and "vegetable juice" in their "2% or less" section, which specifically serve as "color added." Starburst still uses chemical dyes like Red 40 and Yellow 5 for color, which are apparently somewhat carcinogenic. So...if you want your fruit chews sans cancer, that'd be a reason to reach for Trader Joe's brand.
Taste and texture-wise, I'm still going with the original Starburst over this Trader Joe's Fruity Chewy Candy. Each of the four classic flavors (orange, lemon, strawberry, cherry) is just ever so slightly less scrumptious than their name brand counterparts, and the raspberry flavor included here is even less memorable than any of the above. As an adult, I don't think I'll ever re-purchase this product at TJ's and I'll only ever eat about two Starburst at a time right around Halloween or Easter, so hopefully that's a small enough quantity to avoid death by fruit chews. If those food dyes are going to do me in, the damage was already done decades ago.
Sonia wasn't exactly overwhelmed by these candies, either, but she can't say she prefers Starburst hands down the way I can.
Bottom line: 6 out of 10.