Back in the Paleolithic age, canned peaches were sweetened in heavy syrup. Then, in deference to consumer preferences for a less sweet and cloying taste (and fewer calories), light syrup was introduced. But health-conscious customers soon demanded “all-natural” sweeteners, and marketers understood the appeal of being able to trumpet “no sugar added” on labels.
With some fruits, such a pineapple, the natural juice is abundant and an excellent “packaging agent.” But the problems with peach juice are numerous. A peach simply doesn’t yield much juice, according to tom Elliott of the Canned Fruit promotion Service. As a result, peach juice concentrate is both expensive and not readily available, according to a spokesperson for the California Cling Peach Advisory Board. Furthermore, although peach juice is naturally sweet, it doesn’t have much peach flavor.
To the rescue comes pear juice. It is extremely sweet and readily available, and best of all, has a neutral flavor. Elliott mentions that you can use pear juice to pack such disparate fruits as apples, peaches and plums, without worrying about the liquid adding its own strong flavor.
Grape juice is even more plentiful than pear juice as a sweetening agent, and is used to sweeten everything from granola bars to junk food. Roger Coleman, of the National Food Processor Association, says that some marketers are using apple and pineapple juices as well, sometimes blending them, depending upon availability and cost. But Coleman reports that more and more canned peach companies have overcome the technical and economic problems of packing fruits in their own juice. So it is sometimes possible to find canned peaches packed in, of all things, peach juice.