A fruit snack is a processed food eaten as a snack in the United States. Fruit snacks are very similar to gummi candies. The main content is sugar, especially sugar derived from concentrated white grape juice and apple juice. Some fruit snacks have more sugar than gummi candies, and they usually have less protein. The main differences between gummi candies and fruit snacks are the marketing and advertising approaches, and the use of refined sugar from fruits rather than from beets, corn, or sugar cane.
Fruit snacks gained popularity from their convenience and candy-like taste. Most are stored in a simple plastic packaging that does not need to be refrigerated; therefore they can be taken virtually anywhere. However, they do have an expiration date. Fruit snacks range in the amount of fruit content. Some, like Welch's, contain fruit purees. Others only have trace amounts of juice, in addition to sugar.
Fruit leathers differ in that they have a different shape. The ingredients may be the same, or they may made primarily from pureed, dried fruit and concentrated, high-sugar fruit juice.
As of 2015, fruit snacks generally cost two to five times the price of gummi bears.
The modern, highly processed fruit snack has nothing in common with dried fruit. The first modern fruit snack was Joray Fruit Rolls, which were developed by confectioner Louis Shalhoub in the 1970s. It was used by backpackers as a lightweight, high-energy food rather than as healthful-sounding candy for children.
The name fruit snack was first used in 1983 by General Mills, which they used to describe their version of Shalhoub's product, Fruit Roll-Ups, which contained far more sugar.
By the mid-1980s, the fruit snack was a multimillion-dollar business.
Betty Crocker via General Mills
General Mills, owner of Betty Crocker products, introduced the first Fruit Corners Fruit Roll-Ups in 1983. Fruit Roll-Ups are similar to Fruit by the Foot (also a General Mills Snack) in that both snacks are packaged similarly (i.e., rolled around a material so the product does not stick to itself); however, the two snacks differ with respect to taste, texture, and consistency.
Among the many product types under the Welch's brand are Welch’s Fruit Snacks, which are manufactured and marketed under license by The Promotion In Motion Companies, Inc. Welch’s Fruit Snacks are made with fruit purees and juices, among other ingredients.
In 2015, a class-action lawsuit was filed in California against Welch's Fruit Snacks, alleging illegal supplementation with vitamins, in violation of the jelly bean rule. The jelly bean rule prohibits food manufacturers from deceiving consumers into buying candy by adding vitamins and marketing the candy as a healthful food. Promotion in Motion, Inc., which manufactures Welch's fruit snacks under license, replied that the complaint is invalid, "It is a fact that fruit, whether in the form of juices or more recently purees, has always been the first ingredient in Welch’s Fruit Snacks. Our labeling is truthful and gives consumers the information they need to make informed decisions.” The case has not yet been settled.
Kellogg's created "Fruit Winders" in the UK, which is similar to General Mills' Fruit Roll-Ups, only in fewer flavors.
Fruit Winders were introduced in the UK and Ireland in 2001 under the Kellogg's brand. The product was first called "Real Fruit Winders", which was later changed to "Screamin Fruit Winders" before being changed finally to "Kellogg's Fruit Winders". When the product first came out, the flavors were Orange, Strawberry and Blackcurrant, with Apple introduced shortly after.
Later, a public call-in contest was held where people would vote for a new Fruit Winders flavor. The choices were Tropical, Raspberry and Lemon. The winning flavor was Tropical, but Raspberry and Lemon were introduced later on afterwards. In 2006, Fruit Winders discontinued the Orange, Tropical, Raspberry and Lemon flavors along with the spin-off products, and put Apple and Blackcurrant into the Doubles brand, leaving Strawberry the only flavour to be sold in single packets.
The spin-off products were a squeezable product called Screamin Fruit Squidgers and gummy candies with a liquid centre, which were called Screamin Fruit Spurters. These were discontinued in 2006.
The television adverts for Fruit Winders showed a fruit with eyes and a mouth being winded into a Fruit Winder by a character that was a humanoid version of the fruit it was harming, these ads often had the slogan "Unwind the fruity fun, FOREVER!". On the paper attached to the Fruit Winder, a comic strip is shown, it shows a comic of the characters winding the fruit. Every Winder has a different story or way of being winded.
- Kawash, Samira (2013-10-15). Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. Macmillan. p. 322–323. ISBN 9780865477568.
- Moyer, Melinda Wenner (2015-09-25). "Don’t Be Fooled Into Thinking Welch’s Fruit Snacks Are Any Healthier Than Candy". Slate (in en-US). ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2015-09-28.
- "Basic Report: 19013, Snacks, fruit leather, pieces". National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Release 27). Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2015-09-28.
- Askew, Katy (25 Sep 2015). "Welch's dismisses challenge to snacks health claims". Just-Food. Aroq Ltd.