A fruit snack is a sugary processed food marketed to the parents as a snack for children in the United States. Fruit snacks are very similar to gummy candies. The main content is sugar, especially refined 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 extracted from tapioca or fruit juice in addition to, or sometimes instead of, refined sugar extracted from sugar beets, corn, or sugarcane.
Fruit snacks gained popularity from their convenience, candy-like taste, and marketing that positioned the product as being healthier than candy. Most are stored in disposable 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 vary in the amount of fruit content. Some, like Welch's, contain some 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 be made primarily from pureed, dried fruit and concentrated, high-sugar fruit juice.
The nutritional value or content of fruit snacks has long been contested. Much of the controversy surrounds the nutritional value (or possible lack thereof) in sugar, which is found in large amounts in some fruit snacks. Parents are advised to treat their children's consumption of fruit snacks the same way they would a candy or any other sugary snack food item.
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.
By the mid-1980s, the fruit snack was a multimillion-dollar business. However, sales peaked in 2013 and declined over the next few years.
- In 2015, two women filed a class-action lawsuit in New York 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. The licensed manufacturer replied that the complaint is without merit, "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 was voluntarily dismissed in 2017.
- In 2017, another person filed a class-action lawsuit in New Jersey against Welch's Fruit Snacks, alleging that the snack food is marketed as being more healthful than similar products despite being nutritionally similar to candy.
Betty Crocker via General Mills
General Mills, owner of Betty Crocker products, introduced the first Fruit Corners Fruit Roll-Ups in 1983 and then Fruit by the Foot. Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit by the Foot are packaged similarly, and the products are rolled around a material so the snack does not stick to itself. However, the two snacks differ with respect to taste, texture, and consistency.
Fruit Gushers  are fruit snacks in the shape of elongated hexagonal bipyramids, which made primarily from sugar and fruit juice, with small amounts of other ingredients. Introduced in 1991, they are produced by General Mills under the Betty Crocker brand name, and may be found in generic forms as well.
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, corn syrup, sugar, starch, and juices, among other ingredients.
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Kellogg's created "Fruit Winders" in the UK, which is similar to the American Fruit by the Foot by General Mills, only in fewer flavors. Unlike Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Winders contain no artificial colorings and each flavor is made with real purée derived from the fruit it represents (e.g. the strawberry flavour contains real strawberry purée).
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 made the strands small enough ti fit two on each winder. Apple and Blackcurrant were placed into the Doubles, including brands with Strawberry, leaving Strawberry the only flavour to be sold as a single packets, but with two smaller winders. As of 2017, there had been a new flavor of Very Cherry added, and is sold only in select stores.
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.
Fruit Winder Gang
- Blabber the Male Orange Jokester
- Booster the Male Blackcurrent Genius
- Max the Female Apple Athlete
- Sorbabe the Female Strawberry DJ
- Voodoo the Male Tropical Witch Doctor
- Unknown Cherry Character
- Unknown Female Lemon Genie
- Unknown Male Raspberry Secret Agent
Sunkist has manufactured and licensed several fruit snacks brands:
- Sunkist Fun Fruits was a licensed snack food from Leaf Confections Limited, manufactured with fruit from Sunkist Growers, Incorporated and packaged by Thomas J. Lipton. The snack, which was introduced in 1987, was small, soft, and pellet shaped. Initially, the product was available in four flavors: cherry, grape, orange and strawberry. Later that year, assorted shapes, such as dinosaurs and rock 'n' roll shapes, were introduced in order to appeal to children. With the dismantling of Leaf Confections, Sunkist licensed the production of fruit snacks:
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