This unique snack was a mainstay of snack favorites for kids in the 90s and this classic treat is remembered with fondness by many people. These strange little fruit snacks were a big hit for kids who loved being given permission to play with their food and they offer a model for snacking that has fallen somewhat out of favor over the years.
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If you love fruit roll-ups and other kinds of snacks that are meant to be played with a little as you eat them, Fruit String Thing will catch your eye as well. These yummy little treats invited all kinds of snacking fun just like other fun fruity snacks and you missed out if you never enjoyed them as a kid. While they are not on the market anymore, these fruity treats have an interesting history that is still well worth learning about!
History of Fruit String Thing
Fruit snacks of all kinds have been popular inclusions in kid’s lunches for years now. There are still versions of these items sold on the shelves of grocery stores everywhere and children still love them. The original versions were sugary and made with high fructose corn syrup but most of the current versions have been made somewhat healthier than the former models of these handy little grab-and-go snacks.
These snacks benefit from not requiring refrigeration and they are healthier than candy. It is debatable what fruit content they actually contain, but they all profess to be made with real fruit juice or real fruit ingredients. Welch’s actually has fruit puree in the mix of their ingredients. Things like fruit leathers often include more real fruit than the jellies and rolled fruit snacks that compete with them in the same space.
The first fruit snack was made in the 1970s by Louis Shalhoub. These snacks were originally intended to be sold to backpackers and hikers to help them fuel themselves for tough climbs and other hard work on the trail. The transition to a snack happened in the 1980s. This is still a multi-million dollar business and these treats have not lost popularity over the years despite the unhealthy nature of the original snacks.
Fruit String Thing was made by Betty Crocker. The string-shaped fruit snack was poured onto a paper backing and wrapped in a plastic wrapper. You could peel the fruity string off the backing and enjoy it in bits and pieces, or you could slurp it like a fruity noodle if you wished. This was one of the favored play with it as you eat it foods and many kids remember the enjoyment they got out of having fun while they ate this yummy snack.
Some of the varieties of this snack were made in shapes like rockets and other items, and peeling the strings off and watching the shape unravel was almost as fun as eating the snack itself. This was a surprisingly popular treat that has been missed by many ever since it was removed from the market.
There were never very many flavors and the original grouping of Cherry, Strawberry and Berry Blue were considered more than enough flavors for this kind of snack. Betty Crocker sold the creativity of the eating process that went along with this snack and the commercials sold the almost artistic eating styles that might be encouraged for those who loved eating these little snacks.
General Mills owns Betty Crocker, and they have always been at the center of the fun snacks and fun cereals for kids’ markets. They have created other items like Fruit Gushers, Fruit by the Foot, and Fruit Roll-ups to offer the same fun while you eat benefits. Fruit String Thing likely was discontinued due to competition with these other more popular snacks, but those who loved Fruit String Thing do not agree that the snack should have been discontinued in favor of these other snacks.
The main competition of the original fruity snack was Welch’s Fruit Snacks. This company offered up simple snacks that were basic in every way but these fruit snacks are still sold with great success. The texture of Welch’s snacks is ironically more like Fruit String Thing than the other fruit snacks on the market, but for whatever reason, no one but Betty Crocker has picked up this treat style to try to bring back something that is like Fruit String Thing.
Fruit String Thing went off the market in the mid-2000s. Between competition with the other fruity snacks on the market and the rise of the healthy snack for children, there was no room in the market for this formerly really popular treat. It is likely that the treat would still sell quite well if you left it up to kids, but the snacking market has changed a lot since the 90s and Fruit String Thing lost out to this change of trends.
These trends have improved the health of some of the snacks that are on the market, but there is still a long way to go toward making these snacks as healthy as they should be. Many parents still limit how many of these kinds of snacks they will give their kids and for good reason.
Popular Culture Surrounding Fruit String Thing
While many who were kids in the 90s remember Fruit String Thing with fondness, there were many moms that would not get the snack for their kids. Almost everyone remembers their mom or someone else’s mom who would not allow these kinds of snacks in the house.
In hindsight, these were not the healthiest snacks of all time and the moms that would not allow them were probably onto something since the entire food industry has moved away from these kinds of sugary snacks without real nutritional value. For kids of the 90s, who sucked down the soda and all kinds of bizarrely sugary and brightly-colored snacks, Fruit String Thing is by far one of the least offensive of these treats.
There is a treat in the UK that is called Liquorice Shoe Laces that has also been blacklisted as unhealthy over the course of the last 10 years or so. While it is laudable that the children’s snack industry has moved away from unhealthy snacks, there are many who loved these snacks that want them to come back. All of the companies who used to make these popular treats have not been open about offering a comeback for them, but diehards are still asking, even all these years later.
Fruit Snack Lawsuits
Lawsuits have been filed for fruit snacks over the years because of their claims that they were healthy food options for children. Eventually, “the jelly bean rule” was put in place to help govern this industry. The jelly bean rule prohibits food manufacturers from lying to customers and stating that their products are a good food substitute and not candy. While lawsuits have been brought against the various fruit snack types on the market, there have not been effective efforts to control the sugar content of these snacks.
High fructose corn syrup is no longer included in most foods in the US, but the other sugars that are used to make these products have not been noticeably reduced. This is one of the arguments that continue to be made against creating these snacks and selling them to kids, but the market has not been forced as of yet to do better in their manufacturing process.
Time will tell if the pressure on the food industry to create snacks that are not loaded with sugar will meet with ultimate success. The food lobby is very strongly against controlling the sugar content of many food items to a level that might constitute healthy eating and many companies are not required to do more than promise not to inject as much sugar into their products as they used to. For many parents, this means that giving healthy foods to their children can be a real challenge.
Marketing Campaigns for Fruit String Thing
These fun snacks were linked over the years with other products. Notably, the campaign that linked Goosebumps books with Fruit String Thing was a big success. You could get a free book when you used your box tops and there was clip and save bookmarks that could be cut off the sides of the boxes that included eight-string thing packs.
There were also giveaways for sunglasses and other swag that were associated with the campaign and the books and the snack benefitted from the connection. Betty Crocker has always tried to promote learning-based items in connection with their products and this was no exception. Fruit String Thing is not the most logical connection for this kind of promotion but it seemed quite popular when it was being promoted on boxes of the snack.
Fruit String Thing Logo
Fruit String Thing Ingredients
Here are the ingredients for Fruit String Thing.
- Fruit Juice Concentrate (Equivalent from 50g Strawberry Juice 35g Apple Juice and 34g Orange Juice)
- Glucose Syrup
- Fructose Syrup
- Gelling Agents (Gelatine, Agar)
- Acidity Regulator (Citric Acid)
- Natural Fruit Flavouring with other Natural Flavouring
- Natural Colours (Anthocyanin, Chlorophyll, Carotene)
- Coconut Oil
- Carnauba Wax
Fruit String Thing Nutrition
|Typical values:||Per 100g||Per 20g Bag|
|of which saturates||1.9g||0.4g|
|of which sugars||37.0g||7.4g|
Pictures of Fruit String Thing
Fruit String Thing Commercials
A classic commercial:
Another classic promoting the variety of the fun shapes of the snack:
Another early 90s commercial:
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