The history of General Mills fruit snacks

From the debut of Fruit Roll-Ups to designer shoes from Gushers, General Mills fruit snacks have been delighting consumers for decades.
Fruit Roll-Ups hot colors

The frenzy for fruit snacks begins

Research and development on the concept of fruit snacks started in 1975 in the desserts division at General Mills when a new fruit filling was being developed for a cake mix.   

At the time, another company had a “fruit leather” product that General Mills used as a benchmark to develop a similar, but better, product. 

Our version was tested and revised until it was ready to go into test markets in 1979. 

You just might recognize the name – Fruit Roll-Ups! 

Fruit Roll-Ups officially moved into the Betty Crocker division of the company in 1980 and was advertised as a nutritious and satisfying snack. 

While fruit snacks debuted in the late 70s, there wasn’t a time quite like the 90s that saw a frenzy for these sweet, gummy morsels. 

In the 90s, General Mills introduced a Fruit Roll-Up mascot: the Great Rolupo, a wizard who enticed kids to enjoy a rainbow of fruit flavors. 

While Rolupo was only around until 1991, he left his mark by giving fans one of the most iconic fruit snack features: the peel-out shape. 

These shapes ranged from tic-tac-toe pieces to fan-favorite characters from TV and movies. 

After the success of the peel-outs, the sweet snack continued to roll out more successful innovations, like hidden pictures and ever-hilarious stretchy faces. 

Whatever your favorite flavor, the Fruit Roll-Ups of the 90s changed the snack game by finally making it “okay” for kids to play with their food. 

In 1991, Fruit by the Foot joined Fruit Roll-Ups and other popular fruit snacks like Shark Bites. 

But it was the 1992 arrival of Gushers that really caused a splash.  

These bite-sized flavor bombs had the surprise of a juicy liquid center that made them an instant hit.  

Throughout the 90s, Gushers made its way into pop culture through partnerships with Jurassic Park, Nickelodeon, the Goosebumps series, and more.  

One particularly memorable ad campaign from this decade featured kids eating Gushers and their heads transforming into pieces of fruit.  

Another fan-favorite from the 90s was the Fruit String Thing, which hit the market in 1994.  

The long, string-like fruit chew came wrapped in different shapes on a small paper board. Kids would open the package to find a racetrack or a pair of sunglasses and then peel the snack off to create their own, or just eat it.  

String Thing could also be twisted, braided, tied in knots, or played with in any number of ways that left stickiness on fingers and smiles on faces.  

Needless to say, the early 90s firmly established fruit snacks as a critical section on the snack shelf. 

Fruit snacks today

Today, General Mills is the largest manufacturer in the fruit snacks category and continues to lead category growth 

“The fruit snack category, led by General Mills as a 47% share, grew before the pandemic, accelerated growth throughout the pandemic, and we see even more growth in our future,” says Emilie Knox, business unit director, Fruit and Salty Snacks at General Mills. “As the leader of this growing category, we believe our job is to provide a frictionless permissible sweet treat experience consumers love by leveraging our diverse portfolio of brands and offerings.” 

General Mills' fruit snack portfolio includes Annie’s, Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit by the Foot, Mott’s, Kid Equity Shapes and Gushers.  

But our brands are making more than fruit snacks these days. 

Gushers recently dropped a limited-edition designer sneaker - available exclusively in the metaverse.  

“We believe that continuing to build brand relevancy and relationships with our consumers has never been more important,” adds Knox. “Our recent launch of a custom-made Gushers sneaker is a perfect example of how we are bringing our Gushers brand purpose to life by celebrating creativity and self-expression.” 

Gushers is also continuing to step up as a force for good. 

Earlier this year, the brand launched year 2 of Black Voices Create, an ongoing effort to amplify young Black voices. 

This year’s “Black Voices Create GEMs” activation is elevating the voices of undiscovered young Black creators on TikTok. Gushers’ goal is to uncover these hidden gems on TikTok by promoting their content and helping them to build their influence. 

Gushers’ commitment goes well beyond Tik Tok, as the brand continues to support the NAACP Youth and College Division with a $500,000 donation this year to continue the journey of advancing Black youths. 

To learn more about our brands, visit www.generalmills.com/food-we-make/brands