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9 Fun Facts About Fruit Roll-Ups

To the delight of kids (and adults who have a major sweet tooth), Fruit Roll-Ups have been around since the early 1980s. Part of General Mills' Betty Crocker brand, Fruit Roll-Ups are one of the brand’s several fruit snack products, but, as you may have suspected, they don't count toward your four to five servings of fruit per day. Read on for nine fun, fruity facts about Fruit Roll-Ups.

1. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FOR FRUIT ROLL-UPS STARTED IN 1975.

In 1975, General Mills began researching ways to make a fun, sweet fruit treat. The research and development team based the new product on fruit leather, and when Fruit Roll-Ups hit grocery store shelves in 1983, customers could choose between strawberry, apple, cherry, and apricot varieties.

2. A PROLIFIC GENERAL MILLS INVENTOR CREATED FRUIT ROLL-UPS' NONSTICK BACKING.

The main fruit component for Fruit Roll-Ups might get the most notice, but another company inventor contributed the essential non-edible packaging of the snack. Bob Zoss, an inventor at General Mills, created Fruit Roll-Ups’ nonstick backing, which allows kids to easily pull apart the flat sheet of fruit snack from its cellophane backing. During his nearly 40 years at General Mills, Zoss filed five patents, set 58 invention records, and worked on everything from sodium reduction research to quality control in food packaging.

3. PEOPLE SOMETIMES CONFUSE FRUIT ROLL-UPS WITH FRUIT BY THE FOOT.

Because Fruit Roll-Ups are inherently similar to Fruit by the Foot, another Betty Crocker fruit snack, confusion between the two has abounded. Both snacks are sugary, come in bright colors, appeal to kids, and come rolled. Although people debate in online forums and comment sections about the merits of Fruit Roll-Ups versus Fruit by the Foot, many commenters state that they mistakenly always thought the two snacks were the same.

4. THEIR TEMPORARY TONGUE TATTOOS WERE A BIT HIT WITH KIDS.

Kids' food have a long history of including toys or games to pique interest, and Fruit Roll-Ups are no different. Besides offering a variety of flavors and pre-cut shapes to punch out of the roll, in the early 2000s, some Fruit Roll-Ups added edible dye that could be pressed onto the tongue, giving kids cool temporary tongue tattoos. The marketing trick worked. As one 6th grader in Oregon said, "The greatest snack ever invented is Fruit Roll-Ups because there are tongue tattoos that are out of this world."

5. A LAWSUIT POINTED OUT THAT STRAWBERRY FRUIT ROLL-UPS DON'T ACTUALLY CONTAIN STRAWBERRIES.

A consumer watchdog nonprofit, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, recently sued General Mills, claiming that Fruit Roll-Ups' packaging intentionally misled customers into believing that the snack was healthy and made of fruit. In particular, the strawberry flavor of Fruit Roll-Ups contains no actual strawberries—it’s flavored with pear juice concentrate instead—but the box showed an image of a strawberry. In 2012, General Mills agreed to remove images of fruit from Fruit Roll-Ups boxes that didn’t contain the actual fruit.

6. ALTHOUGH KIDS MAY LOVE THEM, DENTISTS DON'T.

Dentists specifically call out Fruit Roll-Ups as being particularly bad for teeth. Because many people think dried fruits and various fruit-flavored snacks are healthier than candy, they don’t realize just how much sugar the fruit products contain. Besides the possibility of eroding enamel from being stuck on the teeth for too long, the chewiness and stickiness of Fruit Roll-Ups can also potentially pull out fillings.

7. YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN VERSION OF FRUIT ROLL-UPS.

If you run out of Fruit Roll-Ups or love them so much that you want to try your hand at making your own homemade version, you’re in luck. Chop up your favorite fruit (it can be fresh, frozen, or out of a can), add a sweetener such as sugar or honey, and puree it in a food processor. Spread the puree on a baking sheet and dry the fruit mixture by cooking it in your oven for 6 to 8 hours at 150°F. Slice into strips or blocks with a pizza cutter, and if you wrap it in plastic or parchment paper, you’ll have your own homemade fruit roll-ups.

8. FRUIT ROLL-UPS GOT A SHOUT-OUT ON FRIENDS.

On a 2000 episode of Friends, Chandler tried to avoid a relationship conversation with Monica by asking for a Fruit Roll-Up. Guess even manchildren need afternoon snacks.

9. JEREMY LIN HAS A BASKETBALL JERSEY MADE OF FRUIT ROLL-UPS.

In 2012, General Mills gave Jeremy Lin, a former member of the New York Knicks, a special jersey made entirely of Fruit Roll-Ups. Full "Linsanity" had broken out after Lin, a point guard, led the Knicks to a number of wins. When the newly crowned superstar tweeted about loving fruit snacks, Fruit Roll-Ups responded in kind by making the colorful jersey as well as sending along a gift basket of fruit snacks.

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The Secret to the World's Most Comfortable Bed Might Be Yak Hair
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Tengi

Savoir Beds laughs at your unspooling mail-order mattresses and their promises of ultimate comfort. The UK-based company has teamed with London's Savoy Hotel to offer what they’ve declared is one of the most luxurious nights of sleep you’ll ever experience. 

What do they have that everyone else lacks? About eight pounds of Mongolian yak hair.

The elegantly-named Savoir No. 1 Khangai Limited Edition is part of the hotel’s elite Royal Suite accommodations. For $1845 a night, guests can sink into the mattress with a topper stuffed full of yak hair from Khangai, Mongolia. Hand-combed and with heat-dispensing properties, it takes 40 yaks to make one topper. In a press release, collaborator and yarn specialist Tengri claims it “transcends all levels of comfort currently available.”

Visitors opting for such deluxe amenities also have access to a hair stylist, butler, chef, and a Rolls-Royce with a driver.

Savoir Beds has entered into a fair-share partnership with the farmers, who receive an equitable wage in exchange for the fibers, which are said to be softer than cashmere. If you’d prefer to luxuriate like that every night, the purchase price for the bed is $93,000. Purchased separately, the topper is $17,400. Act soon, as only 50 of the beds will be made available each year. 

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Fart Gallery: A Novel History of Spencer Gifts
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Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When U.S. Army Corps bombardier Max Spencer Adler was shot down over Europe and imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II, it’s not likely he dreamed of one day becoming the czar of penis-shaped lollipops and lava lamps. But when Adler became a free man, he decided to capitalize on a booming post-war economy by doing exactly that—pursuing a career as the head of a gag gift mail-order empire that would eventually stretch across 600 retail locations and become a rite of passage for mall-trekking teens in the 1980s and 1990s.

To sneak into a Spencer Gifts store against your parents' wishes and revel in its array of tacky novelties and adult toys felt a little like getting away with something. Glowing with lasers and stuffed with Halloween masks, the layout always had something interesting within arm’s reach. But stocking the stores with such provocations sometimes carried consequences.

A row of lava lamps on display at Spencer Gifts
Dean Hochman, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Returning from the war, Adler sensed a wave of relief running through the general population. Goods no longer had to be rationed, and toy factories could return to making nonessential items. The guilt of spending time or money on frivolous items was disappearing.

With his brother Harry, Adler started Spencer Gifts as a mail-order business in 1947. Their catalog, which became an immediate success, was populated with items like do-it-yourself backyard skating rinks and cotton candy makers [PDF]—items no one really needed but were inexpensive enough to indulge in. In some ways, the Spencer catalogs resembled the mail-order comic ads promising X-ray glasses and undersea fish kingdoms. Instead of kids, Adler was targeting the deeper pockets of adults.

Bolstered by that early success, Adler moved into a curious category: live animals. He had small donkeys transported from Mexico and marketed them as the new trend in domestic pets. LIFE magazine took note of the fad in 1954, observing the $85 burros, being sold at a clip of 40 a day, “except for stubbornness, are very placid.”

Burro fever foreshadowed the direction of Spencer’s in the years to come. The Adlers opened their first physical location—minus livestock—in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 1963, expanding on their notion to peddle unique gift items like the Reduce-Eze girdle, which promised to shave inches off the wearer’s stomach. That claim caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which chastised the company for advertising the device could reduce body weight without exercise [PDF]. The FTC also took them to task for implying their jewelry contained precious metals [PDF] when the items did not.

Offending the FTC aside, Spencer’s did a brisk enough business to garner the attention of California-based entertainment company Music Corporation of America, Inc. (MCA), which purchased the brand and proceeded to expand it in the rapidly growing number of malls across the country in the 1970s and 1980s. (The mail order business closed in 1990.)

Brick and mortar retail was ideal for their inventory, which encouraged perusal, store demonstrations, and roving bands of giggling teenagers. The company wanted its stores to capture foot traffic by stuffing its aisles with items that had a look-at-this factor—a novelty that invited someone to pick it up and show it to a friend. When executives saw specific categories taking off, they “Spencerized,” or amalgamated them. When there was a resurgence of interest in Rubik’s Cubes and merchandise from the 1983 Al Pacino film Scarface, visitors were soon greeted in stores by stacks of Scarface-themed Rubik’s Cubes.

Mike Mozart via Flickr

Apart from its busy aesthetic—“like the stage from an old Poison video,” as one journalist put it—Spencer's was also known for its inventory of risqué adult novelty items. Pole-dancing kits and sex-themed card games occupied a portion of the store’s layout. The toys captured a demographic that might have been too embarrassed to visit a dedicated adult store but felt that browsing in a mall was harmless.

Sometimes, the store’s blasé attitude toward stocking such items drew critical attention. In 2010, police in Rapid City, South Dakota seized hundreds of items because Spencer's had failed to register as an “adult-oriented business,” something the city ordinance required. As far back as the 1980s, parents in various locales had complained that suggestive material was viewable by minors. In 2008, ABC news affiliate WTVD in Durham, North Carolina dispatched two teenage girls with hidden cameras to see what they would be allowed to buy. While they were shooed away from a back-of-store display, they were able to purchase “two toy rabbits that vibrate, moan, and simulate sex” as well as a penis-shaped necklace.

As a possible consequence of the internet, there are fewer incidences of parental outrage directed at Spencer’s these days. And despite the general downturn of both malls and retail shopping, the company bolsters its bottom line with the seasonal arrival of Spirit Halloween, a pop-up store specializing in costumes. Despite only being open two months out of the year, their Spirit locations contribute to roughly half of Spencer's $250 million in annual revenue.

Today, the chain’s 650 stores remain a source for impulse shopping. They still occasionally court controversy over items that appear to stereotype the Irish as drunken oafs or other inflammatory merchandise. With traditional mall locations expected to shrink by as much as 25 percent over the next five years, it’s not quite clear whether their assortment of novelties will continue to have a large retail footprint. But so long as demand exists for fake poop, fart sprays, and penis ring toss kits, Spencer’s will probably have a home.

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