The Untold Truth Of Squeezits

If you are a millennial, Chucklin' Cherry and Grumpy Grape are not just clever alliterations, but beverages from your childhood. Remember the sugary drink that came in a plastic bottle with a twist-off cap? Yep, the one that you repurposed as a squirt gun after squeezing out the last drop, aka Squeezit. 

While you likely knew how delicious it was from experience, were you aware that no other fruit drink was available in a squeezable bottle back in 1985? (via General Mills) Or that the company behind the ads was the award-winning Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising New York (via AdAge)? How about the fact that General Mills first launched Squeezits in just one state before making it available nationally (via Chicago Tribune)?

The drink itself vanished from supermarket shelves at the start of the millennium, though it gave way to look-alikes like Kool-Aid Bursts. If you were born in the '80s or '90s, you probably distinctly remember what it felt like to squeeze a chilled Squeezit into your mouth on a hot summer day. Here are all the little-known facts about the nostalgic drink that was once a lunch box staple.

Squeezits were first introduced in Denver in 1985

Squeezits came into the world in 1985, around the time when Walkman-wielding kids and Pictionary-playing adults were considered cool (via General Mills). For whatever reason, the Minneapolis-based food giant General Mills decided to first dangle the colorful bottles before the young customers of Colorado.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Denver was the juice brand's test market in June 1987. As such, local kids were already used to the squeeze-and-drink craze by the time the product made its way to shelves in the Pacific Northwest in early 1988. The rest of the West coast had to wait until spring to get their hands on the newest sugary drink in the region. It was a big hit, as per the Chicago Tribune; in fact, a source from General Mills told the publication that the company's only doubt was whether it would be able to produce enough to meet consumer demand.

For awhile, they were made in the same plant as Cheerios

There's a lot to be thankful for a certain General Mills plant in Lodi, California, which wasn't only the source of Squeezits but also of breakfast favorites like Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Wheaties (via Lodi News). Sadly, the tiny bottles of Squeezits had a much shorter lifespan than the assorted cereals you probably still lap up every morning. The plant was built by General Mills in 1948 on what was originally a 20-acre cherry orchard. Less than 40 years later, plans to expand it by more than 100,000 square feet were in the works.

The portion of the plant where Squeezits were made was shut down in 1995, leaving 40 people jobless. It would take two more decades for the entire plant to shut down in 2015. A Fortune report notes that the production of Squeezits was later moved to a plant in Pennsylvania on the East coast. Productivity quickly shot up by 5% upon the adoption of a superteam model of work that saw a team managing itself. Unfortunately, even these superteams couldn't sustain Squeezits on the supermarket shelves indefinitely.

The bottles doubled as toys

Guilty of using the empty bottles of Squeezits to spray water on your siblings? Well, you are not alone. In a Reddit post about the popular drinks, many people admitted to using the tiny bottles as squirt guns. One wrote, "After finishing a bottle I'd refill it with water and squirt my little brother." Yet another recalled, "We would flick them at one another, usually to the back of the head. Any newcomer to our group learned pretty quickly to walk behind whoever was drinking one of those [...]" 

Back in 1988, a pack of six was priced between $1.79 and $1.99, and each Squeezit came in a 6.5-ounce plastic container with a twist-off and resealable top (via Chicago Tribune). Not many people bothered taking measured gulps and saving the rest for later. "No time to worry about sealing them up because we always turned them into water pistols right away after downing the juice," shared one fan on Reddit.

As it turns out, General Mills was indeed aware that Squeezits were being bought for more than the content of the bottles. "[Children of the '80s and '90s] sometimes turned them into squirt guns, we're told," as per the General Mills History blog on Tumblr.

Squeezit hardly had any fruit juice in it

Though Squeezits had fruits in their name — the original flavors included orange, grape, and cherry — the liquid was hardly a fruit juice. As reported in Chicago Tribune, the beverage only contained 10% fruit juice. The rest? All sugar. So much sugar that one bottle accounted for over 100% of your daily sugar intake, as certified nutritionist Sally Cohen reports (via Phentermine). According to Cohen, you would do better replacing the drink with real juice, milk, and even chocolate milk.

It took almost eight years for the brand to introduce a healthier spin-off of the cloyingly sugary drink of the '80s. Squeezit100 was launched in late 1993 and was advertised as being made with 100% fruit concentrate (via General Mills). The product was also sold in six-pack cases of slightly larger 6.75-ounce bottles priced at $2.79, per Orlando Sentinel. The flavors on offer were Caped Grape, Acrobat Apple, and Pilot Punch.

Each Squeezit flavor had a character associated with it

Let's talk about the Squeezit bottles for a second. Besides the fact that kids couldn't wait to use them as squirt guns, they were quite revolutionary for their time. As mentioned in a video by General Mills, when Squeezits were first introduced, they were the only juice available in a squeezable bottle. Aside from the tactile novelty, they were unbreakable and could be frozen and thawed as wished.

Over the years, the bottles evolved to smaller versions that could fit into lunch boxes, and in 1992, character bottles were developed (via HuffPost). Kids could finally attach a face to their favorite flavor, be it Smarty Arty Orange, Silly Billy Strawberry, Chucklin' Cherry, Berry B Wild, Grumpy Grape, Rockin' Red Puncher, or Mean Green Puncher.

As evident from the names, not all were smiling anthropomorphic bottles; characters like Grumpy Grape did, in fact, look grumpy. Whether or not the specific character turned kids sour, the grape flavor eventually underwent a makeover to become the more pleasant-looking Gallopin' Grape (via BEACH).

Life Savers candies were once available as Squeezit juices

Were you one of those kids who was too impatient to let hard candy slowly dissolve in your mouth? Did you ever wish you could just drink up the stone-hard candy? For these kids (or adults), 1995 was a momentous year. Life Savers, the popular hole-in-the-middle candy that was once thought to literally save lives, decided to reinvent itself by offering kids the option to drink the assorted flavors from a Squeezit bottle.

The candy brand, which was founded in 1912 (via Seattle Post-Intelligencer), collaborated with Minneapolis-based General Mills in 1995 to offer Life Savers flavors such as watermelon, blue raspberry, and tropical fruit in Squeezit bottles. It looks like the candy brand was determined to turn itself drinkable, as it also came up with five different flavors of fruit drinks the same year with Morse Holdings Corp., aside from its Squeezit rollout (via AdAge).

Some Squeezits were sold in mysterious black bottles

Anyone who spent their childhood binge-reading "Harriet the Spy" or "The Secret Seven" series would certainly understand the thrill of having a mystery land on their laps. Saatchi & Saatchi New York, which did the marketing for General Mills' Squeezits in the '90s, realized this fact. In 1997, the company came up with a rather unique idea of including two black bottles with no labels in an otherwise normal-looking six-pack carton of Squeezits (via General Mills). 

By doing so, kids had to channel their inner detective to identify the black bottle mystery flavor. According to General Mills, the carton also came with clues to help kids decode the mystery. No matter what flavor of fruits was found in the black bottles, let's not forget they were all 90% sugar anyway. One Reddit user remembers the mystery flavor tasting like pineapple. But the real question remains: Was it actually pineapple? 

Some Squeezits changed color

Bottles that double up as squirt guns are fun enough, but General Mills didn't stop there. In 1996, the company decided to add what seemed like pure magic for kids at the time: Squeezit drinks that changed color. The color-changing Squeezits came in clear bottles along with small capsules that changed the color of the juice upon being dunked into the bottle (via Bustle). For some, it was easily their favorite type of Squeezit. And the best part? There was no way to know what color your drink would become once the pellets were added, as demonstrated in a product advertisement

No doubt, hauling one of those bottles to school made you the popular kid. As one Redditor recalled, "If you had those at my school, you were in." But of course, some kids weren't satisfied just by popping the pellets into the bottle; they wanted to know what the pellets were all about. As one Redditor shared, "Pretty sure I ate one of the tablets and got in trouble in 4th grade." Another added, "[...] Those little pills tasted strong when you licked one." Obviously, they weren't meant to be eaten as a snack — as kids soon realized for themselves.

Squeezits were discontinued in 2001

In 2001, the year Squeezit was supposed to celebrate its sweet sixteen, General Mills decided to discontinue production. It turns out, inventing a squeezable character for each flavor, like Grumpy Grape or Smarty Arty Orange, did little for the brand. Although coming up with names like Chucklin' Cherry and inventing complete identities — Chucklin' Cherry's real name was Chester Cherrytree and he loved math and skateboarding (per HuffPost) — seems uber creative, it probably brought the beginning of the end for Squeezits.

Soon after the characters were introduced, Squeezit sales dipped by 16%, per a report on Adweek (via Ranker). While the characters were fun and whimsical, the bottle format was not ideal to fit into kids' lunchboxes. There is no specific reason to blame the juice's demise — it could be Chucklin' Cherry and his friends or maybe the competition with new similar beverages like Kool-Aid Bursts and Mondo Squeezers was too fierce. Or perhaps, parents began to wake up to the realization that super-sugary drinks were probably not the best option to quench their child's thirst.

Despite thousands of requests from fans, Squeezits are not coming back

There might be a bevy of drink options today, but for some millennials, Squeezit is irreplaceable. A fan on Reddit writes that simply watching an old commercial for the drink, "zapped me back to being a child sitting about 2 feet from this big tube t.v with a strange white doley and a VCR on top of it on a Saturday morning ... Crazy." No wonder a petition to bring the drink back got over 6,000 signatures (via Mental Floss).

Squeezit temporarily made a comeback in 2006, but as if a dream, it vanished soon after in 2007 (via The Foods We Loved). Now, even after a decade since anyone has been able to drink it, fans on Reddit continue to reminisce about the taste and the satisfaction they got just by twisting off the bottle caps. "We need to bring those back," commented a Reddit user. 

But is General Mills listening? A post on General Mill History's Tumblr blog back in 2013 made it quite clear that no matter how much noise the fans made, there were no plans to bring Squeezit back. The post ended with a polite, "Sorry fans!"