How A Fruit Roll-Ups TikTok Trend Led To An International Smuggling Crackdown

It all began so innocently, and so sweetly: just a few fun-loving TikTokers playing with food they've loved since they were little – Fruit Roll-Ups. How did it all end up taking a wrong turn, leading us to a situation where the Israeli government has been forced to confiscate hundred of pounds of kid-friendly fruit candy? 

And lest you believe this is just a couple of crazy kids trying to make a few bucks, there have been numerous instances of people trying to sneak Fruit Roll-Ups into Israel, and the latest news story is just the most egregious example. It's gotten so bad that Israel's Health Ministry decided to get involved, tweeting about the smuggling problem, and warning of the unhealthy nature of the fan-favorite candy. 

Call them spoil-sports for ruining the good, clean — and very cold — fun of the most recent Fruit Roll-Up trend, which involves a mind-blowing way of eating the candy as a decadent dessert, but they have been provoked. Let's review the timeline of just how we got from Point A to Point B.

The early years of the Fruit Roll Up trend

Fruit Roll-ups have been around for years. General Mills struck lunch box gold in the early 1980s creating Fruit Roll-Ups, with the popularity of the snack reaching new heights in the '90s. While other fruit candies may have come and gone, Fruit Roll-Ups have been a main-stay, often put in lunch boxes by parents. That being said, TikTok has recently brought renewed attention to them.

Both Millennials and Gen-Zers have found ways to transform their nostalgia for the fruit snack into something new. Back in 2021, TikTokers shared the idea of freezing Fruit Roll-Ups into frozen snacks. Shortly after, netizens discovered you could pair Fruit Roll-Ups with ice cream as well. One of the early examples of what would become a trend was a TikTok video in October 2021. TikToker trinhdoesthings was prompted to experiment with a Fruit Roll-Up and vanilla ice cream combo, which she found quite to her liking. Inspired by her appreciation, others followed suit and were delighted with the ice cream sandwich version of a familiar treat. However, the trend wouldn't truly kick off for two more years. 

Fruit Roll-Ups goes viral

The ice cream hack intrigued people from the start since it put a whole new spin on Fruit Roll-Ups. The presence of the ice cream totally transforms the fruit leather's texture, taking it from chewy and gelatinous to brittle and crispy. The contrast between the crunchy, candied exterior and the creamy, smooth ice cream within makes it especially satisfying. While the concept met with general approval and enthusiasm, it was the appearance of a new video and flavor combination that really rocked the fruit-rolling, TikToking universe, and launched the new taste sensation. 

In March of 2023, TikToker Golnar Ghavami posted a video of her Saturday night "sweet guilty pleasure." In the video, she shows herself taking out a Fruit Roll-Up and pairing it with her favorite – mango ice cream. Ghavami extolled the virtues of the strawberry and mango mashup, taking a bite on camera that allowed viewers to catch the satisfaction of that first crunchy bite. 


#sweetdreams #fruitrollups #icecream

♬ original sound – Goli

The crunch heard round the world

Inspired in part by that famous crunch, the trend has spawned many imitators. Golnar Ghavami's TikTok has over 14 million views and 1.6 million likes and has set in motion a series of derivative videos as well. There are debates over the best shape — rolled up or mochi ball?  What are the best flavors and types of fruit roll-ups? Should you buy the kind with tongue tattoos? Meanwhile, other videos added extras (like Fruit Gushers) in attempts to put a new spin on the dish. 

Another part of the appeal is how easy it is to make. Unlike some other viral recipes on TikTok, this doesn't require any actual cooking. You're really just assembling pre-made ingredients. Making things even simpler is that there are only two ingredients: the Fruit Roll-Up and some ice cream. 

But what makes the recipe so ridiculously easy in the U.S. and Canada is precisely what makes it hard for those living abroad. While ice cream is pretty easy to come by in most parts of the world, Fruit Roll-Ups are less so. For instance in Israel, a single Fruit Roll-Up is selling for about $6 due to scarcity. How can you hop on a trend when a Fruit Roll-Up is harder to come by than a Taylor Swift Eras Tour concert ticket? 

How supply scarcity lead to smuggling attempts

This brings us full circle (aka full roll) to recent criminal activity and the convergence of international markets and regional products. Citizens in Israel wanting to try out the viral trend for themselves have faced dwindling supplies. In Tel Aviv, a city in Israel, many stores sold out of their limited stock of Fruit Roll-Ups very quickly once the trend caught fire. 

Where there are buyers, there are sellers looking to make exorbitant profits. While travelers are allowed to bring up to 11 pounds of specific food items, recent visitors to Israel have, in separate incidents, attempted to smuggle in suitcases filled with 73 pounds and 143 pounds of Roll-Ups respectively. One of the latest attempts features a couple, who both brought large bags containing 375 pounds between them. Authorities have foiled their's and others' attempts to smuggle in Fruit Roll-Ups.

In fact, officials have reportedly confiscated 661 pounds of the candy in just one week. They've also stopped 10 shipments to different addresses in Israel containing collectively 350 pounds. While the viral trend is obviously great for General Mills, it's having an unintended negative effect abroad as international customers deal with short supplies and smugglers look for profit.