Alleged ‘Fruit Roll-Ups’ smuggling Americans caught in Israel


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Jackie Hajdenberg, JTA

(JTA) — At least two American couples have been caught by Israeli customs for attempting to smuggle a total of more than 650 pounds of Fruit Roll-Ups into Israel, as the country experiences a dire shortage of the snack due to a TikTok craze.

A video posted on Tuesday by Mako, an Israeli news website, appears to show a customs official at Ben Gurion International Airport sifting through at least three open suitcases each filled with hundreds of the colorful, sugary treats. An American-accented voice off screen, in a mix of Hebrew and English, explains that he brought the snacks across the ocean for his family in Israel. When the customs official asks if the man packed clothes for himself, he responds that he has clothes in Israel.

Why did he fill two checked bags with Fruit Roll-Ups? “It has something to do with ice cream,” the man’s voice says.

The man was almost certainly referring to a viral TikTok trend, ongoing since at least March, in which users of the video social network wrap the sweet, sticky roll-up around a small scoop of ice cream, which then freezes over and becomes hard and crunchy.

“We’ve also fallen into this trend,” says an Israeli in one TikTok video from late March, as he places a box of Fruit Roll-Ups on the counter. “My whole TikTok is exploding with Fruit Roll-Ups and ice cream.”

Israelis routinely ask travelers from the United States to bring back goods that either cost more in Israel (such as electronic devices) or are hard to find on Israeli shelves (Entenmann’s Donuts, for example). But in attempting to import Fruit Roll-Ups to Israel, the American couples were tapping into a real market shortage.

Around the country, supermarkets, convenience stores and online retailers have reportedly sold out of Fruit Roll-Ups, driving up the cost of the snack. According to Israeli press reports, enterprising merchants are selling individually wrapped Fruit Roll-Ups for prices exceeding $5 or $6 each. By comparison, a box of 10 Fruit Roll-Ups in the United States typically costs less than $3.

One article in the Israeli daily Israel Hayom jokingly compared those rising costs to the value of a mortgage in Israel’s infamously expensive housing market.

“We bought them for the price of a diamond,” one parent said, according to the article. “I said I would find out how many I could get in exchange for my kidney.”