How TikTok Fruit Jellies Became the Internet's Favorite Candy

Since January 2019, the 99-cent novelty fruit jelly snacks have increased in value exponentially, all thanks to TikTok star Jaden Sprinz.

Viral Tik Tok Jelly Explainer
Photo: Sarah Crowder

In early December 2019, Jaden Sprinz, a then-22-year-old comedian and TikTok star whose most notable feature is his naturally elongated, vampire-like incisors, went to a 99-cent store to look for Christmas decorations. While browsing the aisles, he spotted a bag of oversized gummy fruit candies in neon packaging. "I was like yo, I've gotta snag them," he explained on his YouTube channel. "I was just like these look strange. I kind of want them." He bought one bag. Two months later, the same bag of gummies Sprinz had picked up for under a dollar — Fruity's Ju-C Jello Bags by the California-based Din-Don Foods Corp. — were unavailable in every store in the area that sold them, and scalpers were selling individual bags for over $50 on eBay.

The gummies had gone viral, thanks to Sprinz's TikTok channel. It all started when Sprinz began filming himself sampling the gummies for a series of videos showing him biting into various things to prove that his teeth were real. The gummies, which had lingered in the back of his cabinet since that trip to the 99-cent store, seemed like a good candidate. Unlike other fruit candies, they were multi-colored gelatin encased in fruit-shaped plastic — they were meant to be opened and slurped out of the casing — but Sprinz decided to film himself puncturing the casing with his teeth. "The jelly flew out and it kind of spooked me," Sprinz explained in a YouTube video. "But then the video ended up doing really well. And every comment I was getting was, 'what are these candies, what are these, do more of them.' So I was like, OK."

Sprinz kept uploading videos of himself biting into the giant gummies, and soon a game evolved from it which he dubbed "Hit or Miss" — essentially a gentle version of Russian roulette. The jelly casing pops, and depending on the trajectory of the filling, either splatters the floor with goo, or leaves you with a mouthful of mildly sweet fruit-flavored gelatin, like a large-format Gusher.

Each "Hit or Miss" has the elegance of a three-act play: the tension before the bite, the main event, the reaction. It's the perfect premise for a TikTok video, which runs 60 seconds long at the maximum. And the videos were getting Sprinz views and followers — as of the time I'm writing this article, he has 4.9 million of them on TikTok. Within a week or two, copycat videos sprang up on TikTok showcasing other people biting into the candies. "Hit or Miss" became a viral trend, a subset of the well-established genre of people eating weird foods for internet spectators, and a continuation of the "food is funny when it explodes" kind of humor made famous by Gallagher hitting watermelons.

"People kept eating these candies and @-ing me in the comments," Sprinz said on his YouTube channel. "It's almost like this candy was a gold mine. If you got this candy, it guaranteed you thousands of views." TikTok influencers soon learned that uploading a Hit or Miss video was a short cut to land on the crucial "For You" page that recommends videos to people browsing the app and a surefire way to nab more followers.

Viral Tik Tok Jelly Explainer
Sarah Crowder

With the jellies in demand, a secondhand marketplace sprang up to satiate would-be TikTokkers. Sprinz went back to the 99-cent store where he first found the candies, but they were all sold out. Likewise, every store within a 30-minute drive of where he lives in Tempe, Arizona, was out of the candy. Din Don Foods, apparently overwhelmed with demand for the novelty candy, couldn't distribute them fast enough. Sprinz shelled out eight dollars for one packet, plus shipping. But the prices soon climbed even higher. By the time I located and ordered a bag of the Ju-C Jello Bags on eBay for this story, it cost $75, not including shipping.

When the jellies arrived, the team played our own game of "Hit or Miss" in the test kitchen. Biting into the gummies is a disconcerting experience. Either the plastic gives way, and a rush of mildly sweet fruit-flavored jelly goes into your mouth, or you lose most of the contents of the bag to a big splatter of goo on the floor. It's definitely not the most efficient way to eat candy. But, counterpoint? It's pretty fun.

Viral Tik Tok Jelly Explainer
Sarah Crowder

Due to the wave of TikTok-based jelly content demand, even other similar jelly candies have gotten expensive. Perhaps if and when Din Don increases production to meet demand, the jellies will lose their luster. But right now, these 99-cent gummies are some of the most coveted and expensive candies on the planet, all thanks to Sprinz. "I'm getting thousands of emails asking me where you get this candy, and I'm like, I have no idea," Sprinz said in a YouTube video. "All because one month ago I bit into this candy to prove my teeth were real."

This story was originally published in February 2020.

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