Simon Day celebrates the arrival of summer by ranking the five flavours of New Zealand’s most beloved frozen treat.
The Fruju is the perfect accompaniment to the New Zealand summer.
While I fully endorse the role of the scooped ice cream in the Kiwi culinary cultural canon, when the asphalt starts to shimmer and the sand starts to burn your feet, you know it’s time to visit the dairy for a Fruju. There is something utilitarian about the Fruju that makes it a superior hot weather friend. Its price, simplicity of flavour, juiciness, icy crunch and sharp coldness make the Fruju the ideal refreshment on a hot summer’s day.
It’s safe to say that the Fruju became an emblem of the New Zealand summer in large part due to the advertising that supported its launch in the 1980s. The ‘It’s Gonna Hit Ya’ jingle, of the ‘Ooh Aah’ ads that ran in various forms for the better part of three decades, became part of our collective memory.
For me it peaked in the early 90s, when some genius advertising creative thought to capture the pure joy of a New Zealand summer with the concept of eating a Fruju while swimming underwater in the ocean. Every summer during my childhood I’d replicate the move of the “Ooh! Aah!” ad in the pool and in the sea.
But not all Frujus are made equal, so I’ve done the important public service of putting them in their correct order, ranked below from best to worst.
1) Pineapple Crush
The perfect finish to a day at the beach playing cricket and hours spent in the surf, its flavour is a sweet, authentic replica of a real pineapple – perhaps the most refreshing fruit on the market – while remaining deliciously artificial (I’m here for a treat, not one of my five servings of fruit and veg).
Sand in your hair, salt on your skin, sunblock in your eyes and pineapple Fruju on your fingers are the marks of day well spent in the sun. It’s summer on a stick.
2) Grapefruit and Lemon
This is the most sophisticated and challenging Fruju. This is my mum’s Fruju. As is the case with beer and coffee, when you first try a grapefruit Fruju as a young person, you can’t imagine why someone would possibly eat this by choice. It’s a mature ice block. It’s for people who won’t go swimming for 30 minutes after having a Fruju, let alone eat one while submerged in salt water.
However, the more you try it the more you relish the complexity of the sweet/sour dichotomy and how refreshing that can be. It’s an ice block for discerning palates, for people who have lugged a thick novel in a tote bag to the beach, who wore lots of sunblock and only went up to their waist in the water.
3) Raspberry and Lime
I didn’t know about the raspberry and lime Fruju until I spotted a family pack in the supermarket earlier this year. Some incredibly brief research leads me to believe it was released last summer. I’m a big believer in not fixing things that are most definitely not broken – see Tropical Snow below – but this flavour has value and fills a space in the range. The raspberry notes are sweet and tart and the lime gives a sharp and sour finish (although not nearly as sour as the grapefruit and lemon). A worthy recipient of Amanda Thompson’s top ice block of the 2019 summer.
4) Orange Rush
The orange Fruju is the entry level flavour: it’s basic, a gateway ice block. It’s sickly sweet and nondescript. Where the Pineapple Crush’s inspiration is clearly a pineapple, the Orange Rush could be named after any sweet fruit. I’ve always remembered it being chosen by children who refused to eat their vegetables.
I also remember it melting faster than the other flavours and it’s toxic orange drippings were always more visible on t-shirts and car seats than the lighter colours of its pineapple and grapefruit siblings.
5) Tropical Snow
The Tropical Snow as an imposter, a fancy fake Fruju that’s not really a Fruju at all. It’s trying to show off but doesn’t truly know who it is. I could never get down with the texture. It’s not ice cream, it’s not an ice block, and, despite what it claims on the wrapper, it’s not sorbet. The pineapple is not sweet enough and the lemon isn’t sour enough.
All Frujus are good and I know the Tropical Snow has a loyal fanbase, so I was happy to see it return to brighten the summer of 2020 after the year we’ve had. But I can’t say I’m sad to know its return is for a single season only. Even it’s Ooh Aah ad is a bit shit.
And although I’ve never tried, I’m fairly sure a Tropical Snow would not be suitable to be consumed underwater.