Nothing says natural goodness better than fruit pieces. They visually cue a food’s ingredients to consumers, especially those seeking transparency in their food choices. Added to snack mixes or included in granola bars and cookies, fruit pieces contribute flavor, texture and color.  Now, they can add crunch — or chew.

Snacks and bars require low-moisture fruit pieces that maintain their integrity and avoid water activity problems. The usual solution, freeze-dried natural fruits, can be expensive and their texture is sometimes questionable. Tree Top Fruit Ingredients turned to a different process — a proprietary puffing method — to create light, low-moisture, low-density puffed apples with a unique crunchy texture, ideal for snack mixes and ready-to-eat cereals.

“The process forces air into the cellular structure of the fruit, causing each cell to puff up,” explained Kevin Holland, PhD, product developer, Tree Top, Inc. “It duplicates the crunchy texture or mouthfeel of freeze-dried fruits. Puffed apples can be used anywhere that freeze-dried fruit is currently used.”

These dehydrated apple pieces carry no more than 3.5% moisture by weight, with a water activity (Aw) of 0.10 to 0.30. They can be readily colored, flavored, sweetened or dusted with cinnamon sugar or other fruit flake powders. The pieces meet OU kosher requirements,

“Puffed apples were developed to replace freeze-dried fruits at a much lower cost while avoiding the mushy texture that one can find in some freeze-dried fruits,” he continued. “Puffed apples can be flavored and colored to mimic other fruits.” The pieces are made from sweet, tart apple varieties, including Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala and others, with additional types depending on customer desires and market availability.

Cookies and granola bars needed a different solution, so Tree Top developed its new line of Fruit Sensations chews made through infusion. They contain 60% dried apples super-infused with 10% fruit juice concentrate. Infusion replaces water in the fruit with sugar or juice solids. The process is gentler than conventional dehydration and minimizes damage to the fruit’s texture.

The infused piece retains a soft, pliable texture, and the reduction of free water cuts the potential for microbial activity. The shelf-stable inclusions contain 8 to 16% moisture with an Aw of 0.35 to 0.55. The chews deliver one fruit serving per 28 g. They function similar to raisins and retain their textural integrity during baking.

Storage and handling of these ingredients are the same as other freeze-dried materials. Low humidity storage is best.

The puffs and chews can be found in snack mixes now on the market. “They have shown promising sales results,” Dr. Holland noted. “Consumer feedback is quite positive, with comments that the crispy, airy texture of these fruit pieces is an enjoyable eating and snacking experience.”

For more about the development, testing and applications for Tree Top puffed apple pieces and Fruit Sensations chews, visit