The different types of dried fruit snacks are categorized primarily by the method of dehydration. Air drying is a common, low-tech method of preserving fruit that has been used for thousands of years. Heat-assisted dehydration is a similar method that requires placing the fruit in an oven or electric dehydrator for an extended period of time. Freeze drying is a third method that dehydrates the fruit by exposing it to extremely low temperatures. Each of these methods produces dried fruit snacks with differing nutritional values, and some commercial methods often add preservatives to further reduce the perishability of the product.
Dried fruit has a history that dates back to at least 4,000 BCE, where records show that the Mesopotamian civilization used dehydrated dates and other fruits as food staples. The technique of air drying fruit to prevent it from spoiling has been important throughout history, though today dried fruit is often used for snacks. Since fruit that has been dehydrated is more portable, and many people enjoy the unique flavor and texture, it is commonly carried as a snack to work, school, or on activities such as hiking.
The easiest type of dried fruit snacks to produce are prepared using nothing but the natural environment. These fruit snacks are left to dry outside, usually for several days. In order for the dehydration process to occur without the fruit spoiling, it is typically necessary for the temperature to remain high, and the humidity to be low. Fruit snacks that are dried using this method typically retain more moisture than other types. Grapes and other small fruits can be dehydrated without any preparation, though many need to be cut into thin slices first.
Another type of dried fruit snack is produced in an oven or other similar dehydrating device. These fruit snacks can be made at home in a kitchen oven, or electric dehydrator, though commercial products are made with much larger equipment, and often have preservatives added. The advantage of using heat is that it is possible to remove more moisture from the fruit, though the fans present in dehydrators can perform a similar function. Dried fruit snacks that are prepared using these methods are typically more crunchy, and sometimes have a different taste, due to the lower water content.
Freeze drying is a method of preparing dried fruit snacks that can preserve more of the nutritional content. This method requires that the fruit be cut into thin slices, and then be exposed to very low temperatures. The flash freezing process draws the moisture out of the fruit, resulting in fruit snacks that have a unique crispy texture. These fruit snacks typically have no additives or preservatives.
In addition to products that are created from whole or sliced fruit, another type of dried fruit snack is commonly referred to as fruit leather. These snacks are made from a fruit puree that is spread into thin layers and then dehydrated. The resulting fruit snacks can be rubbery or leathery in appearance, and typically have a chewy consistency.