In 1936, Cyril Weis created what he called his Fruito Bar, a bar of ice cream and tropical fruits, which he sold from his corner shop in Toowoomba. It evidently gained some local renown, but World War II rationing halted its production. The Fruito Bar was revived in 1957 by Cyril’s son Les and sold from Pop’s Milk Bar across the road from Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre. The Mango Weis Bar was launched in 1959. Weis bars are now made by Unilever in Sydney.
Cyril’s first bar was a mix of banana, pineapple and passionfruit – all the ingredients of a tropical fruit salad – frozen into a strip alongside a strip of ice cream. The format of real fruit with a strip of cream was echoed in Les’s product in the 1950s and became a unique feature of the Weis Bar. The Mango version, launched in 1959, used Queensland’s famous Kensington Pride mangoes. It became and remains the most popular product in the range.
Initially, the Weis Bar was a strictly local affair. As John Lethlean wrote in The Age in February 2000: “In the early ‘60s, as distribution of the Fruito Bar went beyond the Milk Bar and local cinema and into a refrigerated van that toured the surf coast, a trip to Surfers was the only way interstaters could get a taste of the fruity ice confection with the creamy strip.”
The factory operation began in 1967 but it’s not clear when Weis bars first became available south of the Queensland border. The 1970s saw some exotic flavours. Apricot Brandy and Peach Champagne were not what you’d buy for the kiddies. In subsequent decades, though, the Weis Bar became a little less adult, with a range of fruit and cream combinations. It was named as a Queensland cultural icon in 2009, the year of the state’s 150th-anniversary celebrations.
Weis subsequently developed a range of products including dairy-free tubs and desserts. The company continued to be run by the family and all products were made in Toowoomba, 120km west of Brisbane. Products were exported to North America, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Taiwan and China and even served on airlines flying out of Australia.
In 2017, Weis was acquired by Unilever, owners of the Streets brand. The sale was defended by the family as a way to expand export markets and the original understanding was that the products would continue to be made in Toowoomba. However, Unilever backed away from that agreement, moving production to their Sydney plant. The last Weis Bar to be made in Toowoomba was produced in January 2021.