No matter how old you get, there’s still something nostalgic about getting a slushie at a gas station on a hot summer’s day. From the loud slurping sounds made sucking through the straw to your colored tongue, there’s no childhood experience like drinking a slushie on a hot summer’s day. Not a popsicle and too solid to be soda, the slushie has become a quick staple as a gas-station treat and is on the market by numerous global brands. Why are slushies so famous? How were they invented? What makes them so unique as a beverage? We’ll discover the slushies origins and examine how such a simple and accidental invention changed what the world is drinking.
A Happy Accident
Like many great beverage or food inventions, the slushies origin began with somewhat of a happy accident. It started with a Dairy Queen owner named Omar Knedlik in the 1950s. Knedlik was a World War II veteran who used his earnings to buy an ice cream shop. After discovering a passion for the ice cream industry, Knedlik moved to Coffeyville, Kansas, in the late 50s and used the remainder of his war earnings to buy a Dairy Queen franchise. One fateful day, Omar’s soda machine failed, so he stored all his soda in his freezer. Overnight, the soda became a snow-like substance that retained its Coca-Cola flavor. Wanting to get rid of it, Knedlik sold the slushies to his customers, and they became an instant favorite.
With the accidental slushie becoming more popular, Omar needed to find a way to produce them quickly. Knedlik took an air conditioner unit from a car and changed it into a slushie machine. The slushie machine would combine and freeze a flavor concentrate with water and carbon dioxide. The machine kept the slushie mix turning, so it wouldn’t solidify in the container. Originally Knedlik wanted to call his accidental invention “Scoldasice” (S’cold as ice), but with help from Ruth E. Taylor, an advertising and marketing professional, the two settled on the name that we all know and love today: “ICEE.” Knedlik partnered with the John Mitchell company (Which sold appliances and functional hardware materials) to mass produce and patent slushie machines to sell, further solidifying his invention in the market.
Soon after getting the patent for the slushie machines, Knedlik made a licensing deal with the 7-Eleven company to sell “ICEES” in their locations. So that the two slushie brands wouldn’t compete, the 7-Eleven company named its slushies “Slurpees” after the sound one makes when trying to suck them through a straw. Many frozen carbonated beverages (FCB) followed, such as “Slush Puppies,” “Thirst Buster,” as well as brands that have developed their own line of slushie flavors, such as “Circle K” and “Sonic.” As the slushies became increasingly popular, distributors kept finding new and unique ways of advertising their fresh flavors and mixes. In the 70s, marketers started tapping into the youth trends of the times and appealing to them through cup designs, creative advertisements, and popular flavor choices. One way Slurpees were advertised was In 1967 when Tom Merriman made the song “Dance the Slurp” for the 7-Eleven company, and it became an anthem for teenagers to buy slushies.
Another marketing tactic that was utilized were the cups! The cup designs became a unique way for companies to advertise their slushie products. In the ’70s, the 7-Eleven company started selling cups with pictures of sports stars, comic book characters, rock bands, and even early video games. There were even limited edition cups that came annually with movie releases. Such a trend persisted to the early 2000s, with blockbuster movies like Spider-man, the Simpsons, Hulk, and Iron Man. Lastly, one of the greatest appeals of slushies is, of course, the flavors themselves. Originally slushie flavors were cola or cherry-flavored beverages since they derived from the popular sodas of the 50s and 60s. As sodas accumulated more flavors, so did slushies. Any flavor of slushie you can think of is now imaginable.
More options for new flavors come with further complications in mixing a delicious slushie. Assembling the slushie machine has gotten smaller and more straightforward, but creating a sweet and impactful slushie flavor can be a tricky balancing act. Essentially, creating a flavor for a slushie to replicate its soda profile takes a higher sugar concentration than the original formula; this is primarily due to the ice crystals in slushies that melt and can water down the flavor profile of the slushie. While some slushies derive from established soda brands like Sprite or Dr. Pepper, slushies were truly revolutionized when beverage architects began creating unique flavor blends. One of the best examples includes places such as Sonic, which is partially known for having an array of slushie flavors.
“Some flavors are super concentrated where you essentially only add a few drops and others where you add more than you would think. When developing with them, you must know how that flavor will affect the flavor profile and what might mask all other flavors. Some flavors like the Blue Raspberry are super simple, but others like the Cotton Candy are surprisingly difficult.”-Tolman Elwell, Beverage Architect-Flavorman
At Flavorman, we treat our employees and guests to our own unique slushie flavors such as Criss-Cross Applesauce, Prickly Pear Hibiscus, and many more during the summer months of the year. The slushies are developed by our Beverage Architects working in the lab daily to change what the world and staff are drinking.
When you’re ready to talk about your idea to change what the world is drinking, give us a call at (502) 273-5214 or get started with this web form.