How 10 Sugary Treats Got Their Names
We reach for them when we need a sugar fix, but how well do we know the stories behind our favorite ice creams, cookies, and snack cakes? Here's a look at the names behind some of your guilty pleasures.
What does the upscale ice cream company's name mean? Nothing! Polish American entrepreneur Reuben Mattus started making ice cream in New York during the 1920s, and by 1960 he was ready to launch a premium brand. Mattus thought that people would associate a Danish-sounding name with Denmark's renowned dairies, so he made up the name HÃ¤agen-Dazs and slapped a drawing of Denmark on the ice cream's carton. (Nobody bothered to tell Mattus that the Danish language doesn't use the umlaut.)
Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins had more than just ice cream in common; they were brothers-in-law. Robbins had grown up working in his dad's ice cream shop, while Baskin had made a name for himself by whipping up ice cream for his fellow troops during World War II. When the war was over, both decided to go into the ice cream business, and Robbins' father suggested they open separate shops in Southern California.
Robbins opened his first Snowbird Ice Cream outlet in 1945, and Baskin followed up with Burton's Ice Cream shop in 1946. The two were naturals at the ice cream game, so they soon joined forces and bought a dairy in 1949 to supply their burgeoning chain of 40 stores. In 1953 they dropped the Burton's and Snowbird names from their individual stores and rebranded themselves as Baskin-Robbins.
3. Edy's and Dreyer's
Ever wonder why you can buy Edy's ice cream on the East Coast and Dreyer's on the West Coast? They're the exact same products, but they're sold under two separate brand names to honor the company's two founders. William Dreyer was the original ice cream maker, while Joseph Edy was the team's confectioner.
4. Little Debbie
Yes, there's a real little girl behind the irresistible line of snack cakes. When McKee Foods needed a name for its new snack cake business in 1960, founder O.D. McKee got a great suggestion from packaging supplier Bob Mosher: why not name the cakes after a family member? McKee decided to name the brand after his four-year-old granddaughter Debbie. The brand's smiling logo even comes from a photo of the original little Debbie wearing her favorite straw hat.
5. Dolly Madison
Little Debbie's snack-cake competitor does indeed draw its name from the former First Lady. Brand founder Roy Nafziger was allegedly a big fan of Dolley Madison, so when he introduced a line of cakes that were "fine enough to serve at the White House" in 1937, he tweaked the spelling of the First Lady's name and slapped it on his marketing materials.
Sadly, an elf didn't found the delicious cookie company. Godfrey Keebler opened his first neighborhood bakery in Philadelphia in 1853, but his cookies and cakes were so tasty that the business quickly spread around the region. In 1926 Keebler's business joined forces with the United Biscuit Company, and by 1936 it had become the official national baker of Girl Scout cookies.
7. Famous Amos
Not many bakers can boast that they got their start as talent agents, but that's where Wally Amos perfected his cookie recipe. After a stint in the Air Force, Amos rose to become the first black talent agent at the William Morris Agency, a job that put him in contact with celebs like Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye. After leaving William Morris to start his own management company, Amos figured out what he really loved doing: tinkering with his family's old cookie recipe. In 1975 he founded Famous Amos with a $25,000 loan from more famous chums Gaye and Helen Reddy, and by the early 1980s, his delicious snacks were raking in $12 million per year.
8. Fig Newtons
The actual inventor of the Fig Newton is hard to pin down. Some sources credit baker Charles Roser, while others give James Henry Mitchell the nod for inventing a machine that could fill a cookie with jam. What's less controversial, though, is that the Kennedy Biscuit Company of Massachusetts began mass-producing the first Fig Newtons in 1891. The company liked to name its sweets after towns in the Boston area, so the new cookie got its name from Newton, MA.
Nobody knows exactly where the Oreo name originated, but that doesn't stop people from speculating. Some guess that the name comes from the "re" cream being nestled between two "O"-shaped chocolate cookies. Others credit the Greek word oros, which means "small mound or hill." Still others credit the French word for gold, or, because the cookie's original packaging was gold. One thing everyone agrees on: they are terrific with milk.
10. Eskimo Pie
According to company lore, Danish immigrant Christian Kent Nelson came up with the idea for the Eskimo Pie while working in his Iowa confectionery store in 1919. A young boy came into the store and kept waffling over whether he wanted to spend his allowance on a chocolate bar or ice cream, and Nelson became convinced that combining the two would create a sure-fire hit.
Nelson spent the next year experimenting with the best way to get chocolate to adhere to ice cream, and when he finally perfected the process he began marketing the invention to his customers in 1920. He dubbed his popular creation the I-Scream Bar.
By 1921, Nelson realized that his product could probably make him some cash outside of his own little local shop, so he traveled to Omaha to patent the bar. While in Omaha, he met an ice cream plant superintendent named Russell Stover. Stover knew the ice cream business, so he and Nelson formed a partnership to contract with other companies to mass produce the I-Scream Bar. Stover didn't like the ominous name, though, so he made up a list of cold-related words and had guests at a dinner party help pick the ones they liked the best. Before dessert was over the guests had settled on "Eskimo Pie." Nelson and Stover were soon selling a million pies per day.