In the 19th century, William A. Breyer got his start selling ice cream on the streets of Philadelphia. Today, his brand of frozen dairy treats is regarded as an American classic. In celebration of Breyers’ 150th anniversary this year, here are 10 facts you might not have known about the company.
1. THE COMPANY INITIALLY SOLD ICE CREAM FROM A WAGON.
Long before ice cream trucks hit the streets, Breyers had the idea for a mobile ice cream shop. Following the end of the Civil War, William A. Breyer found himself out of work and in need of a way to support his family. So, in 1866, he began making hand-cranked ice cream and selling it out of his kitchen to people in the neighborhood. As business grew, he purchased a horse and wagon to bring his product to more customers. His ice cream wagon even had its own version of a jingle: a large dinner bell, which Breyer rang to announce his arrival.
2. IT HELPED LAUNCH A NEW STYLE OF ICE CREAM.
Instead of making his ice cream from a long list of ingredients, Breyer kept things simple. He restricted his formula to a handful of natural components like cream, cane sugar, nuts, and fresh fruit. This stripped-down version became known as Philadelphia- or American-style ice cream. The French style that Americans were previously familiar with (thanks to Thomas Jefferson) contains egg yolks for richness.
3. THE LOGO ISN’T A MINT LEAF.
Breyers products can be easily identified by the simple, green leaf that's featured on every package. Though it’s commonly mistaken for a mint leaf, the logo is actually the appropriately named briar bush leaf. Henry Breyer chose the logo when he took over the business from his father around the turn of the 20th century. The original design received a makeover in 2009, but the leaf still remains.
4. IT INSPIRED A COMPETITOR TO CHANGE ITS NAME.
Sixty-two years after William Breyer made his first gallon of ice cream, a California man named William Dreyer began making waves in the industry. The relationship between Dreyer’s and Breyers ice cream was peaceful at first: While Dreyer’s grew big in the west, Breyers continued to dominate the east coast. When Dreyer’s made the move to expand to the rest of the country in the 1980s, the company changed its name to Edy’s (after the company’s other co-founder) for east coast markets. Breyers wasn’t as gracious when it eventually began creeping westward; Breyers commercials in Southern California highlighted Dreyer’s ice cream’s artificial additives and emphasized, “It’s Breyer’s with a B.”
5. THE BRAND ONCE INCLUDED YOGURT.
Breyers was once known for selling more than just frozen confections. After the Breyers Yogurt Company was founded in 1985, yogurt flavors like strawberry cheesecake, cinnamon bun, and black cherry jubilee were all sold under the name. The line was discontinued in 2011, but their YoCrunch products (sold with toppings like granola and M&M’s) are still made by Danone.
6. BREYERS AWARDED $10,000 TO ONE CREATIVE SUNDAE.
Ice cream is best enjoyed as part of an over-the-top sundae. In 2010, Breyers called upon fans to think beyond hot fudge and whipped cream and submit recipes for their most creative sundaes. The winner received $10,000, a trip to Chicago for a private cooking lesson from a famous pastry chef, and a year’s worth of ice cream. The recipe for the victorious Brooklyn Stoop Summer Sundae—topped with caramel corn, peanuts, caramel, and chocolate sauce—is available on their website.
7. IT PLAYED A MEMORABLE PART ON TOP CHEF.
The fourth episode of the Top Chef spinoff Top Chef: Just Desserts featured a fairly straightforward Quickfire Challenge: Create an eclectic sundae using Breyers ice cream. The winning chef served the judges an Oreo mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwich, but not everyone was so successful. When one chef learned he would have to use Breyers instead of making his own ice cream, he suffered an anxiety attack and dropped out of the competition.
8. IT'S NO LONGER AMERICAN-OWNED.
Though Breyers’ history is all-American, the company that currently lays claim to the brand is a British-Dutch conglomerate. Unilever is now the largest ice cream manufacturer in the world. Other ice cream brands owned by the corporation include Good Humor, Klondike, Popsicle, and Ben & Jerry’s.
9. BREYERS ALSO MAKES “FROZEN DAIRY DESSERTS.”
If you see a tub of Breyers with the words “Frozen Dairy Dessert” instead of “ice cream” in the corner, that’s no mistake. In the last few years, some major changes were made to the brand's recipe. As a result, several of their products no longer contain the minimum amount of dairy milkfat needed to meet the FDA definition of "ice cream," so they've been stuck with a nondescript label instead. According to Unilever, consumer tastes were factored into the formula change. Despite this, there was significant backlash following the company’s decision to shift from their all-natural roots.
10. THEY’VE PARTNERED WITH SOME MAJOR BRANDS.
If you’ve ever wished that Girl Scout cookie season could last all year, Breyers has got you covered. Thin Mint and Samoas flavors are both featured in their line of Breyers Blasts! dairy desserts. Those are just two examples of tasty collaborations from the brand. Other Breyers Blasts! flavors include Snickers, Orange Creamsicle, and Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chunk Cookie Dough. Breyers is also one of the few ice cream brands licensed to include actual Oreos in their cookies and cream variety.