11 Brain-Freezing Facts About Slurpees

TIM SLOAN, AFP/Getty Images
TIM SLOAN, AFP/Getty Images

With more than 13 million cups consumed every month, 7-Eleven’s Slurpee might be the most popular frozen beverage in the world. In honor of the iconic slushie, which has been around for more than 50 years, we’re dispensing some facts on its history, Slurpee milestones, and why you can’t fill a kiddie pool with the slush.

1. THE SLURPEE WAS DISCOVERED BY ACCIDENT.

Slurpee’s origins have roots in that oasis of deliciousness, Dairy Queen. In 1959, franchisee Omar Knedlik found that his soda fountain wasn’t working. After freezing some pop bottles to keep drinks cool, he discovered customers loved the icy consistency. Using an automotive air conditioner, Knedlik invented a machine to dispense pure Tundra-sourced slush, called it ICEE, and then licensed the equipment to 7-Eleven in 1965. The company renamed it Slurpee in 1966 in honor of the sound a person makes while trying to slurp up the gunk through a straw. (The ICEE brand is still used in other convenience chains.)

2. A TV COMMERCIAL MADE SALES SOAR.

Slurpee sales were idling at an average of 50 per store per day until 7-Eleven launched its “Strange Things” series of television commercials. In one spot, a man swears his life was modest until he sampled a Slurpee—the next day, he became an airline pilot. Even though the ad didn’t explain what a Slurpee was, it created so much interest around the product that individual store sales soared to 300 a day.

3. THERE WAS A SLURPEE SINGLE.

The 1970s were a strange and terrifying time for pop culture: the decade gave license for 7-Eleven to release a single on 45 RPM vinyl, “Dance the Slurp,” as a promotional track for the drink; it was given out free in stores. The piece features a groovy tune accompanied by a slurping sound. It’s well worth your time.

4. IT REVOLUTIONIZED THE STRAW.

As Slurpee began to conquer the convenience cold-drink market, 7-Eleven realized that customers were having issues getting the remaining bits of syrupy chunks from the bottom of the cup. The solution? Inventor Arthur Aykanian’s spoon straw, which added a little scoop at the end. Debuting in 1968, it has become synonymous with Slurpee. In 2003, the company took Slurpee delivery development further with an edible straw. The candy rod was bendable until it hit the ice-cold liquid, where it stiffened into a useable utensil.

5. “BRAIN FREEZE” IS TRADEMARKED BY 7-ELEVEN.

Everyone is aware of the dangers of drinking a Slurpee too fast: searing, thudding pain in the cranium that can bring a sturdy individual to his or her knees. While “brain freeze” started out as a colloquial term, 7-Eleven saw the marketing opportunities—and trademarked the phrase. The actual medical term for that type of rapid-onset headache caused by an overabundance of cold temperatures to a key artery in the throat is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. You can make it dissipate faster by pushing your tongue against the roof of your mouth or drinking something warm.

6. YOU COULD CHEW SLURPEE BUBBLE GUM.

For decades, 7-Eleven was pretty protective of the vaunted Slurpee brand, preferring to keep it to ice-encrusted drinks and non-edible items like key chains. In 1998, the company had a change of heart and expanded the Slurpee umbrella to include a frozen ice pop and blocks of bubblegum that had a liquid center.  

7. SOME CUPS WERE MADE FROM WAVEFORMS OF MATING WHALES.

For a promotional stunt in Australia in 2015, 7-Eleven recorded a series of radio spots featuring whales mating and screaming soccer fans. The waveforms—visual representations of the noises—were then used to create a 3D-printed series of special cups that customers could get in stores or print at home (if they had a 3D printer). 

8. THE SLURPEE KING WAS CROWNED IN KENNEWICK, WASHINGTON.

From 2007 to 2008, more Slurpees were dispensed at a Kennewick, Washington-area 7-Eleven than anywhere else in the world. Their secret? A wall of Slurpee machines that was enough to meet the demand of a nearby high school football team. Store owner Don Mariotto said increasing his supply from six to 12 barrels was just barely enough to keep up. “Man, those big hosses would come in during August practices with sweat pouring off of them,” he told Franchising in 2007, “[and] head straight for the Slurpee machine and hit it like it was a [rival] Pasco linebacker.” The title was taken by Manitoba in 2009; Mariotto complained that the tally was changed to count cups, not volume, costing him the title of Slurpee King.

9. ADULTS USED TO BE ASHAMED TO DRINK SLURPEES.


Ashlee Martin via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

For all of Slurpee’s success throughout the 1970s and 1980s, there was one problem: adults were slightly embarrassed to be seen with one. Because much of the marketing was targeted at children, adults would sometimes ask for Big Gulp cups to deposit their slush in. Taking note of the ignored demographic, 7-Eleven partnered with MTV in 1995 to sponsor its summer "Beach House" programming block: young adults could use a slide that ran right into a pool of Slurpee. Sales of the drink rose 10 percent that year.

10. THERE WAS ONCE A DUAL-CHAMBERED SLURPEE.

Pioneering a new method of Slurpee delivery, 7-Eleven introduced a highly innovative dual-flavor Slurpee for the product’s 45th anniversary in 2011. Customers could choose two flavors that would be dispensed into one cup with two chambers; a dual-piped straw could be inserted, allowing them to either enjoy a mixed drink or activate a valve that would allow for one flavor to be sucked up at a time.

11. BRING YOUR OWN CUP DAY GOT A LITTLE OUT OF CONTROL.

During promotional stunts in 2015 and early 2016, 7-Eleven allowed patrons to bring their own container to Slurpee machines for a flat price of $1.50. While most kept their cups to reasonable portions, a few carried in kettles, fish bowls, teapots, and even a plastic sled. One consumer brought an inflatable swimming pool. 7-Eleven eventually mandated that containers had to fit through a cardboard measuring hole to ward off anyone thinking of bringing in a trough.

Why Do Fruitcakes Last So Long?

iStock
iStock

Fruitcake is a shelf-stable food unlike any other. One Ohio family has kept the same fruitcake uneaten (except for periodic taste tests) since it was baked in 1878. In Antarctica, a century-old fruitcake discovered in artifacts left by explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910 expedition remains “almost edible,” according to the researchers who found it. So what is it that makes fruitcake so freakishly hardy?

It comes down to the ingredients. Fruitcake is notoriously dense. Unlike almost any other cake, it’s packed chock-full of already-preserved foods, like dried and candied nuts and fruit. All those dry ingredients don’t give microorganisms enough moisture to reproduce, as Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, explained in 2014. That keeps bacteria from developing on the cake.

Oh, and the booze helps. A good fruitcake involves plenty of alcohol to help it stay shelf-stable for years on end. Immediately after a fruitcake cools, most bakers will wrap it in a cheesecloth soaked in liquor and store it in an airtight container. This keeps mold and yeast from developing on the surface. It also keeps the cake deliciously moist.

In fact, fruitcakes aren’t just capable of surviving unspoiled for months on end; some people contend they’re better that way. Fruitcake fans swear by the aging process, letting their cakes sit for months or even years at a stretch. Like what happens to a wine with age, this allows the tannins in the fruit to mellow, according to the Wisconsin bakery Swiss Colony, which has been selling fruitcakes since the 1960s. As it ages, it becomes even more flavorful, bringing out complex notes that a young fruitcake (or wine) lacks.

If you want your fruitcake to age gracefully, you’ll have to give it a little more hooch every once in a while. If you’re keeping it on the counter in advance of a holiday feast a few weeks away, the King Arthur Flour Company recommends unwrapping it and brushing it with whatever alcohol you’ve chosen (brandy and rum are popular choices) every few days. This is called “feeding” the cake, and should happen every week or so.

The aging process is built into our traditions around fruitcakes. In Great Britain, one wedding tradition calls for the bride and groom to save the top tier of a three-tier fruitcake to eat until the christening of the couple’s first child—presumably at least a year later, if not more.

Though true fruitcake aficionados argue over exactly how long you should be marinating your fruitcake in the fridge, The Spruce says that “it's generally recommended that soaked fruitcake should be consumed within two years.” Which isn't to say that the cake couldn’t last longer, as our century-old Antarctic fruitcake proves. Honestly, it would probably taste OK if you let it sit in brandy for a few days.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Each State’s Favorite Christmas Candy

CandyStore.com
CandyStore.com

Halloween might be the unrivaled champion of candy-related holidays, but that doesn’t mean Christmas hasn’t carved out a large, chocolate Santa-shaped niche for itself in the sweets marketplace. And, of course, we can’t forget about candy canes, peppermint bark, and the red-and-green version of virtually every other kind of candy.

To find out which candies merrymakers are filling their bowls and stomachs with this holiday season, CandyStore.com analyzed survey responses from more than 32,000 consumers across the nation and compiled their top responses into one mouthwatering map.

As it turns out, 13 states—from California all the way to New Jersey—are reaching for mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups over any other holiday candy. Something about that shimmery tinfoil really does make you feel like you’re unwrapping a tiny, tasty gift.

CandyStore.com Top Christmas Candy by State

Source: CandyStore.com

And, if you hoped everyone would kiss candy corn goodbye until next October, we have some bad news: “reindeer” corn, with red, white, and green stripes, is the top choice in a staggering eight states, all of which are in the eastern half of the country. Tied with reindeer corn was peppermint bark, which, given how much white chocolate it contains, is also a pretty polarizing choice.

Candy canes and Hershey’s Kisses clinched third place with a respectable six states apiece, but other Christmas classics didn’t perform nearly as well—chocolate Santas and M&M’s came out on top in only two states each.

After that, there were some rather unconventional competitors, including Starburst, Arkansas’s favorite holiday candy; and Pez, which somehow won the hearts of residents of both Louisiana and New Mexico. 

And, unless you’re time-traveling from the 18th century, you’re probably not surprised that sugarplums didn’t make the map at all—find out what they actually are (hint: not plums!) here. You can also search the full list of state favorite candies below.

Source: CandyStore.com

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