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

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.

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11 of the Most Extreme Junk Foods Ever Created
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iStock

It should come as no surprise that National Junk Food Day is traditionally celebrated on July 21—smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer, when the streets run thick with ice cream trucks and county fairs boast the kind of fried treats that can only be described as “awesome” (both in the modern sense and the more dated, whoa, we are in awe of that usage). But National Junk Food Day shouldn’t be celebrated with commonplace junk food; oh, no, it deserves something far bigger and better. So save your potato chips and chocolate bars for another day, and get ready to try some truly wild treats.

1. THE KFC DOUBLE DOWN


KFC

Perhaps the most unexpectedly clever way to create a new extreme junk food item is to turn a non-junky foodstuff into something that just oozes calories and decadence. Fried chicken giant KFC knew that—and played it up to major effect—when they introduced the KFC Double Down to America back in 2010. The sandwich foregoes the most traditional aspect of any sandwich (the bread!) and substitutes two fried chicken filets. In between the two pieces of chicken? Bacon, two different kinds of cheese, and the Colonel’s “secret sauce.” There’s no room for a bun here, folks.

2. PIZZA HUT'S HOT DOG STUFFED CRUST PIZZA

We may associate items like fast food pizza and hot dog-stuffed anything with all-American palates, but cheesy juggernaut Pizza Hut saw things a bit differently. In 2012, the chain introduced a pizza with a hot dog-stuffed crust to our neighbors across the pond, treating their UK customers to the kind of taste sensation some people might have had literal nightmares about. Is it a pizza? Is it a hot dog? Somehow, it’s both—and yet something much more.

3. FRIENDLY'S GRILLED CHEESE BURGERMELT


Friendly's

Once again, a wily restaurant chain took a normal food item—in this case, a hamburger—and amped up its junk factor by doing away with something as commonplace as buns, in favor of an entirely different (and, yes, very junky) item. In 2010, Friendly’s rolled out its very own spin on the Double Down, slamming a regular old burger between not one, but two grilled cheese sandwiches. Who needs buns when you can have four pieces of bread, gooey cheese, and unfathomable amounts of butter?

4. GUY FIERI'S CHEESECAKE CHALLENGE

Whiz-bang chef Guy Fieri has long drawn ire for his more wild culinary creations, but what sets his cuisine apart from that of other junk food aficionados is his steadfast dedication to the key elements of any extreme item: size and odd combinations. Fieri’s “Guy's Cheesecake Challenge” is currently on the menu of his Vegas Kitchen and Bar, but it’s easy enough to replicate at home: Just halve a cheesecake, throw it on a plate, and douse liberally with hot fudge, pretzels, and potato chips. (What, no bacon?)

5. DENNY'S FRIED CHEESE MELT


Denny's

In August 2010, Denny’s introduced the Fried Cheese Melt, a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with fried mozzarella sticks. Yes, it was served with both French fries and a side of marinara sauce, because it’s important to eat vegetables with every meal.

6. DUNKIN' DONUTS'S GLAZED DONUT BREAKFAST SANDWICH


Dunkin' Donuts

If you’ve ever hit up your local Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast and found yourself stumped when it came time to decide if you wanted a donut or a breakfast sandwich to get your morning motor revving, Dunkin' Donuts came up with a brilliant culinary brainstorm in 2013: the fast food favorite unveiled a breakfast sandwich that used glazed donuts as “bread,” wrapped around bacon and peppered egg.

7. JACK IN THE BOX MUNCHIE MEAL

What Jack’s Munchie Meals lack in creativity, they more than make up for in pure, unadulterated size and content. Each Munchie Meal—there are four total—features a massive sandwich (from the Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger to the Spicy Nacho Chicken Sandwich, and all sorts of wild fried things in between) accompanied with two beef tacos, “Halfsies” (a combo of fries and curly fries), and a 20-ounce fountain drink. These intense snack boxes are still available at most Jack in the Box locations, but you’ll have to wait until after 9 p.m. to procure your very own.

8. PIZZA HUT CHEESY BITES REMIX PIZZA

Apparently, there’s nothing that Pizza Hut loves more than using its crust as a delivery system for other junk food items. The hut that pizza built may have crammed hot dogs and hamburgers on to their pie sides, but there was something special about the Cheesy Bites Remix pizza. It featured fried cheese pockets stuffed with three different varieties of extra junk, from spicy seasoning to cream cheese and sesame to mozzarella and parmesan.

9. DEEP FRIED BUTTER

County and state fairs have long been hotbeds (sizzling, oily hotbeds) of wild, deep-frying invention. Dunking things in batter and then tossing them into a vat of oil is a nifty way to turn almost anything into a delicious crisp pocket of junky decadence, perfect for utensil-free eating—but that doesn’t mean that everything needs to get the deep-fried treatment. While deep-fried Oreos may be a stroke of brilliance, deep fried butter is just plain madness. Here’s a quick test: If you wouldn’t eat something if it weren’t deep-fried, don’t eat it if it is deep-fried. When was the last time you ate an entire stick of butter? See? Point proven.

10. THE BACON BUN BURGER

Not content to have a bacon sandwich between two chicken filets? Is a grilled cheese bun replacement not for you? Then try making your very own hamburger buns out of bacon. Carbs are bad for you, right?

11. FRIED ICE CREAM SANDWICH

The Florida State Fair is the proud home of the first fried ice cream sandwich, a junky treat that bears a name that doesn’t even begin to explain what it holds between its buns. It’s not a fried ice cream sandwich so much as a bacon cheeseburger (technically a sandwich) topped with a ball of fried ice cream. It might be a good meal for multi-taskers—no need to worry about dessert—but it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing good for anything else.

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Scientists Find a Possible Link Between Beef Jerky and Mania
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iStock

Scientist have discovered a surprising new factor that may contribute to mania: meat sticks. As NBC News reports, processed meats containing nitrates, like jerky and some cold cuts, may provoke symptoms of mental illness.

For a new study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, scientists surveyed roughly 1100 people with psychiatric disorders who were admitted into the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore between 2007 and 2017. They had initially set out to find whether there was any connection between certain infectious diseases and mania, a common symptom of bipolar disorder that can include racing thoughts, intense euphoria, and irritability.

While questioning participants about their diet, the researchers discovered that a significant number of them had eaten cured meats before their manic episodes. Patients who had recently consumed products like salami, jerky, and dried meat sticks were more likely to be hospitalized for mania than subjects in the control group.

The link can be narrowed down to nitrates, which are preservatives added to many types of cured meats. In a later part of the study, rats that were fed nitrate-free jerky acted less hyperactive than those who were given meat with nitrates.

Numerous studies have been published on the risks of consuming foods pumped full of nitrates: The ingredient can lead to the formation of carcinogens, and it can react in the gut in a way that promotes inflammation. It's possible that inflammation from nitrates can trigger mania in people who are already susceptible to it, but scientists aren't sure how this process might work. More research still needs to be done on the relationship between gut health and mental health before people with psychiatric disorders are told to avoid beef jerky altogether.

[h/t NBC News]

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