No One Knows What a Slushie Is

Just lately, following a particularly invigorating motor vehicle wash, I had a yen for a slushie. Probably the warming temperature inspired me. Perhaps the proud signage of the QuikTrip comfort store nearby activated an unconscious desire. No subject, a slushie I did get. At QuikTrip, it’s identified as a Freezoni, a curious, quasi-Italian aspiration that bears no relation to the dispensed item. To my palate, the slushie was not great: as well soaked, not frozen enough, like it was currently fifty percent-melted from getting still left too long in a vehicle cup holder.

This manufactured me question: Why are slushies so different from a single a further? Then the assumed solidified into a extra existential brain freeze, as I understood that I could not even guess what may well individual a Freezoni from a Slurpee, let on your own an Icee from a slush. What the hell is a slushie, in any case? I experienced no strategy, and barely any intuition.

Now I am enlightened. If you’ve ever been enthralled by 1 slushie and disappointed by an additional, it is almost certainly due to the fact you may possibly be keying into traits of which you are not knowledgeable: carbonation, growth, density, flavor intensity. But Big Slushie doesn’t seriously care no matter whether you recognize these discrepancies, due to the fact Significant Slushie does not care about your wants. It exists to support usefulness merchants, food stuff chains, and function providers increase income margins for impulse buys, though framing those people purchases to you, the slurper, as nostalgic memories of childhood delight. This is a tough reality, and you could regret your reduction of innocence in its pursuit.

“We don’t definitely discuss about them as slushies.” Which is the first detail I discovered from Tyler Parker, internet marketing manager for the Icee Company. Positive, usual people today like you and me may well discuss about them, broadly, in reference to a class of icy, flavored bevvies drunk easily via a straw. (If you’re taking in flavored frozen h2o with a spoon, or licking it from a cup, which is an “ice.” A snow cone is an ice.) But the slushie is not, in truth, a superordinate category, not if you’re in the frozen-beverage business anyway.

Parker’s company, whose shiny blue-and-pink logos you have absolutely noticed at fairs, movie theaters, and Concentrate on cafés, helps make one thing known as a “frozen carbonated beverage,” or FCB. Its Icee, he would proudly say, is the OG FCB. In 1958, a Kansas Dairy Queen operator named Omar Knedlik unintentionally invented FCBs when his soda fountain malfunctioned. He had to provide bottles from the freezer as an alternative, which foamed out cola when cracked open up. Men and women cherished them, so Knedlik strapped an car air conditioner to a dispenser and turned the botch into a small business. He preferred to simply call the product or service Scoldasice (as in “’s chilly as ice,” not “scold-a-dimensions,” which sounds like a 1980s conditioning gimmick), but a pal sensibly instructed “Icee” rather. With companions, Knedlik perfected the device and began to sell it. Amongst his shoppers was the comfort-store chain 7-Eleven, which made its personal brand name title for the FCB solution, Slurpee. That is suitable, a Slurpee is the very same item as an Icee, but sold beneath a personal-label trademark. Exact same for a product or service you might have observed referred to as “Arctic Blast”—just one more Icee-Slurpee, a sibling in the household.

The carbonation in Icees, Slurpees, and other FCBs delivers an airy texture and a muted jolt, but also—when blended with yucca extract, a foaming agent—a remarkably clean texture and loaded mouthfeel. Indeed, the fizz can be obscured so completely in the foam that you may not even have identified that these beverages have been carbonated. Bubbles also result in the dispensed product to broaden, which is why your Slurpee or your Icee or your Arctic Blast inflates a bit immediately after pouring, from time to time up and out of the domed lid to exasperate your parents.

Parker contrasts FCBs this sort of as Icees with frozen uncarbonated beverages, or FUBs. Some of the frozen-beverage vendors I spoke with articulate these names as initialisms (Eff You Bee), but Parker just states “fub,” as if to underscore its meager standing by indicates of phonics. When Parker does simply call a drink a slushie, he implies to sign that it is not the top quality, carbonated sort of frozen consume, just a FUB. The Slush Puppie is a FUB so is Dairy Queen’s Misty (previously Mister Misty young children these times received no regard), and the Sonic Drive-In fruity slush. A FUB can be fantastic, of class, but it’s not truly unique. Anybody with some flavoring, some ice, and a blender can make a FUB. But an FCB, that involves its possess products, provides, and watchful management.

To assure the consistency of its branded FCBs, Parker’s workforce offers conclude-to-conclusion services to its shoppers, which include equipment, taste concentrates, maintenance of devices, and advertising and sales help. But Icee’s grand types on frozen-beverage domination span the slushiverse. In 2006, the corporation bought Slush Puppie, a common FUB, then reformulated it with fruit juice and began marketing the beverage in colleges as “Juice 100.” When you get a frozen Coke at Burger King, that is an Icee FCB. Similar for individuals Mountain Dew slurp-alikes at Taco Bell. Massive Slushie is true.

Or at minimum, which is what the Icee Organization would like me to believe that. Isabel Atherton, the director of advertising and marketing at Sunny Sky Merchandise, tells a different story. Her company makes concentrates for frozen beverages and sells them B2B. (Vendors select which consume-making products to invest in and how to provider it.) Sunny Sky’s flavors are in some cases accredited from key food stuff models, this sort of as Jarritos and Jolly Rancher, to permit for slushie lines with wide consumer recognition. Gasoline stations, for case in point, could possibly attempt to promote you a Reese’s Freeze, thanks to Sunny Sky’s unholy interventions. Atherton suggests its flavors can be discovered at RaceTrac, Circle K, Wawa, QuikTrip, and quite a few other comfort-shop chains (“C-merchants,” as insiders contact them).

To improve access, Sunny Sky patterns its goods to perform in either carbonated or uncarbonated equipment. “Most C-stores previously have tools,” Atherton instructed me. “What we check out to do is to speak to producers and take a look at our merchandise in their tools.” In a person device, the crystals may well be larger, dulling the Jolly Rancher style. A different just one that provides smaller sized crystals might make the drink sweeter.

In other text, the place Icee focuses on an conclude-to-close answer, Sunny Sky meets value-mindful C-store operators exactly where they are. A FUB machine is more cost-effective to purchase and work. An FCB equipment is far more high-priced but self-contained, cutting down running complexity and rising uptime. A drink’s “overrun”—the degree to which it expands in a carbonated-support machi
ne—also has a immediate effects on margins. Additional carbon dioxide implies a fluffier beverage that makes use of fewer syrup and yields additional profit. Icee and Slurpee may perhaps be strong manufacturer names, but Atherton dismisses their importance to frozen-beverage consumers. “‘Icee’ is like expressing ‘Kleenex,’” she claimed. It’s a generic term—just a further title for slushie.

She could have a place. I hadn’t even found QuikTrip’s Freezoni model name right up until I began researching this story, even even though it was emblazoned across the front of the machine that dispensed my consume. Talk to a carload of unquenched souls, Do you want to get a Slurpee?, and they won’t essentially suppose you mean a halt at 7-Eleven. The consumer of a frozen consume won’t know the variance in between an FCB and a FUB, and may well have no anticipations both way. “People really do not know the technological piece of it,” Parker admitted, and Atherton, alongside with each other frozen-beverage-marketplace insider I spoke with, agreed.

In area of know-how about slushies, or even cogent preferences, all we have is our nostalgia. When I questioned Parker to demonstrate how his enterprise works—what, specifically, does the Icee Business provide?—he form of remaining orbit. “We exist to give people the very best excuse to be a child,” he stated. “It’s a ‘kid in a cup’—an escape, an practical experience, anything that is heading to give them a spark of joy.” I signify, it’s a slushie—err, FCB—but, you know, I get it. When I was a child, my dad’s office environment sat throughout the road from a 7-Eleven. We’d wander above from time to time to get a Slurpee, and when I search my mind to justify why I even remember the memory, the essence of the merchandise does glow at its heart: gentle and expansive, full of possibility.

In the same way, a Slurpee from a Speedway gasoline station (owned by 7-Eleven) or an Icee at an AMC theater serves as the bookmark for a distinct perception memory. But the backroom machinations of the slushie room also undermine our recollections, sloshing them collectively in a vat of cherry-crimson confusion. A Slush Puppie or DQ Misty is looser and far more liquid than an Icee or a Slurpee, for instance. A Sonic slush is icier, which explains why it is so easy to slurp out all the shade from that consume and stop up with a cup of crushed, unflavored ice. Even Taco Bell’s FCBs, which Parker represented to be “his” (as in, a product or service of the Icee Organization), are not as fluffy as Burger King’s. QuikTrip’s Freezoni—which launched my journey to the land of slush—expands much significantly less, making the ensuing consume heavier and wetter. In Canada, yucca extract is not authorised for food use, so the Slurpee that you buy in Winnipeg or Saskatoon will be thinner than the a person you get in Texas or Wisconsin.

These matters are rather secretive inside the market. One device salesman I spoke with speculated that C-retailers very carefully test and tune the attributes of their equipment, these kinds of as syrup concentration and overrun, to create the greatest margins on the lowest price tag in their distinct markets: “In Tennessee, they like it actually light and fluffy,” he explained to me. When I pressed a QuikTrip representative about the lack of foam in my Freezoni, she stopped responding to my inquiries. Similar questions spooked the products sales man, way too he was frightened of working afoul of his internet marketing division, and did not want to be cited by identify.  At some convenience shops, he explained to me, the slushies are heavier and wetter by design and style. “They have determined their consume profile,” he explained ominously, like a dim ice warlock.

Any customer great can be mysterious. Who actually understands what’s in a soda, or a hamburger, or a toothpaste? Branding addresses more than all those inquiries, so arbitrary choice can masquerade as choice. But we are inclined to think it’s quick to distinguish involving classes: A cola is not a sports consume coffee is not tea. Slushies violate this expectation. Visualize likely into a café and declaring, “Give me a cup of the scorching things,” and then accepting no matter what they pour you as if it have been the specific object of your motivation. Which is what it is to purchase a slushie.

Like Parker, Atherton explained the acquire of a slushie as a emotion in alone, “like heading out for ice cream.” According to John Pahic, who distributes the Taylor Company’s frozen-beverage equipment for the Midwest Products Corporation, even regional “preferences,” these as the Tennessee foam, could possibly have significantly less to do with people’s palate than their daily life history—a slush ideology of sorts. You like what you know. And provided the emotional, nostalgic character of slushies, memory and routine rule.

When it comes to slushies, our brains are frozen. To us, they are exclusive treats that signify a special time—a hot summertime working day, a movie screening, a excursion to the honest. By natural means the companies that sell slushies see them in a different way, as large-margin impulse buys, tweaked to optimize the stream of money. Your frozen drink is but a mere add-on to your entry ticket or taco-supreme get or tank of fuel, and your (unconscious) frozen-beverage preferences have been exploited to deliver compliant getting. The accurate purchaser of Significant Slushie isn’t you, the slurper, but the C-stores who would tempt you to slurp.

We are all mere cogs in capitalism’s machine, I suppose, but it’s still a tragedy to see individuals gears turning out a frozen beverage. Possibly I never should have started off wanting into Slurpees and Freezonis and the like. I’d long assumed that bigger expertise makes a satisfaction a lot more rigorous. But to know a slushie only numbs the soul.