Sweet, sour, brain-freezingly icy. Who doesn’t love a Slurpee? This ultra-popular frozen drink has been a convenience store staple for decades. Want to know more about the wacky past of this summer favourite? Here are 10 Slurpee facts that will definitely give you brain freeze!
10. The Slurpee was invented accidentally
This Slurpee fact is all about the creation of the drink. As delicious and iconic as the Slurpee is, it wasn’t actually invented on purpose. That’s right, the Slurpee was created accidentally! The Slurpee came to be in a Dairy Queen back in 1959. Kansas franchise owner Omar Knedlik realized his soda fountain wasn’t working anymore, so he had to improvise a way to keep drinks cool before serving them. Knedlik stashed some pop bottles in the freezer, and by the time they made it into the hands of the guests, they were icy. This turned out to be a good thing! Guests said that they loved the partially frozen consistency, and Knedlik got to thinking about how he could serve icy pops more regularly. He settled on an air conditioner from a car and tinkered with it until it could cool the drinks down to the perfect consistency before serving them. He called the new drink ICEE, and eventually licensed the idea to 7-Eleven in 1965. While the ICEE brand name can still be found in some convenience stores, 7-Eleven decided a year later to change the name to Slurpee. Now, every 7-Eleven store is decked out with a Slurpee machine. While ICEEs are still a popular choice where they’re sold, 7-Eleven has truly changed the game when it comes to frozen drinks. Well done, Omar!
9. The name was chosen for the sound it makes
Omark Knedlik had originally had the ICEE drink distributed by the ICEE Company, who licensed the drink machines to different territories. The territories could then decide on their own distribution rights. 7-Eleven had decided they wanted a brand new name to differentiate the product from the ICEE brand, so a boardroom of company executives sat down to brainstorm. In a 1966 meeting with 7-Eleven’s ad agency, it was rumored that director Bob Stanford had been drinking an ICEE at the table. He mentioned that the sound the drink made when slurped through the straw was unique, and that it sounded something like “slurp”. Going off of this “slurp” idea, it was decided that 7-Eleven would call their version of the drink a Slurpee. The name was a clear success, and 7-Eleven became synonymous with the frozen drink. Now, Slurpee is the household name associated with the beverage, and most people immediately think to go to 7-Eleven when they’re craving that icy fix. Seems like “Slurpee” really stuck!
8. 7-Eleven trademarked the term “brain freeze”
While plenty of people use the term “brain freeze” to describe that sudden sharp pain that comes from drinking something cold, 7-Eleven has actually trademarked the term! When someone eats or drinks something chilled, the nerves in the roof of the mouth can suddenly ache. The medical name for the headache is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, but that doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well. When people started to use the colloquial term “brain freeze” after getting a zingy headache from their Slurpee, 7-Eleven saw an opportunity to claim the phrase. They trademarked the term to use to their marketing advantage, although it’s not very obvious that 7-Eleven has the rights to the expression today given the term’s popularity. More fittingly, some people even call the phenomenon a “Slurpee headache.” Maybe they should trademark that? Pro tip: to get rid of that pesky brain freeze and keep sipping the Slurpee, pressing the tongue to the roof of the mouth can help.
7. Slurpees inspired the frozen margarita
Ever sat back on a sunny patio with a frozen margarita in hand? You’ve got Slurpees to thank for that magical moment. Obviously, margaritas themselves have roots far beyond the Slurpee. The cocktail is believed to have been invented sometime around 1938 by a bartender named Carlos “Danny” Herrera near Tijuana, Mexico. They normally consist of tequila, orange liqueur, and lime. Even though the original mix predates Slurpees by a few decades, the invention of the Slurpee eventually changed margaritas forever. Dallas restaurant owner Mariano Martinez had a liking for both Slurpees and margaritas, and he eventually had a major lightbulb moment. While the exact design of 7-Eleven’s Slurpee machine is actually confidential, Martinez created his own frozen drink machine and refined the design until he could pump out margaritas with the icy consistency of a Slurpee. Guests loved the drink, and it quickly became a favourite to sip under the hot Dallas sun. Slowly, the idea spread to other restaurants and bars in the area. People everywhere loved the consistency of the frozen margaritas, and they were obviously reminiscent of the Slurpees many restaurant-goers enjoyed as kids. Martinez’s drink was basically the grown-up version of a Slurpee, and the brilliant idea spread insanely fast. Now, countless restaurants around the world make use of frozen drink machines for all kinds of cocktails. They’ve all got Slurpees to thank!
6. Special straws were invented just for the Slurpee
Anyone who’s ever tried to drink a Slurpee out of a normal straw knows how difficult it is. A thick, icy drink like a Slurpee was not made to work with tiny little straws, and some creative solutions were needed to make getting that Slurpee fix much easier. The issue came up once the Slurpee had become majorly popular, and customers were open about struggling to slurp up the drink through 7-Eleven’s standard straws. Inventor Arthur Aykanian came to the rescue, developing the signature spoon straw in 1968. The straw was wider than the standard straws, and the end featured a spoon-shaped scoop that could be used to grab the last bits of slushy goodness at the bottom of the cups. The straws were a near-immediate hit, and they’re now found almost anywhere Slurpees are sold. The straw innovation didn’t stop there, though! 7-Eleven developed an edible straw in 2003. It was made of candy and became stiff when exposed to the cold, so it served both as an aid to drinking and a snack in its own right. Unfortunately, the candy straw didn’t achieve the same success of the spoon straw, and they’re not likely to be available when buying a Slurpee. Oh well, spoon straws still do the trick.
5. The most popular flavor is Coca-Cola
Slurpees come in a ton of flavors! America alone normally has 34 flavors available at a time, and different variations are sold across the world. Obviously, some flavors are only available in certain regions, and some of the more unusual flavors (like dragonfruit!) are tough to track down. Of all the variations, the most popular one is Coca-Cola. It seems fitting considering that Slurpees came from frozen soda in the first place, especially with Coca-Cola being the best-selling soda across the globe. In fact, Coca-Cola was one of the first two flavors ever offered. The slushy version is a major hit, and it’s sure to be a Slurpee mainstay flavor as long as Slurpees are sold. What other flavors top the rankings? Wild Cherry competes with Coca-Cola for the top spot, which is fitting considering Wild Cherry’s claim to fame as the second-ever Slurpee flavor offered. Since Slurpees orginated as frozen sodas, several soda brands now offer Slurpee versions of their drinks. Fanta, Mountain Dew, Orange Crush, and Pepsi all have signature Slurpee flavours. Even the low-calories, sugar-free water enhancer Crystal Light produced a namesake version. Watermelon, banana, lemon-lime, and sour green apple are some majorly popular picks that 7-Eleven developed themselves. Other flavors are international favorites, like bubblegum (with real, chewable gum) in Canada or ginger beer in Australia. Since customers can mix as many Slurpee flavors as they can fit in a cup, lots of people combine several flavors to make a uniquely delicious mix. Despite the impressive range of flavors across the globe, the two originals still dominate as most popular. While they’re beloved on their own, Coca-Cola and Wild Cherry also go well mixed together, which definitely contributes to each flavor’s continuing success.
4. The number of Slurpees sold is over 7 billion
Perhaps one of the craziest Slurpee facts out there is that there have been more Slurpees sold than there are people on earth. That’s right- since their creation in the ’60s, over 7 billion Slurpees have been sold. That’s enough for a Slurpee for every single person alive today, which truly shows just how popular the frozen drink is. On average, 7-Eleven visitors drink about 14 million Slurpees every month. That’s a staggering 470,000 Slurpees sold every single day. Now that’s a huge Slurpee fact! Obviously, more Slurpees are sold during hot summer months than in the winter, but sales certainly don’t stop when the temperatures drop. Most Slurpees are sold to youngsters, teenagers, and young adults making up a significant portion of the regular customer base. However, 7-Eleven released marketing campaigns directed at older demographics to increase sales among adults, and more and more older individuals are indulging in the sweet treat now. There’s no age limit on a Slurpee, that’s for sure. Also, 19 different countries serve Slurpees, which helps boost those incredible numbers. Now, which county sells the most Slurpees? Although the United States is the birthplace of the drink, a surprising country actually claims the title of Slurpee Capital. Canada sells over 30 million Slurpees per year, and Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba has been named Slurpee Capital of the World for 20 years in a row! Stores in the wintry city sell an average of 188,883 Slurpees every single month, which makes Winnipeg the world leader of Slurpee sales. Winnipeg has a population of roughly 750,000, which means the equivalent of a quarter of the population of the entire city buys a Slurpee every month, which is a higher proportion than any other city in the world. While some devoted fans wish that Canadian Slurpees had the same airy texture that the American recipe has (thanks to yucca extract), it’s clearly not slowing down sales in the True North.
3. Slurpees sell for free or cheap a few times a year
Love sipping on a Slurpee but don’t have the change? No worries! The well-loved drink is actually given away for free a few times a year. The most popular of these occasions is July 11th, when 7-Eleven patrons can score free 12-ounce Slurpees to celebrate the store. This tradition began back in 2002, and National Free Slurpee day is now incredibly popular. The offer is usually valid from 11 AM through 7 PM (another shout-out to 7-Eleven), and stores occasionally have lines of eager Slurpee drinkers stretching out the door. Another chance to score Slurpees for cheap is Bring Your Own Cup Day. For $2, patrons can bring any size or shape cup or container their heart desires and fill it up with as much Slurpee as it can hold. Expectedly, this tradition has gotten pretty insane, with customers bringing in containers like full-sized trash bins and mini swimming pools to fill. Swimming in Slurpee, now that’ll beat the July heat! Some size restrictions have been set by certain stores in recent years, but generally customers can score massive amounts of Slurpee for just a couple of bucks. Now, how heavy is that 5-gallon jug going to be when it’s filled to the brim with lemon-lime?
2. Some of the original Slurpee names were totally weird
These days, most people are sipping Slurpees in flavors like peach, blue raspberry, or Moutain Dew. Nothing too crazy, right? Well, the first Slurpee flavors released after Coca-Cola and Wild Cherry were a bit… stranger, to say the least. By the 1970s, Slurpee had expanded to 27 different flavors. Some of them were just downright weird when it came to the names! Customers could pour themselves a cup of For Adults Only, Red Eye, Scooby Doo, and Bull Corn. Not entirely PG, that’s for sure. There were some more suggestive and strange names as well, but one thing was consistent – the names didn’t really offer any insight into what the flavor actually tasted like at all. This made it difficult for people to find flavors and combinations they knew they’d like at a glance, and it didn’t help the overall sales of the drink. Obviously, the edgier names didn’t really stick around, and they’ve been out of rotation for several decades now. These days, 7-Eleven’s “Slurpee Scientists” are the ones in charge of creating new flavors and names, and they’ve abandoned anything bizarre in favor of more direct, simple names for their flavors. For example, calling a watermelon flavor “Watermelon” has ensured that Slurpee drinkers can easily and quickly get the drink they want, and that the flavors will be what they expect. While most of the names are now tame, there is still the unofficial Swamp Water Slurpee, which consists of some of every flavour dispensed into the same cup. While the name isn’t endorsed by 7-Eleven or its Slurpee Scientists, it’s about the most bizarre mashup and most creative name in the Slurpee game these days. That’s a Slurpee fact for the adventurous flavor finders out there!
1. Slurpees have their own vinyl record
Jingles have been a major part of marketing for a very, very long time. Not to be left out, Slurpees eventually got their own signature tune! 7-Eleven has created a few different tunes for the drink, but in the 1960s, they made the most iconic Slurpee song of them all. The brand developed not just a jingle for the drink, but a legitimate vinyl record to release. The most well-known Slurpee song was called “Dance the Slurp”, written by Tom Merriman, one of America’s most prolific jingle writers. It’s 2 minutes of fun brass music and slurping sounds, broken up by the occasional “slurp slurp!” The record was handed out free with purchase of a Slurpee after its release. Now, anyone with their hands on one of the original vinyls could sell it for up to $50 on eBay, as they’re considered a rare find. The song was so catchy, it was actually requested on radio stations in the following years. Then, in 1999, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist sampled the track for their aptly-named Brainfreeze album. While nowadays the jingle is more of a relic, it was well-known and well-loved by Slurpee fans for many years. Catchy, right? How’s that brain freeze? These crazy Slurpee facts show just how wild the history of this icy favourite is. Now, where’s the closest 7-Eleven?