Cool whip (read: Cool ‘hhhwip’). Marketed as an imitation of whipped cream, Cool Whip was made in 1966 as a dessert-friendly and non-dairy whipped cream. Countlessly referenced in pop culture and lesser expensive than its natural counterpart, in a sales battle between all whipped cream renditions and the original itself, cool whip frequently outperforms its competitors – clearly, it pays to be cool. In this article, we discuss ten untold truths about the dessert companion.
10. Family Guy Shot its Popularity Through the Roof
You’ve probably heard of the TV show. The two-decade-old satirical and outrageous sitcom includes hundreds of political and pop culture references, but its funniest is arguably the Cool Whip trope, or as Stewie calls it, ‘Cool Hhhwip,’ which sets the premise for a series of similar references later on in the show. While the undercover ad campaign was not necessarily positive or negative (Stewie only says “You can’t have a pie without cool hhhwip” before an argument between the precocious infant and the anthropomorphic dog, Brian, begins), the public’s response was clearly appreciative. Since TV shows, advertisements, and movies frequently dictate much of public opinion, when the gag returned to the two-decade-old show a number of times later, nationwide sales of Cool Whip increased proportionately. Though one of the reasons behind the condiment’s success is a trail of in-house PR campaigns (1999’s “Do the Cool Whip”, for example), Family Guy’s twisted pronunciation of the product’s name is its most successful pop culture inclusion in recent times. In fact, the scene was so popular that Stewie’s pretentious pronunciation of words starting with ‘wh’ featured in another ten episodes, including a hilarious scene where he compliments his dad (Seth Macfarlane as Peter) for his ‘cool hhhwip’, only to get whipped on the face for pronouncing it incorrectly. Moral of the story? Don’t put too much emphasis on the ‘h’.
9. Dairy-free or Not?
Though we can confidently tell you that Cool Whip is gluten-free, unfortunately for those looking dessert condiments devoid of all allergens, Cool Whip’s non-dairy label is a little more… dicey. While the lactose-intolerant could have once reveled in an 8-ounce $1.99 tub of Cool Whip without hesitation (at least until 2010), it’s another milk protein that has always made the label contentious. Casein, or sodium caseinate, the more prominent of the two proteins in cowmilk (the other being whey), also features in its ingredients. Between hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, skim milk, and a whole lot of air, casein is what gives Cool Whip its frosty, ice-cream-like flavor. But when Cool Whip’s makers decided to include skimmed milk in its lengthy list of ingredients, 2010 took Cool Whip entirely off the shelves of the lactose-intolerant, vegan, and the dairy-free religious (such as the Jewish, although the product was never entirely dairy-free to begin with.) Alternatives for this demographic include Reddi-Wip, which is actual whipped cream, Dream Whip powder (for those willing to get a little more involved in their culinary efforts), and even non-dairy creamers. But the benefits of switching to a different ‘whipped topping’ brand don’t end just there. Cool Whip is much lesser flavorful than whipped cream and has a longer list of chemical additives than natural whipped cream – including Sorbitan monostearate, a synthetic wax used in water-oil emulsification and the leather industry, and beta carotene as a coloring. In fact, out of its twelve ingredients, only two are known to be non-toxic, out of which one is water. Needless to say, people looking to go organic would definitely find natural whipped cream a better option.
8. It Comes in More Varieties Than Any Other Whipped Topping
Cool Whip has immense nostalgic value – for ‘70s kids it’s Watergate Salad, and for ‘80s kids and older it’s Do the Cool Whip and grandmothers storing their sewing material in empty Cool Whip tubs. But that doesn’t mean that Cool Whip’s marketing campaign can cross its legs and sit back with a box of cigars. To the contrary, Cool Whip needs to outsmart millennial-friendly and relatively new competitors on a regular basis. One way to ensure that it appeals to all age groups – from kids with perpetual sweet teeth to diabetics – is to introduce different flavors. And that’s exactly what Cool Whip did. It took over the whipped-topping-in-a-tub market in 2011, 2016, and 2017 with the flavors French Vanilla, Chocolate, Sweet Cinnamon, Strawberry, Peppermint, and Cheesecake. Much like the occasional recipes, its makers float around all year during festivals and other occasions, these flavors are seasonal. But its staple varieties include the Original, Extra Creamy, Light, and Ultra-Low Fat (called Fat-Free in the US), available at any grocery chain near you. Between its snazzy updated aesthetics, fixture in North American pop culture, and just enough flavors to count on your fingers, Cool Whip clearly knows how to stay status quo.
7. Richard Nixon and Cool Whip Have More in Common Than You’d Think
A lot of things happened in the ‘70s. The Vietnam War ended, the energy crisis was at its 20th-century-worst, the Beatles broke up, an American presidency suffered one of the worst scandals to ever surface in the country, and a salad of the same name made out of whipped topping was born. Called the Watergate Salad (with an etymology just as confusing as the scandal it might have been named after), the chief ingredient of a dessert that defined the ‘70s was our very own friendly neighborhood imitation whipped cream. Though the recipe was published and circulated by General Foods (now submerged in the overarching Kraft Heinz), it was Denver Post that published the recipe under the name, and ever since then, Watergate salad became a household accompaniment of most Midwestern potlucks. Made of pistachio pudding, canned pineapple, marshmallows, crushed pecans, and Cool Whip, the recipe’s as simple as this sentence: all you have to do is mix all its ingredients together. Now called dozens of names – including the imaginative ‘Shut The Gate Salad’, ‘Nasty Church Salad’, ‘Pastor’s Anniversary Salad’, and the closer-to-home ‘Pistachio Delight’, ‘Green Goop’, ‘Green Goddess’, ‘Green Fluff, and simply ‘Barf’, Watergate salad is simple and tasteful, and as is the case with most simple and tasteful (and in this case, tasty) things, Watergate salad became a phenomenon. But it’s only one of the many famous recipes that feature Cool Whip. In fact, with the likes of Funfetti Cool Whip Cookies, July 4th’s Flag Cake, and the decadent Strawberry Jell-O Funfetti Poke Cake competing against it, Watergate Salad slipped into relative obscurity this century, but that just might be because nobody uses pistachio pudding anymore.
6. Its Aesthetic has Come a Long Way
What do Cool Whip, Jell-O, Tang, Pop Rocks, and powdered egg whites have in common? A father. That’s right; created by the same man that made carbonated candy, Cool Whip was invented in the laboratories of General Foods in Avon, New York, in the year 1966. Its container first started off looking like a tub of cream cheese, with the words Cool Whip written in a racy version of the Impact font and the caption ‘Don’t blow your topping’ (whatever that means) to advertise it, but Cool Whip has clearly come a long way since then, at least stylistically. Early marketing campaigns always accompanied pictures of the product with scrumptious-looking desserts in creamy layers of Cool Whip, not forgetting to add that it has a great ‘natural’ taste. But as demand for the product grew, it shed its blatant image. In fact, for a short period in the ‘70s, the makers of Cool Whip replaced the tub with a ‘Swiggle’ container, or a canister of the whipped topping that sprayed the cream much like containers of its natural sibling, whipped cream. After it returned to its more prominent tub form, it very much continued to develop, albeit in color and variety this time. Today, Cool Whip is sold in the form of canisters as well as tubs, but it’s also about to get a whole new look, with a modern font and color for each flavor.
5. ‘Do the Cool Whip’
Complete with a catchy background song, pixelated smiling faces, and a lot of haphazard edits, 1999’s Cool Whip advertisement is reminiscent of all things ‘90s – nostalgia, family outings, and TV jingles that tattoo your brain. The feel-good ad displays a family picnic on a sunny day, extended members of the family relishing rows of toothsome dishes covered in dollops of Cool Whip to a chorus of Cool Whip all the while playing in the background. Throughout the ad, nobody particularly enacts what doing the cool whip actually means, but the audience wasn’t complaining. Consumers were riveted, and if Cool Whip had not been a household name for the 30 years prior to its airing, the ad definitely let everyone know what their favorite whipped topping was. In spite of it being two decades since its release, ‘90s and older kids perk up to the music immediately when played, which perhaps explains why Cool Whip’s Do the Cool Whip legacy speaks for a chunk of its sales even today.
4. It was Created to Save Time
It was a regular day in 1965 when General Foods conducted a nationwide survey of housewives and stumbled upon a goldmine of an idea. Bridging the gap between tasty toppings and the lack of time, General Foods developed Cool Whip within six months of learning that housewives were looking for an alternative to whipped cream that tasted just as good, required no whipping or preparation, and could easily be placed on a dessert. At a time when society was waking up to gender equality, women spent lesser time in the kitchen, and Cool Whip was a consequence of a pivotal turning point in North America’s history. With its independence from local diaries, the ease of its transport (it was first sold in the cities of Buffalo and Seattle, poles apart from each other), and society’s then-uncaringness for nutrition (this was around the same period that cigarettes weren’t considered unhealthy), it’s easy to see why Cool Whip infiltrated the dessert market effortlessly.
3. It Has an Interesting History
Cool Whip was created as a workaround. With the short shelf life and difficulty in the transportation of natural whipped cream, the non-dairy, equally appealing, easier-on-the-belt, and distributable frozen Cool Whip was only a natural choice for an industry that was growingly demanding efficiency and ease. But Cool Whip’s inception involved more than just one workaround. Since its creators couldn’t legally call the non-dairy product ‘whipped cream’, General Foods finally settled for ‘Cool Whip’, rejecting hundreds of other alternative names recommended by their advertising agency. Frozen or unfrozen, in tubs or in canisters, Cool Whip became the highest-sold whipped topping product within three months of its release. So successful and far-reaching was the product that it went on to sponsor the Andy Griffith Show shortly after its launch in 1966, a classic situational comedy TV show that spanned eight whole years on CBS. While buying Cool Whip in the ‘60s meant you were buying something new and hip, today, Cool Whip continues to be the best-selling whipped topping in spite of the 50+ years since its release, holding a 70% share of the whipped topping market. Though it’s always at taste and nutritional loggerheads with whipped cream, the Market Research Institute reports that one out of three American homemakers buys Cool Whip on a regular basis.
2. It’s Multipurpose
A lot of mass-consumed products today are infamous for being meaningful outside of their marketed purpose: Coca-Cola, for example, is notorious for being an excellent bathroom cleaner, while toothpaste doubles up strangely well as an acne treatment. Like a lot of products that are meant to seem ‘natural’, Cool Whip is multifunctional beyond the food industry. Yes, it does look pretty on pies, but did you know Cool Whip can shine your shoes too? Dab your shoe brush in a little whipped topping next time to discover it for yourself. For whatever reason, someone even applied Cool Whip to a plant’s leaves – resulting in a radiant shine on them as well. Have you ever wished for sweet-smelling hair? Turns out that Cool Whip can help you with that too. Rub it onto your hair and leave it on for 30 minutes before shampooing it as usual, and you’ll find your hair silkier and shinier than before. In fact, a lot of people report that Cool Whip works as a shaving cream as well, and some even use it as cold cream to help remove their makeup. Being inexpensive is clearly only one of the many things that Cool Whip does better than natural whipped cream. Cool Whip – 1, whipped cream – 0.
1. The 12-Day Experiment
Created by a dad to show his daughter the impact that chemicals have on food, and in turn, us, Jonathan Fields wasn’t exactly unsuspecting when he decided to put a bowl of Cool Whip out in the open for twelve whole days. But the results of his experiments baffled him and his daughter much more than they were expecting. To make his point, he placed a bowl of regular whipped cream next to the Cool Whip – and as expected, within an hour, the cream became a liquid mush of milk and sugar, by far outlasted by its imitator. Twelve days later, the cool whip had hardened, becoming somewhat ‘plastic-y’. If this wasn’t enough of a red flag, Jonathan took the experiment further and drew a smiley face on its surface. So what made a perfectly normal-seeming scoop of whipped topping go from faux-whipped cream to edible (preferably not) plastic, and not sugary soup? Some say the cream simply got dehydrated, and without its hydrogenated oils and corn syrup to keep it nice and fluffy, it grew rigid. But more importantly, others say that using whipped cream as a touchstone for Cool Whip is unfair to begin with, and the similarities between both begin and end at taste and appearance. All in all, while the experiment was by no means scientific, the results were not necessarily indicative of something bad (just unappetizing), and they pulled the veil off Cool Whip’s agreeable appearance, so similar to the original that it was all too easy to forget it’s called imitation whipped cream for good reason. Like Joan Gussow, a food policy expert, once famously said, “I prefer butter to margarine because I trust cows over chemists.”