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No One Is aware of What a Slushie Is

Not too long ago, after a very invigorating automotive wash, I had a yen for a slushie. Possibly the warming climate impressed me. Maybe the proud signage of the QuikTrip comfort retailer close by activated an unconscious need. Regardless of, a slushie I did get. At QuikTrip, it’s known as a Freezoni, a curious, quasi-Italian aspiration that bears no relation to the distributed product. To my palate, the slushie wasn’t good: too moist, not frozen sufficient, prefer it was already half-melted from being left too lengthy in a automobile cup holder.

This made me surprise: Why are slushies so totally different from each other? Then the thought solidified right into a extra existential mind freeze, as I noticed that I couldn’t even guess what would possibly separate a Freezoni from a Slurpee, not to mention an Icee from a slush. What the hell is a slushie, anyway? I had no concept, and barely any instinct.

Now I’m enlightened. In the event you’ve ever been enthralled by one slushie and dissatisfied by one other, it’s most likely as a result of you might be keying into qualities of which you’re not conscious: carbonation, enlargement, density, taste depth. However Large Slushie doesn’t actually care whether or not you perceive these variations, as a result of Large Slushie doesn’t care about your wants. It exists to assist comfort shops, meals chains, and occasion suppliers maximize revenue margins for impulse purchases, whereas framing these purchases to you, the slurper, as nostalgic reminiscences of childhood delight. This can be a troublesome fact, and you might remorse your lack of innocence in its pursuit.

“We don’t actually discuss them as slushies.” That’s the very first thing I realized from Tyler Parker, advertising supervisor for the Icee Firm. Certain, regular folks such as you and me would possibly discuss them, broadly, in reference to a category of icy, flavored bevvies drunk simply by way of a straw. (In the event you’re consuming flavored frozen water with a spoon, or licking it from a cup, that’s an “ice.” A snow cone is an ice.) However the slushie isn’t, the truth is, a superordinate class, not in the event you’re within the frozen-beverage enterprise anyway.

Parker’s firm, whose brilliant blue-and-red logos you’ve absolutely seen at gala’s, film theaters, and Goal cafés, makes 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 by accident invented FCBs when his soda fountain malfunctioned. He needed to serve bottles from the freezer as a substitute, which foamed out cola when cracked open. Individuals liked them, so Knedlik strapped an vehicle air conditioner to a dispenser and turned the botch right into a enterprise. He needed to name the product Scoldasice (as in “’s chilly as ice,” not “scold-a-size,” which seems like a Nineteen Eighties health gimmick), however a good friend correctly steered “Icee” as a substitute. With companions, Knedlik perfected the machine and commenced to promote it. Amongst his clients was the convenience-store chain 7-Eleven, which developed its personal model title for the FCB product, Slurpee. That’s proper, a Slurpee is similar product as an Icee, however offered beneath a private-label trademark. Identical for a product you could have seen known as “Arctic Blast”—simply one other Icee-Slurpee, a sibling within the household.

The carbonation in Icees, Slurpees, and different FCBs supplies an ethereal texture and a muted jolt, but in addition—when mixed with yucca extract, a foaming agent—a surprisingly easy texture and wealthy mouthfeel. Certainly, the fizz might be obscured so fully within the foam that you simply may not even have identified that these drinks have been carbonated. Bubbles additionally trigger the distributed product to broaden, which is why your Slurpee or your Icee or your Arctic Blast inflates a bit after pouring, typically up and out of the domed lid to exasperate your mother and father.

Parker contrasts FCBs reminiscent of Icees with frozen uncarbonated drinks, or FUBs. A number of the frozen-beverage suppliers I spoke with articulate these names as initialisms (Eff You Bee), however Parker simply says “fub,” as if to underscore its meager standing by the use of phonics. When Parker does name a drink a slushie, he means to sign that it’s not the premium, carbonated sort of frozen drink, only a FUB. The Slush Puppie is a FUB; so is Dairy Queen’s Misty (previously Mister Misty; youngsters today bought no respect), and the Sonic Drive-In fruity slush. A FUB might be good, after all, but it surely’s probably not particular. Anyone with some flavoring, some ice, and a blender could make a FUB. However an FCB, that requires its personal gear, provides, and cautious administration.

To make sure the consistency of its branded FCBs, Parker’s staff gives end-to-end service to its shoppers, together with machines, taste concentrates, upkeep of kit, and advertising and gross sales help. However Icee’s grand designs on frozen-beverage domination span the slushiverse. In 2006, the corporate purchased Slush Puppie, a basic FUB, then reformulated it with fruit juice and began promoting the beverage in colleges as “Juice 100.” Once you order a frozen Coke at Burger King, that’s an Icee FCB. Identical for these Mountain Dew slurp-alikes at Taco Bell. Large Slushie is actual.

Or at the very least, that’s what the Icee Firm would love me to imagine. Isabel Atherton, the director of selling at Sunny Sky Merchandise, tells a unique story. Her firm makes concentrates for frozen drinks and sells them B2B. (Retailers select which drink-making gear to purchase and the way to service it.) Sunny Sky’s flavors are typically licensed from main meals manufacturers, reminiscent of Jarritos and Jolly Rancher, to permit for slushie traces with broad shopper recognition. Fuel stations, for instance, would possibly attempt to promote you a Reese’s Freeze, because of Sunny Sky’s unholy interventions. Atherton says its flavors might be discovered at RaceTrac, Circle Ok, Wawa, QuikTrip, and plenty of different convenience-store chains (“C-stores,” as insiders name them).

To maximise attain, Sunny Sky designs its merchandise to work in both carbonated or uncarbonated equipment. “Most C-stores have already got gear,” Atherton instructed me. “What we attempt to do is to speak to producers and check our merchandise of their gear.” In a single machine, the crystals is likely to be greater, dulling the Jolly Rancher style. One other one which produces smaller crystals would possibly make the drink sweeter.

In different phrases, the place Icee focuses on an end-to-end resolution, Sunny Sky meets cost-conscious C-store operators the place they’re. A FUB machine is cheaper to purchase and function. An FCB machine is dearer however self-contained, decreasing working complexity and rising uptime. A drink’s “overrun”—the diploma to which it expands in a carbonated-service machine—additionally has a direct impression on margins. Extra carbon dioxide means a fluffier beverage that makes use of much less syrup and yields extra revenue. Icee and Slurpee could also be highly effective model names, however Atherton dismisses their significance to frozen-beverage shoppers. “‘Icee’ is like saying ‘Kleenex,’” she mentioned. It’s a generic time period—simply one other title for slushie.

She may need some extent. I hadn’t even seen QuikTrip’s Freezoni model title till I began researching this story, though it was emblazoned throughout the entrance of the machine that distributed my drink. Ask a carload of unquenched souls, Do you need to get a Slurpee?, they usually gained’t essentially assume you imply a cease at 7-Eleven. The client of a frozen drink gained’t know the distinction between an FCB and a FUB, and will don’t have any expectations both method. “Individuals don’t know the technical piece of it,” Parker admitted, and Atherton, together with each different frozen-beverage-industry insider I spoke with, agreed.

Rather than information about slushies, and even cogent preferences, all we now have is our nostalgia. After I requested Parker to clarify how his enterprise works—what, precisely, does the Icee Firm promote?—he sort of left orbit. “We exist to present folks one of the best excuse to be a child,” he mentioned. “It’s a ‘child in a cup’—an escape, an expertise, one thing that’s going to present them a spark of pleasure.” I imply, it’s a slushie—err, FCB—however, , I get it. After I was a child, my dad’s workplace sat throughout the road from a 7-Eleven. We’d stroll over typically to get a Slurpee, and after I search my thoughts to justify why I even recall the reminiscence, the essence of the product does glow at its heart: gentle and expansive, filled with risk.

In the identical method, a Slurpee from a Speedway gasoline station (owned by 7-Eleven) or an Icee at an AMC theater serves because the bookmark for a specific sense reminiscence. However the backroom machinations of the slushie house additionally undermine our recollections, sloshing them collectively in a vat of cherry-red confusion. A Slush Puppie or DQ Misty is looser and extra liquid than an Icee or a Slurpee, for instance. A Sonic slush is icier, which explains why it’s really easy to slurp out all the colour from that drink and find yourself with a cup of crushed, unflavored ice. Even Taco Bell’s FCBs, which Parker represented to be “his” (as in, a product of the Icee Firm), aren’t as fluffy as Burger King’s. QuikTrip’s Freezoni—which launched my journey to the land of slush—expands a lot much less, making the ensuing drink heavier and wetter. In Canada, yucca extract isn’t accepted for meals use, so the Slurpee that you simply purchase in Winnipeg or Saskatoon shall be thinner than the one you get in Texas or Wisconsin.

These issues are considerably secretive inside the {industry}. One machine salesman I spoke with speculated that C-stores rigorously check and tune the properties of their machines, reminiscent of syrup focus and overrun, to supply one of the best margins on the bottom price of their explicit markets: “In Tennessee, they prefer it actually gentle and fluffy,” he instructed me. After I pressed a QuikTrip consultant in regards to the lack of froth in my Freezoni, she stopped responding to my inquiries. Comparable questions spooked the gear gross sales man, too; he was fearful of operating afoul of his advertising division, and didn’t need to be cited by title.  At some comfort shops, he instructed me, the slushies are heavier and wetter by design. “They’ve decided their drink profile,” he mentioned ominously, like a darkish ice warlock.

Any shopper good might be mysterious. Who actually is aware of what’s in a soda, or a hamburger, or a toothpaste? Branding covers over these questions, so arbitrary selection can masquerade as choice. However we are inclined to suppose it’s simple to tell apart between classes: A cola isn’t a sports activities drink; espresso isn’t tea. Slushies violate this expectation. Think about going right into a café and saying, “Give me a cup of the new stuff,” after which accepting no matter they pour you as if it have been the precise object of your need. That’s what it’s to purchase a slushie.

Like Parker, Atherton described the acquisition of a slushie as a sense in itself, “like going out for ice cream.” In response to John Pahic, who distributes the Taylor Firm’s frozen-beverage machines for the Midwest Gear Firm, even regional “preferences,” such because the Tennessee foam, may need much less to do with folks’s palate than their life historical past—a slush ideology of kinds. You want what . And given the emotional, nostalgic nature of slushies, reminiscence and behavior rule.

In the case of slushies, our brains are frozen. To us, they’re particular treats that signify a particular time—a sizzling summer season day, a film screening, a visit to the truthful. Naturally the companies that promote slushies see them in a different way, as high-margin impulse buys, tweaked to maximise the circulate of capital. Your frozen drink is however a mere add-on to your entry ticket or taco-supreme order or tank of gasoline, and your (unconscious) frozen-beverage preferences have been exploited to supply compliant buying. The true buyer of Large Slushie isn’t you, the slurper, however the C-stores who would tempt you to slurp.

We’re all mere cogs in capitalism’s machine, I suppose, but it surely’s nonetheless a tragedy to see these gears turning out a frozen beverage. Maybe I by no means ought to have began trying into Slurpees and Freezonis and the like. I’d lengthy assumed that higher information makes a pleasure extra intense. However to know a slushie solely numbs the soul.

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