The Truth About Dairy Queen’s Famous Blizzard Finally Revealed

The Truth About Dairy Queen’s Famous Blizzard Finally Revealed


There are few fast food desserts as decadent,
satisfying, and dependable as the Blizzard. But you might be surprised to learn that this
frozen treat technically didn’t originate from Dairy Queen, and that it’s not even ice
cream. Delicious soft serve with candies and cookies
blended into the mix is pretty much definitely going to be a surefire hit no matter what
you call it. In 1985, Dairy Queen was already a success
story with a 40-year-long history of ice cream treats like banana splits and Dilly bars. But that year the chain added a menu item
that would forever alter its history. Obviously, that item is the Blizzard, and
when it debuted, people couldn’t get enough of it. The Blizzard rolled out in Dairy Queen locations
in 1985, and by 1986 the company was projecting to sell 175 million Blizzards, almost twice
what it sold in the first year. Dairy Queen’s president at the time, Harris
Cooper, called it, quote, “the biggest thing that has happened to Dairy Queen in the last
25 years.” Considering just how popular DQ’s Blizzards
still are more than 30 years later, it’s fair to say that Cooper was spot-on with his assessment. The Blizzard wasn’t invented in some high-rise
boardroom or fancy fast food think tank, but rather, by a Dairy Queen franchise holder
in Missouri. One of the company’s most successful franchisees,
Samuel Temperato owned 67 locations in the St. Louis area at the time of the Blizzard’s
creation. He would eventually expand his ice cream empire
to 81 Dairy Queens. Although Temperato took credit for bringing
the Blizzard to Dairy Queen’s senior executives and held a patent on the Blizzard machine,
he somewhat disagreed with DQ officials dubbing him the Blizzard’s inventor. He made sure to give credit where credit was
due, and as far back as 1986, he wanted to make sure the public knew that the spark for
creating what would become the Blizzard actually came from a Dairy Queen competitor. That competitor was Ted Drewes Jr., who ran
the popular Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stands, which are still in business today. Drewes’ popular item that helped him compete
with Dairy Queen was his frozen custard concrete. He didn’t add candy to his custard, but Temperato
saw the value in such an addition, and thus, the Blizzard was born. You would’ve been wise to purchase some Dairy
Queen stock in 1984 right before the Blizzard launched. Needless to say, when you sell 175 million
of anything, business is good, and your stock price moves upward. To give you an idea of just how big an impact
the Blizzard had on Dairy Queen’s financial health, in 1985 the company reported a net
income of $9.6 million with $151 million in sales. By 1986, financial experts estimated the company’s
net income to be $13 million from sales of $185 million. That’s roughly a 26 percent spike in profit
and almost all of that was due to the Blizzard. At the time, Dairy Queen sold a 12-ounce Blizzard
for just $1.29 and the 21-ounce version for $1.99, and it didn’t take long for the company’s
stock to rise. In early 1985, it was at around $40 a share,
but by mid-October it had already risen to $72.50. For shareholders at the time, the only thing
sweeter than the Blizzard itself was the wealth that came with it. For ice cream lovers, working at a Dairy Queen
might sound like a fantasy job, but it turns out that making all those Blizzards can be
draining. When Dairy Queen rolled out the Blizzard in
1985, the treat was available in four different mix-in flavors: Oreo, M&Ms, Heath Bars, and
Snickers. Ten flavors of syrup were available with 35
different menu combinations to choose from. The Blizzard machine cost each franchise around
$500 and its deafening whine was more than a little annoying. But the biggest pain of making Blizzards back
in the day was crushing up all those mix-ins. It’s very easy to buy pre-chopped candy today,
but that didn’t used to be the case. In fact, 30 years ago M&M/Mars flat out refused
to sell broken candy bars and cited that a “quality product” was a complete bar. The only alternative was for Dairy Queen employees
to spend hours crushing up the different mix-ins to meet the public’s Blizzard demands. Most Blizzard-lovers probably don’t realize
how close they came to losing their favorite flavors forever. All those great mix-ins like Heath, M&Ms,
and Snickers belong to the Mars candy company, and in 2016 somebody with way too much power
decided it wasn’t a good idea to partner with Dairy Queen. Mars suddenly grew a conscience concerning
how items like the Blizzard and McDonald’s McFlurry exceed in just a single serving the
daily amount of sugar that the U.S. government recommends per person. We’re not going to argue that an M&M Blizzard
isn’t loaded with sugar, but people generally know what they’re getting into when they order
ice cream mixed with a candy bar. Mars quickly took heat from critics who said
that the company was being hypocritical and silly since everything in the Blizzard was
all junk food to begin with. Mars eventually came to its senses, as you
can still find mix-ins like Heath and M&Ms on the Dairy Queen menu. You might think that Blizzards are one of
the most famous ice cream-based treats in the country, but it turns out, they’re not
made with real ice cream. That’s right, this delicious frozen treat
is an ice cream impostor. It’s still a very real dairy-based product,
but it can’t be categorized as ice cream, and that has to do with the Food and Drug
Administration regulations. The science geeks over at the FDA don’t take
their ice cream titles lightly. They require that for a product to technically
be called ice cream, it must contain at least 10 percent butterfat or milkfat. This is also why McDonald’s has “shakes” and
not “milkshakes.” Dairy Queen soft serve only contains half
the necessary butterfat to meet the ice cream requirement. There are also some specifics regarding air,
which is added to the soft serve to help it become a little lighter for the blending process,
which results in Blizzards melting quicker than your standard ice cream. If you’ve ever ordered a Blizzard, chances
are you’ve seen a Dairy Queen employee turn your treat upside down before handing it to
you. This somewhat bizarre practice of proving
just how thick the Blizzard is didn’t come about after a Dairy Queen brainstorm session. It turns out that Ted Drewes, whose custard
was the inspiration for the Blizzard, is also likely responsible for the upside down gimmick. In the late 1950s, a 14-year-old kid in St.
Louis by the name of Steve Gambler was a regular at Drewes Custard who routinely challenged
the business owner to thicken up his custard. Eventually, just to shut him up, Drewes handed
Gambler a custard upside down and asked him, “Is that thick enough for you?” Considering that Samuel Temperato took the
very idea of the Blizzard from Drewes, it’s not too much of a leap to figure that he also
took the ability to flip it from him, too. Making a Blizzard so thick that it can be
held upside down without spilling onto the floor might not be rocket science, but there
still is some science behind it. It’s all about temperature and viscosity. The soft serve is stored at exactly 23 degrees
Fahrenheit to ensure that it has the right texture. Emulsifiers, the magical ingredients that
slow down the melting process of ice cream, give it a very high viscosity, allowing it
to remain in its cup when flipped upside down. Dairy Queen of course wants to show off that
Blizzard science with the upside down test, and it could nab you a free treat. In 2015, the company announced that Blizzards
that were not served upside down would be free. The policy used to vary from store to store
depending on how the owner felt about pushing employees into odd customer interactions,
but in 2016, it was announced that the offer would even be available in drive-thru locations. “Whoa! Hahahaha! You get two free ones for that.” It turns out that an employee forgetting the
upside down test isn’t the only way to get a Blizzard for free. Dairy Queen occasionally runs promotions to
drum up excitement about its signature treat, and nothing gets people talking like free
ice cream. In 2018, the chain was giving away free Blizzards
in an effort to get people using its app. All folks had to do was download the app and
create an account to get a digital coupon for a free small Blizzard. “A Blizzard’s not a bad idea. That’s why I was showing pictures of snow.” “Yeah, right?” “Kind of thinking cool thoughts all the way
around.” Getting a free dessert for using an app is
fine and all, but it doesn’t compare to the wow factor that happened in 2010. To celebrate the treat’s 25th birthday, Dairy
Queen unveiled the Blizzard Mobile. This food truck went on a 25-city tour across
the lower 48 states and delivered more than 75,000 free mini Blizzards. If any proof was needed as to how popular
the Blizzard Mobile was, AdWeek summed it up perfectly with the headline, “DQ’s Blizzardmobile turns people into idiots.” There are a number of articles floating around
the internet that aim to end the debate once and for all regarding which Blizzard flavor
is the best. But what many of these rankings fail to take
into account is that in the United States, we’re not even getting the full taste of the
Blizzard’s true coat of many colors. The most popular Blizzard flavor in the United
States might be Oreo, but that’s not necessarily the case overseas. For Dairy Queen patrons in Asia, the green
tea Blizzard is all the rage. The company has been in China since 1990 and
now boasts more than 700 locations in country.that In fact, Dairy Queen is so big overseas that
they now serve 27 countries outside of the U.S. A big part of Dairy Queen’s success in the
foreign market has been finding the right flavors that could work in its existing menu
and still appeal to a different customer palette. As Kevin Lee, a former manager at DQ International,
told Fortune in 2013, “You have to get to know your customer and
offer flavors that cater to the local market. In northern China, people love strong flavors
but enjoy fruit-based desserts and less chocolate. In southern China, green tea-based flavors
are more popular, and there’s more consumption of chocolate, but it can’t be the central
flavor.” Should you ever be lucky enough to visit Dairy
Queen in another part of the world, you’ll be able to indulge in Blizzard flavors like
mango cheesecake and green tea almond. For the Blizzard’s first 30 years, it was
trucking along fine with different candies, cookies, and syrups blended into the soft
serve. Then something new and wonderful happened
in 2016. Dairy Queen decided to up its game and tunnel
out a cavity of the Blizzard and fill it up with fudge, strawberry jam, or whipped marshmallow,
calling the new offering the “Royal Blizzard.” Though it might sound a little bizarre, the
name “Royal Blizzard” was a marketing gimmick designed to capitalize on Queen Elizabeth’s
90th birthday. The customary red spoon was even temporarily
switched out with a sparkly gold one. Because, of course, the queen isn’t going
to use a common peasant’s red spoon when she enjoys her Blizzards. “Oh, there’s fudge in here?” “Oh yeah, the queen will devour this.” As instantly popular as the Royal Blizzard
was, Dairy Queen once again couldn’t take full credit for this idea. If the presence of an inner core of goodness
within your ice cream sounds familiar, that’s because Ben & Jerry’s did it first with its
line of Core ice creams in 2014. So even though the idea wasn’t 100 percent
a Dairy Queen original, it was still the company’s biggest innovation with the treat in three
decades, so kudos for that, DQ. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite
sweet treats are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

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