What you don't know about Wendy's famous Frosty

Be honest. How many of you have chosen to have lunch at Wendy's because you were more interested in having a Frosty than in the burger and fries?

We're guessing most of you — no matter how much you like Wendy's burgers and fries — have done this at least once. (We freely admit to having done this … but we're not admitting how many times.)

Burgers and milkshakes have gone together for almost as long as fast food restaurants and burger joints have been a part of the American landscape. But the Frosty stands alone, thanks both to its unique texture, it's never-ending nostalgia, and the fact that it has its very own brand name.

No matter how many times you've grabbed a plastic spoon and eaten a Frosty, we're guessing there are several things you don't know about this irresistible treat. Keep reading to find out the untold truth of the Frosty.

The Frosty was on the original Wendy's menu

Wendy's founder Dave Thomas had learned how a simple menu helped with sales when he managed a few Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in the early 1960s in Columbus, Ohio. When he cut down on the number of items on the menu at those KFCs, customers more easily understood how to order and the sales improved.

When Thomas opened the first Wendy's in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969, he carried over the same idea of a simple menu. At Wendy's, that original menu consisted of five items: hamburgers, chili, french fries, soft drinks, and the Frosty. The original chocolate Frosty (and the rest of those first five items) remains on the Wendy's dessert menu today.

Shelly Thobe, director of culinary innovation at Wendy's, told Thrillist that people have probably been dipping their fries into their Frostys for just as long. "It's just one of those things that people have been doing since Dave Thomas invented the Frosty. It's an underground, magic pairing that took off on its own," she said.

The temperature is key

Part of the appeal of the Frosty is its unique texture. It's not quite a milkshake, and it's not quite soft-serve ice cream.

Dave Thomas wanted a dessert that mimicked the extremely thick milkshakes he loved as a kid — but he wanted it to require a spoon, not a straw. And he succeeded when he created the Frosty. (If you want to experience a significant level of frustration, just try eating your next Frosty through a straw; this is a spoon-only type of dessert.)

"There is nothing quite like the taste and texture of the Frosty," Ian Rowden, Wendy's former executive vice president said in an interview. 

To maintain the desired thickness and texture, Wendy's serves the Frosty at between 19 and 21 degrees Fahrenheit. It's up to you whether you can finish it before it moves out of that magic temperature range.

Inflation has been kind to the Frosty

The Frosty on the original Wendy's menu cost only 35 cents. And although the current price is nearly triple what it was 49 years ago, the Frosty remains a reasonable value. Today, a small Frosty costs about $1 at regular price (at most locations), though frequent promotions often make it even less expensive

At just $1, the Frosty has remained a reasonably priced fast food dessert option versus its competitors. For example, a small Blizzard from Dairy Queen currently costs an average of $3.69, which is almost $1 higher than it was just one decade ago. The Frosty's regular price is only 64 cents more than it was five decades ago.

The original McDonald's milkshake was 20 cents in the 1950s, but a small milkshake runs $2.19 today on average at McDonald's, or 11 times higher. And you know there's no beating something that's both delicious and cheap.

You'll never hack the Frosty formula

If you want to try to hack the Wendy's Frosty formula, there are plenty of web sites that give you advice on trying to duplicate the Frosty formula at home.

Wendy's lists the ingredients for the Frosty online, so this part is no secret. However, most of the ingredients (like artificial flavorings and guar gum) aren't ones you probably keep in your pantry — and good luck finding out how much you need of each. Most of the at-home recipes include things like chocolate milk and ice cream machines, and they might get you close, but there's nothing like the real thing. If you want Frostys on-demand, it's best to just take a trip to Wendy's and fill your freezer.

Even though Wendy's won't unveil its exact formula, interestingly, the current Wendy's formula is nearly identical to the original formula from 1969. "The only difference is that ice cream has a large amount of butterfat, so we've lowered the [percentage] of butterfat in our Frostys to meet customer demand," Denny Lynch, former senior vice president of communications at Wendy's, explained.

Even the chocolate Frosty has a bit of vanilla in it

Something as sinfully chocolate as the original Frosty must be made from pure chocolaty goodness, right? Actually, no. The introduction of the vanilla Frosty in 2006 is not the first time vanilla has touched your beloved chocolate Frosty… it's been there all along. 

When he created the Frosty in 1969, Thomas wanted the dessert to have a light chocolate flavor that wouldn't overwhelm the taste of the burgers for his customers. So he instructed his supplier to mix chocolate and vanilla dairy products to create the mild flavor of the chocolate Frosty.

In fact, in the early days of franchising Wendy's restaurants, not every location had constant access to Frosty mix, thanks to supply chain challenges. When that happened, the restaurants were instructed to use a 50/50 mix of vanilla and chocolate soft serve mix to create the Frosty until they were able to get their hands on the official Frosty mix.

Only the vanilla Frosty survived Wendy's experimentation phase

Although the chocolate Frosty has been incredibly popular on its own, selling around 300 million treats annually by the mid-2000s, Wendy's expanded the original formula many times in the past several years, offering new iterations of the Frosty.

The vanilla Frosty survived, but many Frosty varieties were short-lived. We're guessing you don't remember all of these:

  • Strawberry Frosty shake: The strawberry Frosty shake was part of the hand-spun Frosty shake options in 2008. These Frostys, which also were offered in vanilla and chocolate, were more like a traditional milkshake with whipped cream, a cherry… and a straw. 
  • Twisted Frosty: Twisted Frostys appeared initially in 2007 but were gone by 2011. They involved mixing chunks of M&Ms, coffee toffee, Oreo, or cookie dough into a Frosty. (The Blizzard says hi.)
  • Frosty Parfait: The Frosty Parfaits did not last long after an introduction in 2011, featuring flavors like caramel apple, Oreo, and wild berry.
  • Frosty Float: The Frosty Float, which mixed a Frosty with a soft drink, appeared in the United States briefly in 2007. If you were a fan, this treat remains on the menu in New Zealand, where it's also called a Frosty Spider.
  • Frosty Waffle Cone: Wendy's began serving a Frosty in an edible waffle cone in the late 2000s. The fact that it's not quite as firm as soft serve should let you know why it didn't work — you had a sloppy mess on your hands in seconds.

Wendy's didn't trademark the name Frosty until 2013

Although the Frosty has been around since the beginning, Wendy's didn't trademark the name until recently. David Lizerbram & Associates says Wendy's did not file a federal trademark application until 2013 regarding the brand name Frosty.

Soon after, Wendy's filed a lawsuit against United Dairy Farmers, which was selling a frozen dairy product called "Frosties" made for consumption at home. The packaging of Frosties consisted of a yellow background with red lettering — and looked strangely familiar.

"(United Dairy Farmers) has deliberately and unlawfully appropriated plaintiffs' intellectual property rights through its sale of dairy dessert products under the marks 'Frosties' and 'Frosty Malts,' some of which also use a confusingly similar red and yellow packaging trade dress to that used by plaintiffs," Wendy's claimed in the suit.

The Lizerbram law firm says Wendy's may have been unsure of its chances to obtain a trademark on the name Frosty, because it has been used unofficially by so many different mom-and-pop restaurants for ice cream and frozen treats for decades. But the yellow and red packaging for the United Dairy Farmers' Frosties treat was just too much to ignore.

The two eventually settled the lawsuit late in 2013, when United Dairy Farmers agreed to stop using the Frosties name.

There's a 5K Fun Run with a Frosty waiting for the finishers

If you love Frostys, but feel a little guilty about all the calories, we have the perfect option in the Wendy's Frosty 5K fun run and walk in Columbus, Ohio. Exercise first, then enjoy a guilt-free Frosty!

When you pay an entry fee and sign up for the Wendy's Frosty 5K, which normally occurs in July, you'll receive a T-shirt, finisher's medal, and, best of all, a Frosty at the finish line. In the 2018 race, runners received a Frosty Key Tag too.

If you're now feeling a little sad that you don't live in the Columbus area, you still can participate in the race. The race organizers allow a "virtual" registration for the race, where you sign up and pay the entry fee as if you were going to be in Columbus. However, you then run or walk the 5K distance in your home city, and you'll receive a t-shirt in the mail. (You won't receive a Frosty in the virtual race … unless you manage to map out a 5K course that happens to finish at the door of your local Wendy's.)

In 2018, the race had more than 800 participants and raised $110,000 for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

They have a lot of calories — but they beat the competition

If you try to have success with maintaining your weight by following the USDA's daily calorie intake guidelines of roughly 1,800 to 2,400 calories for most adults, you may not want to order the large chocolate Frosty, as it carries 590 calories. That's more than a quarter of your recommended daily intake.

Even though the Frosty carries a lot of calories, it still manages to outperform many other sweet treats you'll find at fast food restaurants.

Maybe go with the small chocolate Frosty at 350 calories, or the small vanilla Frosty at 340 calories. Compared to all those other choices, you should feel pretty great about that selection.