The untold truth of Baskin-Robbins

Is there anything better than a nice, creamy, cold ice cream treat on a hot day? Or a cold day? Or any day ever? Ice cream is the best, which is why we're so grateful that Baskin-Robbins exists. 

Whether you've tried all of its famous 31 flavors (spoiler alert: there are actually way more flavors than that!) or whether you have a one and only favorite that keeps bringing you back to the store, it's pretty much an undisputed fact that Baskin-Robbins rocks harder than their famous Rocky Road.

Even if you grew up eating at this ice cream franchise on the regular, there is probably a lot you don't know about it. From what goes into the ice cream, to the two ice cream fanatics who started the business, there is a lot more to learn about Baskin-Robbins. We took a deep dive into the history and the mystery behind one of the best-known ice cream shops in the world to give you the real scoop.

This is the untold truth of Baskin-Robbins.

Baskin and Robbins were brothers-in-law

Some in-laws find it difficult to tolerate each other long enough to get through Thanksgiving dinner, so starting a business venture together is usually out of the question. Luckily Burton "Burt" Baskin and Irvine "Irv" Robbins had one passion in common that united them forever: ice cream.

Robbins was the son of a dairyman and came of age in his family's ice cream store, scooping up ice cream and happiness to customers all over Tacoma, Washington. He joined the army during World War II, and when he got out in 1945, his passion for ice cream led him to found the Snowbird Ice Cream store in Glendale, California.

Baskin, who was married to Shirley, Robbins' sister, had the same idea. He founded Burton's Ice Cream in Pasadena, California a year later and by 1948, the duo had combined their stores to create one chain that would one day be the most famous ice cream chain in the nation. They flipped a coin to see whose name would come first on the sign, and the rest is Baskin-Robbins history.

Robbins' son gave up the family business to become vegan

Growing up surrounded by ice cream everywhere you look is every kid's dream, right? Well, not for John Robbins. As the one and only son of Baskin-Robbins co-founder Irvine Robbins, John was set to inherit the family business. The entire ice cream empire his father and uncle had built would be his... only he didn't want it.

When it came to his childhood of almost ridiculous, cold, creamy excess, Robbins said "there was a lot that I enjoyed." But as he grew older, he realized that the ice cream business wasn't for him. "The more I learned about the health implications of ice cream, and the more I learned about how the cows were treated [on dairy farms], the less enjoyment I took and the more concerned I felt," he continued. 

He knew his father would be disappointed, but he left the family business behind and blazed a trail that was all his own. He became a vegan and ventured away from the family, where he met his wife, Deo. They built their own cabin on an island in Canada, where he started his own farm. The couple and their family have been living off the land ever since. 

With no heir to the ice cream cone throne, his father was forced to sell the company to an outside buyer, United Fruit. John Robbins will always have a connection to the company, though: he is the creator of one of the store's most famous flavors, Jamoca Almond Fudge.

There are a lot more than 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins

When you think "Baskin-Robbins," you automatically think "31 flavors." It is the company's gimmick, and was meant to imply that they had so many different flavors that you could try a new one every day of the month. 

Irvine Robbins loved inventing ice cream flavors that were fun (like ChaChaCha, otherwise known as cherry chocolate chip), goofy (like Plum Nuts), and had connections to current events (Lunar Cheesecake was introduced in 1969, one day after America put a man on the moon), so it is no surprise that in actuality, there are a lot more than 31 flavors to be sampled at this beloved ice cream store.

In fact, more than 1,300 flavors have been introduced to the world via the Baskin-Robbins empire. They aren't all available all the time, but this huge variety of tastes ensures that there is something out there for everyone. 

It is thanks to the brilliant minds of Baskin and Robbins that we have more than just vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream to put in our bowls and cones, and our sweet tooths are eternally grateful!

Today, Baskin-Robbins is owned by the same brand as Dunkin'

Not long after Baskin and Robbins united their individual ice cream shops to officially form Baskin-Robbins, they started opening franchises all over the country. At the present moment, it boasts locations in over 40 countries all around the world, with that number growing all the time. The stores all sell the famous 31 flavors (which change from location to location and vary during the year), and they also sell ice cream cakes, sherbet, milkshakes, and even frozen yogurt for the folks who want to eat (a bit) healthier. 

It is no surprise then, that the company co-founded by Irvine Robbins is now owned by a parent company with a similar sweet tooth: Dunkin' Brands

If that name sounds familiar, it is because it is also the parent company of Dunkin' (formerly known as Dunkin' Donuts), one of America's favorite suppliers of breakfast sweets. 

At the time of this writing, the Baskin-Robbins franchise is ranked 12th out of the top 500 franchises in the world, so it's fair to say that this merger was a pretty sweet deal.

Baskin-Robbins' Plum Nut flavor was invented in response to an insult

Many of Baskin-Robbins' flavors have a cute or funny story behind them, but the award for the best ice cream origin story goes to Plum Nuts. This vanilla ice cream features — you guessed it — plums and walnuts mixed into vanilla ice cream, and is a consistent favorite among fans. No one would ever know, though, that it was invented as a witty response to what could have very easily been construed as an insult.

According to the official Baskin-Robbins website, a boy came into a Baskin-Robbins store one day and said to Baskin, "Whoever thinks of all these flavors must be plumb nuts!" Instead of being offended, Baskin was inspired. "Congratulations," he said, "You just invented a new flavor: Plum Nuts."

Robbins wasn't too shabby at coming up with ice cream flavors on the spot either. When a Washington Post reporter called to ask him if he had any flavors planned to honor the arrival of the Beatles in America at the height of "Beatlemania," he was caught off guard. Within seconds, though, he replied "Uh, Beatle Nut, of course." Within five days, the flavor was on the shelf and Beatles fans had even more to fangirl and (fanboy) over.

Baskin-Robbins invented Pralines 'n Cream — and drove the country crazy with it

It is hard to imagine a world without pralines and cream ice cream in it, but that world existed up until Irvine Robbins and his wife, Irma, brought some pralines back from a trip to New Orleans in 1970. As they were munching on the sweet-tasting nuts, they were suddenly struck by an inspiration that would change the ice cream industry forever.

They ran to the kitchen, got out some vanilla ice cream and tossed in the pralines with a ribbon of caramel to invent Pralines 'n Cream. Once the new flavor was in stores, it was a huge success. Unfortunately, Pralines 'n Cream was originally a limited-run item, leading to what basically amounted to a national crisis. 

Baskin-Robbins franchise locations started receiving pleas and petitions with hundreds of signatures on them from hungry people, begging for more Pralines 'n Cream. Students in Santa Barbara, California picketed their local stores, demanding the flavor's return. Dear Abby's advice column in the national newspaper even joined in, pleading for more Pralines 'n Cream. 

In the end, Baskin-Robbins had to make a special production run to give fans what they wanted, and the flavor has been a constant in all Baskin-Robbins stores ever since. 

Baskin-Robbins' best-selling flavors are the classics

When it comes to an ice cream store with more than 1,300 flavor options, it is hard to pick a favorite. Many Baskin-Robbins flavors are whacky and full of fruits and candies and other fun add-ins that people love to try, but at the end of the day the most popular flavors are actually the tamer ones. 

According to Baskin-Robbins' website, the top five best-selling flavors of all time are vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, Pralines 'n Cream, and chocolate chip. 

You might be surprised to see vanilla at the top of this list, because it seems a bit "blah," but people always seem to appreciate the more subtle approach of the classics. Trendy flavors may come and go, but the ones people come back for are the ones that are constant, consistent, and reliably delicious. 

Many ice cream fans even choose these flavors time and time again instead of sampling new ones because they know from experience they are going to be yummy. Why take a risk when you could stick with what you already know is awesome?

Thankfully, not all Baskin-Robbins flavors make it to customers

The team at Baskin-Robbins has an unrivaled talent for creating new ice cream flavors that are as fun as they are tasty. What you might not know, however, is that not all of the flavors they come up with make it to market — and that's for a very good reason. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, Burton Baskin and Irvine Robbins would come up with hundreds of new ice cream flavors a year at their factory in Burbank, California, but fewer than 10 of those yearly incentions ever saw the light of day. 

No matter how much of an ice cream genius you are (and Baskin and Robbins definitely were), not all ideas are good ideas, and it takes wisdom to know that flavors like Lox and Bagels (lox is a type of salmon, by the way) and Grape Britain wouldn't sell well in stores.

Arguably, the most off-putting flavor that never made it out of the Baskin-Robbins lab was one that sounds like it never should have been invented in the first place: ketchup-flavored ice cream. Even adding a cutesy name — which they surely would have come up with — can't change the fact that this vinegary, tangy sauce is for burgers, not for ice cream cones!

Robbins was REALLY into ice cream

For Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins, ice cream wasn't just a business: it was life. These two guys loved ice cream more than some people love their spouses, and they had some pretty eccentric ideas about how to incorporate it into their daily lives. 

Robbins, for example, would have his family sit around the dinner table and taste-test his new product ideas, which seems normal enough. But what's a little less normal is the fact that he also had an ice cream cone-shaped pool built in his backyard. Thank goodness he stopped short of filling it with Pralines 'n Cream (as far as we know!).

Robbins would also put ice cream on his cereal for breakfast in the mornings, and would go through "a quart of ice cream every two or three days." Talk about dedication to one's craft! In spite of all this ice cream eating, Robbins still lived to the ripe old age of 90 years old, and spent his extra money and time on fun things like classic cars and his own boat, which, of course, he called the 32nd Flavor.

Only two Baskin-Robbins flavors aren't kosher

For some followers of the Jewish faith, keeping kosher can be quite challenging at times. It can feel like you can't eat anything "fun," and that you always have to be paying attention to what ingredients are in the foods you do eat, and to how they are put together. 

Many times, foods from restaurants or shops are not kosher, meaning that they aren't prepared or eaten in a way that fits into the Jewish dietary law, so your options for eating out can be limited. In fact, only about a third of foods found in most grocery stores can be considered kosher. Fortunately for ice cream lovers who have to keep kosher, though, Baskin-Robbins has your back.

According to KosherQuest.org, the only two ice cream flavors from Baskin-Robbins that are not kosher are Rocky Road and Pink Bubble Gum. This means that followers of Judaism can choose literally any one (or every one!) of the other Baskin-Robbins flavors and be safe to fully enjoy it without breaking any rules. 

It is not clear what is un-kosher about the two flavors mentioned, but The Daily Meal suggests that it could be the gelatin that is used to make them.

One Baskin-Robbins flavor had to be pulled after a gruesome promotion in Japan

When Burton Baskin and Irvine Robbins introduced new Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors to the public, they were usually big hits with fans everywhere. In one case, though, a new flavor got out of hand, and had to be pulled from stores in a hurry. 

In theory, the flavor was a fairly innocuous one. Robbins named it Cold Duck Ice, and it was meant to taste like cold duck sparkling wine. Sounds innocent enough, right?

Unfortunately, Baskin-Robbins managers in Japan interpreted the flavor in an entirely different way and decided to promote it by hanging literal cold ducks up in their stores. These dead ducks dangled from the ceiling like some sort of macabre Christmas decorations, and Baskins and Robbins were horrified. 

Robbins was quoted as saying that when they found out about it, "We almost collapsed." That was the end of the Cold Duck Ice advertising in Japan... and the end of the then-controversial new flavor.

Baskin-Robbins uses freeze-resistant formulas on their ice cream add-ins

When you start a new business, especially one which involves as much invention and creation of new flavors and textures as Baskin-Robbins does, you are bound to come across a few problems every now and then. One of the biggest problems that popped up in the Baskin-Robbins lab went by a name that sounds anything but troublesome: Goody Goody Gumdrops.

While honing this new flavor, which includes, as the name implies, chewy gumdrops, Irvine Robbins discovered that once the candies had been frozen in the ice cream, they became extremely hard and difficult to eat. 

Not wanting to break his customers' teeth (thanks for that!), Robbins had his team come up with freeze-resistant formulas to keep things like gumdrops, peanut butter, coffee, chocolate chips, and bubble gum from freezing while in the ice cream, ensuring that no one had to suffer while trying to enjoy a delicious scoop of candy-packed goodness. 

This step in ice cream creation revolutionized the ice cream business, and led to an experience that was a lot more enjoyable than the ones at some other ice cream stores, where even to this day you still have to work much too hard to chew up the add-ins. We salute your efforts, Mr. Robbins — and so do our teeth!