The Real Difference Between Slurpees And ICEEs

Necessity is the mother of invention, but fortuitous accidents often play a role in creating the products we now consider iconic. The ICEE (and thus its 7-Eleven spinoff, the Slurpee) combines a little bit of both.

Back in 1958, Omar Knedlik, who owned a Dairy Queen outpost in Coffeyville, Kansas, found that storing sodas in the freezer created a slush-like concoction, thanks to the drinks' high sugar content, and overheated summertime customers loved the result (via Medium). Knedlik then did some tinkering to create the earliest version of the machine that could chill and dispense this new frozen carbonated beverage, rigging up a contraption from used car parts designed for air-conditioning (via Eater).

As Mental Floss explains, the word "ICEE" was invented via a contest in which Knedlik asked for name suggestions — another lucky break, since his initial idea, according to Medium, was the awkward-sounding Scoldasice. Behind the scenes, he worked with a Dallas-based manufacturer to fine-tune the machine itself.

The ICEE maker made its way to select convenience stores by the early 1960s, and in 1965, 7-Eleven licensed the technology for its own chain. However, the 7-Eleven version needed a new name, and the company's ad director landed on Slurpee, inspired by the sound it makes when sipping.

The ICEE and Slurpee diverge

In 2017, The ICEE Company (established in Los Angeles in 1967) celebrated its 50-year mark, looking back on more than 150 flavors over the years and its longstanding presence in outlets like movie theaters, shopping malls, and amusement parks. J&J Snack Foods, makers of Superpretzel and other snack-like treats (including Slush Puppies), purchased the ICEE brand in 1987, and by 2017 was selling about 500 million drinks per year, with Cherry, Blue Raspberry, and Coca-Cola topping the sales charts.

Slurpee, too, counts Coca-Cola and Wild Cherry as its most popular flavors, and sells an average of 14 million per month (via Reader's Digest). But, ultimately, the ICEE and Slurpee are the same product; the difference resides only in where they are sold (via CulinaryLore). The Slurpee is confined to 7-Eleven, while the ICEE is found across a range of businesses — and, in a taste test performed by LA Weekly, reviewers detected zero difference among the two brands' cherry flavors.

The Slurpee has arguably made a bigger mark in pop culture, now celebrated on July 11, or "7-Eleven Day," when thousands of U.S. locations pour more than 9 million cups of the frosty beverage to cool down customers. But without the ICEE, the Slurpee may have never come to frozen fruition. It's only appropriate to raise our spoon-straws to both.