The Untold Truth Of Klondike Ice Cream

The Klondike bar is a classic frozen treat known for its iconic square slice of vanilla ice cream coated with a chocolate shell. It's hard to miss the foil-paper wrappers that glint under the fluorescent lights in the freezer aisle. In 2022, Klondike will celebrate its centennial year. It's come a long way since it debuted at only 10 cents each in Mansfield, Ohio (via York Daily Record). Klondike currently offers several other products such as ice cream sandwiches, cones, shakes, and other unique novelties, but its best-selling product is still the original vanilla bar — about 98 million of them were sold in 2021 (via Penn Live).

Klondike provides quality, creamy ice cream in all of its products and the snap of chocolate you get from biting into the fabled bar is unlike anything else. It's hard to resist. There is a lot of history behind the brand. You might be surprised by some of the fun Klondike facts we dug up. For instance, did you know that the Klondike name was inspired by the Klondike region of the frigid Canadian Yukon, where a prominent gold rush took place in the 1890s (via Klondike Canada)? You won't find gold in these ice cream treats, but you'll find a whole lot of frozen deliciousness.

Klondike originated from the Isaly's company

You can't talk about Klondike without talking about Isaly's. William Isaly, a son of Swiss immigrants, was from Mansfield, Ohio, and founded his own milk company in 1902 called the Mansfield Pure Milk Company. According to the Mansfield News Journal, he started selling his first ice cream products after he had acquired two additional milk companies in the area. Soon, Isaly began opening Isaly's Dairy Company stores, which sold deli meats, cheese, and of course the famous "Skyscraper" ice cream cones (via Isaly's).

It was in 1922 that the Klondike bar was first introduced in Ohio. It was originally served on a stick. Employees at the Mansfield manufacturing plant, called "Klondike girls," were in charge of operating a machine that dipped the slices of homemade ice cream into the chocolate to create a thick shell that would snap when you bit into it. The novelty was only sold in Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Isaly's operated most of its shops. Early flavors included vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, grape, maple, and cherry. A member of the Isaly family is credited with inventing the Polarmatic machine which produced Klondike bars at a faster rate—75 per minute (via York Daily Record). Over the decades, the company kept expanding its operations. It began distributing its products nationwide in the 1980s.

Some people took the iconic slogan too far

Wide Open Eats writes that Klondike's expansion to Florida, New England, and eventually all other states, allowed for the special novelty to reach a new audience of ice cream cravers. The nationwide launch in 1982 was accompanied by an iconic slogan — "What would you do for a Klondike bar?" (via Klondike Bar). It challenged consumers for decades in a fun way by suggesting lighthearted dares — would a man have his chest hair waxed for one? (via Baer Performance Marketing). According to PR Newswire, the slogan disappeared for several years but it was reintroduced in 2019 with a hidden camera-style ad campaign that starred actress Anna Faris. One commercial featured a focus group where Faris asked parents if they'd give up naming rights to their babies in exchange for a lifetime supply of the ice cream. 

It turns out that some people would do some surprisingly dark things for a Klondike bar. Per Atlas Obscura, a few crimes have been associated with the treat. One man in Scranton, Pennsylvania robbed a home and ran off with a box of Klondike bars. Another man from Brownwood, Texas was arrested for physically assaulting a family member because they ate all of his Klondike bars. What would you do for a Klondike bar? Hopefully, just go to the store and buy some.

The classic Klondike bar is still going strong today

You've seen Klondike products in the freezer section of your local grocery store, and the classic bars stand out. There's a reason for that—the packaging was purposely meant to be different so that it wouldn't blend in with the other products in the frozen section. Klondike bars are packed six per rectangular carton and the trademark silver foil wrappers are easily visible through the transparent plastic wrap. According to Delish, the best-selling Klondike bar flavor is the original vanilla, but the company makes dozens of other products. It's no surprise there are so many since the Klondike brand aims to introduce one new product each year.

There are currently eight flavors of the classic bar listed on the official Klondike website. Some of these flavors are refreshing mint chocolate chip, cookies & creme, double chocolate (with chocolate ice cream), and Reese's. Brian Butko, a Pittsburgh author of the book "Isaly's Chipped Ham, Klondikes, and Other Tales from Behind the Counter", posted in a Facebook group that Isaly's used to include special pink and gold ice cream centers in some of its Klondike bars that acted as a "lucky coupon" to award the customer with a free Klondike treat.

Klondike comes out with new products frequently

Klondike is always experimenting with new products. In 2022, it introduced a few new flavors to its line of Klondike Cones, including Coocoo for Caramel, which features caramel ice cream with a central core of caramel sauce in a wafer cone. The other flavors include Cookies 'n Creme, Reese's, and vanilla caramel (via PR Newswire). The Klondike cones were initially released in 2021, along with Klondike Shakes, according to Food Business NewsKlondike Shakes are a nod to traditional milkshake flavors but with creative names such as Chill Out & Vanilla and Wind Down & Chocolate. The shakes come in fun, squeezable single-serve pouches.

Klondike added a third sake flavor, Sit Back & Strawberry, later in 2021. It was released as a partnership with the game company Heads Up! The company made a three-minute game called "Shake It Up" that gave consumers something to do while the Klondike Shake softened for consumption. Players who completed the game received a $3 off coupon for a Klondike Shake product (via Guilty Eats).

The trademark wrapper was almost stolen by Kraft

Klondike's nationwide success didn't come without a fight. In 1978 when its major distribution was just beginning, Isaly's reached a distribution deal with Kraft Foods in order to expand its market reach into Florida and eventually other states. According to Tedium, Kraft wanted to buy the rights to Klondike outright instead of just distributing the bars, but Isaly's refused. Kraft pulled out of the partnership and created its own knock-off Klondike bar. It was called Polar B'ar and was almost an exact replica, from the vanilla ice cream center and chocolate shell to the foil wrapper it was packaged in with the image of a polar bear. Isaly's quickly filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement. Kraft lost and ended up paying a hefty $8.5 million penalty for trademark violations.

According to AP News, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Klondike's brand and forced Kraft to stop using the foil wrapping design. The case went as far as the Supreme Court, who also ruled in favor of Klondike and deemed Kraft's copycat "confusingly similar" as per consumer testimony. The lawsuit, which is available to read in full on Open Jurist, states that Kraft had supplied two design firms with Klondike packaging and wrappers in order to duplicate them.

Is Klondike a Pittsburgh thing? Sort of.

Isaly's stores are iconic in the Pittsburgh area. Isaly's began in Ohio but found its way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1930 (via Pittsburgh Magazine). Eventually, Pittsburgh became home to more Isaly's shops than anywhere else and Klondike treats became as synonymous with Pittsburgh as the Steelers' Terrible Towel and Mr. Rogers.

The Pittsburgh-born businessman Henry Clarke also plays a large role in the Klondike story. His company, Clabir, bought Isaly's in the 1970s. It was through this major acquisition that Klondike bars went from being an exclusive treat in Ohio and Pennsylvania to a nationally-renowned ice cream brand and household name. The Greenwich Daily Voice reported that because of Clarke's work in bringing Klondike products to the rest of the country, sales of the beloved bar skyrocketed from $800,000 to over $60 million per year. 

Clabir Corp. eventually sold the Klondike brand to Good Humor-Breyers, which itself was part of Unilever (via Wish 99.7). Pittsburgh Magazine says that most Isaly's shops no longer exist, but Isaly's products such as ham and ice cream are still sold in grocery stores.

Klondike has ice cream donuts and they are glorious

Do you need an excuse to have dessert for breakfast? Klondike launched a line of Klondike Donut Bars in 2020. They weren't actually donuts, nor did they contain any bits of fried pastry. Instead, the flavors were inspired by some of the most tasty donut flavors — Boston cream pie, strawberry, and chocolate. They were decorated with an icing drizzle, rainbow sprinkles, and a hole in the center so that they looked like the real deal, albeit with a square shape that maintained the iconic Klondike look (via Click 2 Houston). There was also a coffee flavor called Wake Me Up Coffee which was intended to combine the classic breakfast duo of a cup of coffee and a donut, but in dessert form (via Foodsided). 

Klondike posted a brilliant hack on its Instagram page that suggests using one of its ice cream donuts like a hot chocolate bomb by placing it in a mug and slowly pouring warm milk over top of it. The chocolate shell will melt first and then it will give way to the creamy ice cream center that will melt together and create a one-of-a-kind Klondike hot chocolate.

You can take a quiz to find out which Klondike flavor best suits you

The Klondike brand has been known for its interactive marketing since the beginning, from surprise ice cream centers that awarded customers with a free treat to its famous slogan that challenged customers to prove their Klondike love. The Klondike website features a quiz that you can take in order to find out which Klondike product you are most like. In only six short questions, it promises to provide an answer with "99.997% accuracy." All of the questions center around Klondike products and ice cream in general, such as, "Who do you buy Klondikes for?" and "What nutritional benefits are you most looking for in ice cream?"

The interactive marketing doesn't end with a quiz or a challenge — Klondike's social media pages feature a number of posts geared towards interacting with its fans, including contests. The brand ran a promotion called "Klondate" that mimicked a vintage phone-dating service (via Instagram). Consumers were encouraged to call a number and leave a humorous message about what they like most about Klondike. The winner earned a month's supply of their favorite product. The brand's Twitter presence focuses on posts that encourage consumers to reply and share discussion-based tweets. Even though the Klondike brand is 100 years old, it's a pro in the social media marketing game.

Klondike has delicious 'healthier' versions

Can ice cream be healthy? It's a question that many people wish had a positive answer. However, Klondike might be on the right track. Eat This, Not That! ranked Klondike's Classic Vanilla as the number one pick for the best-tasting ice cream sandwich. They noted that the product uses light ice cream that eliminates 65% of fat content compared to traditional ice cream without sacrificing any of the flavor and creamy texture. This treat includes melt-in-your-mouth, somewhat "fluffy" tasting ice cream that is sandwiched between the two chocolate cake-thins. According to the nutritional facts from Klondike, the Classic Vanilla Sandwich has 180 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 17 grams of sugar. All in all, that's not too bad for a frozen treat.

Klondike also has a section dedicated to "Smarter Treats" on its website. Its mini line of products is a way to enjoy the classic Klondike bar but in a smaller size that comes in at only 120 calories. It currently offers minis in original vanilla and Reese's flavors. Per Delish, other flavors in the past have included mint chocolate and double chocolate. It also currently offers two ice cream bars without any added sugar in vanilla and Krunch flavors.

It owns another popular, nostalgic treat

If you never knew that the Choco Taco was part of the Klondike brand, you do now (via Eater). The Choco Taco was invented in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1983 by Alan Drazen. Before it became part of Klondike, it was an exclusive ice cream truck treat from the local company Jack & Jill. The idea came to Drazen because Mexican cuisine had been rising in popularity at the time. He wanted to out-do the other prepackaged ice cream cones by providing a novelty that had chocolate, nuts, marbled ice cream, and cone in every single bite. Choco Taco found its way to Klondike about a decade later when Unilever bought Jack & Jill's parent company, Gold Bond (not the skincare brand).

The treat has no real components of an authentic taco but rather is sweet, cold, and refreshing all the way through. The Choco Taco was designed to fill the need for a unique item in Jack & Jill's product line and if you ask us, it succeeded at exactly that. Drazen sometimes tries to make its origin story more interesting by saying he envisioned the Choco Taco while stranded in the Mexican Desert (via NPR). There's no need for made-up backstories when this treat stands on its own as a delicious summer staple.

It's one of the most popular ice cream brands

Klondike rules the ice cream novelty space. According to Statista, the Klondike bar was the most-used ice cream novelty product in 2020, with over 38 million U.S. consumers opting for it over competitors.

While Klondike bars are available at supermarkets, they're also a quintessential ice cream truck staple. Seaside Vacations posted a mega list of the most popular ice cream truck treats in every state. They used data from Google search trends to compile the list. Klondike products accounted for 12 states' favorite treats — the classic Klondike bar reigned supreme in nine states while the nostalgic Choco Taco claimed three states. Nationwide, the Klondike bar the most popular ice cream truck treat overall, just beating out Firecracker popsicles and its own Choco Taco, which were tied at number two. Non-Klondike treats that took up other top spots were ice cream sandwiches, Drumsticks, and Spongebob Ice Cream Pops.

It created an ice cream cone chair

Freezing cold ice cream might not be the first thing you think about when choosing a cozy place to sit. You'll more than likely be eating the treat rather than sitting on it. That would be uncomfortable. But what about an ice cream cone-shaped chair? Klondike created a one-of-a-kind hanging chair called the Klondike Cone Zone for the purpose of providing a cozy, distraction-free getaway in your own home. You can hide away inside the waffle cone-patterned tent while kicking back on top of the ice cream swirl seat and forgetting about everything else for a little while. 50 lucky fans had the opportunity to win one via a sweepstakes on Klondike's Twitter page back in early 2021 (via PR Newswire).

The chair opens like a typical camping tent and has the appearance of an inverted Klondike waffle cone with a luscious ice cream spiral and toppings. According to Trend Hunter, the chair was designed by Edelman and Bednark Studio. The Klondike Cone Zone garnered pop culture media attention by being promoted on the late-night television program, "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Kimmel and Guillermo Rodriguez ate real Klondike Cones on-air while sitting in Cone Zone chairs.

Klondike made real candy bars

Ice cream and candy — is your sweet tooth aching yet? Klondike's lineup of products features several notable mashups with well-known chocolate candy brands. Per Foodsided, one Klondike Cone flavor incorporates Reese's peanut butter candy. For those who prefer rich toffee candy, the brand has also teamed up with Heath to create a decadent flavor combination of chocolate and English toffee mixed in with vanilla ice cream.

While the brand has long been famous for its signature ice cream bars, at one point it dabbled in the business of non-frozen candy bars as well. In 2013, it released its take on chocolate candy bars, The Candy, with indulgent flavors such as caramel and mint chocolate chip, according to Taquitos. The packaging was similar to its original ice cream products with foil-like wrappers. In 2014, it shrunk the bars to mini bite-size candies that were available in sea salt caramel and chocolate fudge (via Candy & Snack Today). It seems like these products didn't hold up in the competitive chocolate bar market. They're no longer listed on Klondike's official website.

Free ice cream for a vaccine

When you were young, did you ever receive a lollipop from the doctor after getting a shot? It was intended to be a little reward for your bravery and to show that shots weren't such a scary thing. Klondike took this idea and ran with it by offering a free treat for people who received the COVID-19 vaccine. Unilever's goal was to raise awareness of vaccine hesitancy in the U.S., especially in cities such as Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, and others.

On May 14, 2021, its annual Day of Service, Unilever teamed up with Covid-19 vaccination sites in select states to offer free Klondike treats and popsicles to people getting their shot. The Unilever U.S. vice president of ice cream, Russel Lilly, stated that recovering from the pandemic by getting the vaccine "calls for a sweet celebration" which should involve an ice cream treat. The treats, which included the squeezable Klondike Shakes, were also available to workers and volunteers at the vaccine sites. Unilever also donated more than $25 million to communities in need during 2020 when the U.S. experienced widespread lockdown measures (via Unilever USA).