Why You Love Dipping Wendy's Fries Into Frosties, According To Science

Having boosted sales in his Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises by paring down the size of their menus, Dave Thomas sought to replicate that success when he opened the first Wendy's restaurant in 1969 with only five menu items: Hamburgers, chili, soft drinks, French fries, and the Frosty

The company has made minor tweaks, but consistency has been key to the endurance of the Frosty, whose combination of milk, cream, sugar, and cocoa saw new flavor iterations over the years of which only one, the vanilla version introduced in 2006, remains on the menu alongside the original chocolate (per Reader's Digest). Likewise, the fast food chain's fries were made with the same recipe for 41 years until the restaurant started using a "natural cut" version featuring sea salt seasoning in 2010. Wendy's revamped its fries again in 2021 with a new shape and coating of batter designed to help them retain heat and crispiness.

In 2014, Wendy's famously pithy Twitter account stepped into the fray to bless a time-honored practice among many fans of the fast food chain — dipping the restaurant's French fries into its signature frozen dairy dessert. More than 900 users retweeted the message, which read, "If you don't dip your fries in your #Frosty, you aren't living life," but the comments revealed the extent to which it remained a divisive issue notwithstanding the company's endorsement, with some rejoicing, "My secret is out. Finally, I feel free" and others resisting "I guess I'm dead, then."

Dipping Wendy's fries into the Frosty activates 'basic chemistry' of taste and texture

According to Eater, it was only as recently as 2011 that scientists discovered sugar receptors called SGLT1 that are activated by the presence of salt, which might explain the phenomenon known to chefs as "flavor layering," by which the combination of sweet and salty flavors enhances and complexifies the taste of food. Human beings are predisposed to crave sugary foods as well as — to a lesser but nevertheless significant extent — salty foods, so it's possible that "our bodies have been conditioned to crave them together."

Perhaps it's no surprise that however controversial some people might consider the practice of dipping Wendy's fries into its signature frozen dairy dessert, Thrillist explains it has likely been done from the time the two menu items were introduced when the first restaurant opened in 1969. And apart from the hard science explanation about how the sweet/salty flavor combination and hot/cold crunchy/smooth sensational and textural combination appeals to our primordial and evolutionary preferences, experts believe part of the appeal comes down to social science. 

People are more likely to try dipping fries into their Frosties when they see friends and family members doing the same, and the company has capitalized on social media's power to make the practice even more widespread than it had historically been. Ergo the widely retweeted message from Wendy's account proclaiming "If you don't dip your fries in your #Frosty, you aren't living life."