It has a square shape without a stick and will make your fingertips cold and sticky as you gently bite off its thin chocolate shell to reach the delicious vanilla ice cream placed inside.
This is the iconic Klondike ice cream bar, which celebrates an important birthday this year: For 100 years, the Klondike is still a staple in the frozen treat sections of most major supermarkets and moms and pop stores across the country.
In fact, about 98 million of Klondike’s best-selling products – this square vanilla bar – were sold in 2021 alone, according to Unilever, which acquired the family brand in 1993.
But long before the playful “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” Ads made the brand famous, it spent its first 50 years as a regional delicacy, available only in certain parts of the Midwest.
You haven’t heard of many products getting cheaper over time, but at least technically people can pay less for a Klondike bar today than they did 100 years ago.
When it first came out, in 1922, the Klondike bar cost only 10 cents, the equivalent of $ 1.75 for 2022. A pack of six original bars today costs about $ 4 – or 67 cents each.
The ice cream breakfast, which originally had a stick, was the brainchild of William Aizali, a descendant of Swiss dairy and cheese producers.
He founded the Isaly Dairy Company in Ohio in the early 1900s. The company operated several dairies and its own chain of stores that sold dairy products, fresh delicacies and ice cream.
According to the brand, Klondike’s first flavors were vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cherry, maple and grape and were marketed as an affordable delicacy for the working class.
Almost a decade later, in 1931, a member of the Isaly family invented a machine called the Polarmatic, which automated production and poured chocolate on each block at a rate of 75 Klondikes per minute.
“It’s similar to the process used today, and now about 380 million Klondike Bars are produced each year,” said Tracy Shepard-Rashkin, senior brand manager at Klondike.
The stick also disappeared because Isaly wanted the Klondike bar to be clearly different from its ice cream competitors at the time.
For years, the silver foil-covered frozen desert with the mascot of the polar bear was inaccessible to most Americans.
Until the 1970s, the Klondike was sold only in Pennsylvania and Ohio. In 1978, the brand expanded to Florida and then to stores in New York and New England.
Then, just before it spread across the country in the early 1980s, the brand launched a new advertising campaign with playful chatter and a challenge: “What would you like for a Klondike bar?”
One of the earliest releases of the humorous commercial asked fans if they would behave like a chicken. Another asked if they would make monkey sounds. Over the years, the challenges have become more and more funny and bold, which ultimately makes them a memorable reference to pop culture.
The challenges for the fans continue. Last year’s updated jingle asked if a fan would shave an eyebrow to insert a Klondike cone. (He did it.)
“As a member of the Isali family, the Klondike has been a part of my life since day one,” said June Aizali, whose late husband was a grandson of William Aizali. “We’ve always enjoyed seeing the Klondike love span generations, and now that it’s finally time to celebrate the brand’s 100th birthday, I can’t think of a more iconic way than to ask fans, ‘What would you do?’ for the Klondike? “”
From the original square vanilla ice cream desert to the present day, the Klondike bar has played with a bunch of predictable – and some experimental – flavors like mint chocolate chip, Oreos bar, donut coffee, matte strawberry donuts and crunch.
And its distinctive form has evolved somehow.
“As the industry grows, we listen to our fans and their needs and look for new ways to deliver innovative products,” said Shepard-Rashkin.
There is a Klondike Choco Taco, a taco shell-shaped cone full of vanilla and fudge ice cream. There are also mini versions (half size) of the original bar, Klondike ice cream cones in different flavors and the latest addition – Klondike Shakes in a bag.
To keep Klondike suitable for newer, younger users, Shepard-Rashkin said Unilever is collaborating with other popular frozen brands in its portfolio.
Last fall, the Klondike partnered with Popsicle to deliver delicious treats outside of vaccination sites, and with Breyers to provide Reese’s frozen treats as an “alternative to stealing candy for your kids on Halloween,” she said.