It’s not a movie; it’s the kind of beverage that gets you through the hottest days of summer.

We’re a couple of months into summer and the heat is still coming at us hard. So while the SSCS Blog explored cool, refreshing beverages at the start of the summer, as a public service we are going to revisit, in detail, one type in particular, the frozen beverage.

The dominant frozen beverage in the convenience store industry is the frozen dispensed beverage (FDB). The success and visibility of FDB systems exemplify how convenience stores influence and drive consumer preferences, shaping the retail beverage market in the process. It also happens to be a drink that people readily identify with a c-store, so it’s become an integral part of the industry’s identity, too.

The invention of a workable FDB machine is attributed to Omar Knedlik in the late 1950s, the result of his search to offer parched residents, “the coldest beverage in town” at his Kansas Dairy Queen. His dispensing technology led to the creation of the ICEE Company in 1960 (when he patented his idea), and the mainstreaming of frozen dispensed beverages through c-store operators, who recognized a good complement to their existing offerings. The popularity of these beverages is indicated in the multitude of brand names assigned to them. Here’s a handful:

  • Polar Pop  (Circle K)
  • Numb Skull (RaceTrac)
  • Speedy Freeze (Speedway)
  • Arctic Blaster (QuikTrip)
  • Hyper Freeze (Cumberland Farms)
  • Kwikery Freeze  (Kwik Trip)
  • ThirstFreezer (Wawa)
  • KOOLEE (Kum & Go)

Wholesaling companies and various c-store suppliers, understanding the needs of their clients, began to provide turnkey dispensing equipment and systems for FDBs, as well as promotional products like this array of Pez flavors. The prominence of the FDB shows no sign of going away soon.

Granita Machine

There are, however, any number of other drinks that can cool you down in a hurry. Some c-stores sell what is known as a Granita, also referred to as an “Italian Ice.” Originating in Italy in the 1800s, a Granita dispenser combines coarsely shaved ice with fruit juice and sugar. If Granitas are not available, then you might consider its U.S. counterpart, the sno-cone, invented by Samuel Bert and introduced at the 1919 Texas State Fair. Too bad Sam and his team had to hack up his ice manually, because the ice shaver wouldn’t be invented until 1933. (You’ll also find tropical incarnations of the sno-cone that add milk or cream.)

While the FDB is the frozen drink most closely associated with the c-store, one other illustrates the product innovation that can occur when the industry and its suppliers team up to solve a problem. In this case, it was the milkshake problem.

Milkshakes are a popular warm weather item, but for decades it was impossible to prepare them in a time acceptable for hurried c-store customers. Understanding the need, the industry and it providers began to provide milkshake dispensers to the store, many featuring self-serve where people could add their own ingredients and a little excitement to the process. It also gave consumers control over the time they spend getting a drink.

We’re fond of that milkshake example, because it mirrors the approach SSCS takes in providing technology to the industry. We see software development as a collaborative effort between ourselves and our customers, who just happen to be the leading retailers in the industry. Teamwork like this leads to solutions that match up with need, and gets everyone looking ahead to addressing challenges before they arrive. If that sounds like an interesting approach, or even a necessary one for your business, please give us a call at (800) 972-7277 and let’s discuss.