The Slurpee: A True Market Invention

After several failed business ventures, Omar Knedlik bought a Dairy Queen franchise in the late 1950s—and his luck didn’t improve. The restaurant’s soda fountain, a critical component of any mid-century ice cream shop, was completely unreliable. But a determined Knedlik improvised by storing bottled sodas in the freezer—and customers went wild for the half-frozen drinks. He embraced the demand, and soon, window signage advertised “the coldest drink in town.” 

While Market Invention most often results from new product design, services and user experience also define many market leaders that have followed the model. Here, Knedlik created a new product and a unique user experience that unleashed the market opportunity to create the Slurpee market. With the success of his freezer-stocked soda bottles, Knedlik prototyped machines to quickly freeze large amounts of soda. His first design included the air conditioner from a car (and didn’t work too well), but later improvements led to the development and licensing of a reliable machine used to make and carbonate slushy beverages. He coined the beverage the ICEE.

After standing as the market leader in the ICEE market as a dispensing machine licensing company for five years, Knedlik realized that he needed to iterate and expand on the initial concept by rebranding the drink’s name. In 1966, Knedlik worked with 7-Eleven’s ad agency to brainstorm new branding, and the “Slurpee” was born.

A new name was not the end for Slurpee. Constantly staying ahead of trends, Slurpee and 7-Eleven introduced the spoon straw in 1968, allowing users to get every last drop out of their Slurpee.

Today, the Slurpee lives as a staple at 7-Eleven as consumers flock to retail locations regularly, and especially on July 11th for their free dose. The original Slurpee, which has now become the generic name for any frozen soda beverage, still stands as the market leader. 

Want to learn more about Market Invention—and how you can use the process to boost your business? Read “What Is Market Invention?”

About Merit

Merit is the global leader in market invention. More often than not, our work carves out an entirely new market and transforms industry through research and strategy, communications, creative, and technology. For a company to succeed in the new era of marketing, it needs Merit.

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