It’s the iconic Klondike ice cream bar, celebrating a milestone anniversary this year: At 100 years old, the Klondike is still a staple in the frozen treat sections of most major supermarkets and grocers. mom and country pop.
In fact, up to 98 million of the top-selling Klondike product — this vanilla square bar — were sold in 2021 alone, according to Unilever, which acquired the family-owned brand in 1993.
But long before his catchy “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” advertisements made the brand famous, it spent its first 50 years as a regional treat available only in parts of the Midwest.
You don’t hear of many products getting cheaper over time, but technically at least people can pay less for a Klondike bar today than 100 years ago.
The ice cream snack, which originally featured a stick, was dreamed up by William Isaly, a descendant of Swiss dairy and cheese makers.
He founded the Isaly Dairy Company in Ohio in the early 1900s. The company operated several dairy plants and its own chain of retail stores that sold dairy products, fresh deli meats, and ice cream.
According to the brand, the first Klondike bar flavors were vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cherry, maple, and grape and were marketed as an affordable candy bar for the working class.
Almost a decade later, in 1931, a member of the Isaly family invented a machine called Polarmatic, which automated production and poured chocolate onto each bar at a rate of 75 Klondikes per minute.
“This is similar to a process used today and now approximately 380 million Klondike bars are produced each year,” said Tracy Shepard-Rashkin, Senior Brand Manager at Klondike.
The stick also disappeared as Isaly wanted the Klondike bar to be clearly distinct from its ice cream competitors at the time.
“What are you doing for a Klondike Bar?”
For years, the foil-wrapped frozen desert with the polar bear mascot was unavailable to most Americans.
Until the 1970s, Klondike was only sold in Pennsylvania and Ohio. In 1978, the brand expanded to Florida, then to stores in New York and New England.
Then, just before going nationwide in the early 1980s, the brand launched a new commercial campaign with a catchy jingle and challenge: “What would you do for a Klondike bar?”
One of the first runs of the humorous ad asked fans if they would act like a chicken. Another asked if they would make monkey noises. Over the years, the challenges have gotten funnier and bolder, making it a memorable pop culture reference.
Fan challenges continue. The jingle updated last year asked if a fan would shave an eyebrow to score a Klondike cone. (He did.)
“As a member of the Isaly family, the Klondike has been a part of my life since day one,” said June Isaly, whose late husband was the grandson of William Isaly. “We’ve always enjoyed seeing the love of the Klondike span generations, and now that it’s finally time to celebrate the brand’s 100th anniversary, I can’t think of a more iconic way than to ask the fans: ‘What would you do for a Klondike?'”
From the original square vanilla ice cream desert to today, the Klondike bar has toyed with a bunch of predictable – and some experimental – flavors such as mint chocolate chips, Oreos bar, donut bar coffee, a frosted strawberry donut and a crunch.
And its distinctive shape has evolved…sort of.
“As the industry is constantly changing, we listen to our fans and their needs and look for new ways to deliver innovative products,” said Shepard-Rashkin.
To keep Klondike relevant for new, younger consumers, Shepard-Rashkin said Unilever is collaborating with Klondike along with other popular frozen brands in its portfolio.
Last fall, 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 from your kids on Halloween,” a- she declared.