Obit of the Day: The Creator of Slush Puppie
Over a six-pack of beer Will Radcliff, his sister Phyllis, and their mother Thelma, tried to come up with a name for a new frozen drink that Mr. Radcliff wanted to sell. Sitting on the front porch of their Cincinnati home, the Radcliffs wrote down names on a brown paper bag. When they finished, “Slush Puppie” was the consensus choice - and for millions of children history was made.
Mr. Radcliff had discovered a company that manufactured “slush” drinks, which was nothing more than a drinkable snow cone. Although the beverages had a history dating back to the 1950s, no one had successfully marketed them. (ICEE and Slurpee were invented in the 1950s and 1960s, respectively, but were made with carbonation so they are slighlty different.)
Happening upon a Wisconsin-based manufacturer of the slush machines, Mr Radcliff decided to re-brand the drinks and distribute them nationwide. With $970, “[b]ecause that’s all I had,” Mr. Radcliff began creating a network of Slush Puppie distributors across the United States.
Originally available only in cherry, grape, orange, and lemon-lime, as of 2014 Slush Puppies are available in 41 flavors including cotton candy, mango, and kiwi-strawberry.
Slush Puppie was a hit and sales doubled every year after the product was introduced to the public in 1971. By the late 1990s, Mr. Radcliff oversaw a Slush Puppie empire that had 160 U.S. distributors as well as 65 others in countries such as Greece and Saudi Arabia. The company was purchased from Mr. Radcliff in 2000 by Cadbury/Schwepps for $16.6 million, and later purchased by ICEE Co.
Will Radcliff, who drove around in a car with the license plate “I SLUSH,” died on September 18, 2014 at the age of 74.
Source: LA Times, Cincinnati Enquirer (1998 article), slushpuppie.com, BBC News, foodbusinessnews.net, and Wikipedia
(Slush Puppie logo, circa 1980s, courtesy of onceuponageek.com)