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The Accidental Invention of the Popsicle®


Did you ever think about how the summer time’s favourite refreshing treat came about? Well, it was quite unplanned for really when, over a century ago, in 1905, an eleven-year-old kid named Frank Epperson residing in the San Francisco Bay area, accidentally left his bottled soda mixture outside with the stirrer still inside. He had been experimenting by mixing sugary soda powder with water and it was a tremendously cold evening, so, as one would expect, the liquid froze by the next morning.

When Epperson discovered his frozen mixture, he got intrigued and decided to give it a taste by giving the icy formation a lick. He held it from the stirrer’s handle that was sticking out of it. It turned out he loved it as he finished the whole thing off and declared his new invention as the ‘Epsicle’, a combination of the word ‘icicle’ and his surname. It was not long before word on the epsicle started getting around and peaking people’s interest. So, Epperson decide to start making more and selling them around the neighbourhood.

The epsicle became a local hit and, in 1923, Epperson decided to expand his sales outside his neighbourhood to include Neptune Beach, an amusement park close to his home. The park was a hit and visitors absolutely loved the epsicles.  Fun fact: Another popular summer treat which made its debut at Neptune Beach was snow cones.

A year later in 1924, Epperson applied to patent his creation described as a "frozen confection of attractive appearance, which can be conveniently consumed without contamination by contact with the hand and without the need for a plate, spoon, fork or other implement". The stirrer handle was replaced by different variations of wooden sticks until the best material was recorded to be wood-bass, birch or poplar.

Later on in life, Epperson was also convinced by his children to change the name from epsicle to ‘Pop’s Sicle’ or ‘Popsicle ® , as we know it today. Since then, the rights to the Popsicle® were sold to buyer after buyer after Epperson became broke and had to liquidate all his assets.

Since 1989, the Popsicle has been owned by Good Humour, a subsidiary of Unilever who sells around two billion popsicles annually. Unilever expanded the range beyond the original fruit flavours. Nowadays, especially in the United States and Canada, the term Popsicle has become a general trademark and is used to refer to the concept of frozen ice on a stick, regardless of the brand. 

Frank Epperson died in 1983 but his successful invention lives on. 

A wide variety of quality ingredients are available from Arkadia supermarkets in Malta and Gozo, including Arkadia FoodExpress Swatar and Arkadia Food Market Valletta.

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