The Eskimo Pie ice cream bar was the first ice cream novelty, invented more than 80 years ago. The idea for the Eskimo Pie bar was created by Chris Nelson, an ice cream shop owner from Onawa, Iowa. He thought up the idea in the spring of 1920, after he saw a young customer called Douglas Ressenden having difficulty choosing between ordering an ice cream sandwich and a chocolate bar. Nelson created the solution, a chocolate covered ice cream bar. Immediately, he produced 500 ice cream bricks with a chocolate candy coating.
The "I-Scream Bars" were a hit at the local village fireman's picnic and Nelson began searching for companies to manufacture his new product. Nelson patented his invention and the Eskimo Pie ice cream bar quickly rose in popularity in America. By 1922, Nelson was earning $2000 per day in royalties on his product. In 1921, Nelson and chocolate maker Russell C. Stover entered into a joint agreement to market and produce the product. It was decided the name would change from Nelson's "I-Scream Bar" to "Eskimo Pie".
In the hand-written agreement composed the same day the two met for the first time, the entrepreneurs agreed to "coat ice cream with chocolate, divide the profits equally." They decided to sell the manufacturing rights to local ice cream companies for $500 to $1000, plus royalties on each Eskimo Pie sold. The first Eskimo Pie chocolate covered ice cream bar on a stick was created in 1934. In 1955, Nelson was awarded a patent for his Eskimo Machine. The machinery squeezed out ice cream of the correct dimensions which was then cut into bars. This process was faster than the older method of molding the ice cream bar.
The superior quality of the Eskimo Pie ice cream bars is due to a unique extruded manufacturing process where the ice cream bars are extruded rather than molded. As opposed to molded bars, where the ice cream begins in liquid form, extruded bars are made with ice cream in its solid state. The premium ice cream that results from the extruded process is richer and creamier, with better body and superior texture.
In addition, the sorbet like cores of the dry coats are higher quality than ordinary molded bars, resulting in bars that are richer, more flavorful and with better body. Eskimo Pie Corporation, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, created the frozen novelty industry in 1921 with the invention of the Eskimo Pie ice cream bar. The Company marketed a broad range of frozen novelties, ice cream and sorbet products under different brand names.
These nationally branded products are generally manufactured by a select group of licensed dairies who purchase the necessary flavors ingredients and packaging directly from the Company. Eskimo Pie Corporation also sells a full line of quality flavors and ingredients for use in private label dairy products in addition to the brands it licenses. The Company also manufactures soft serve yogurt and ice cream products for sale to the commercial foodservice industry.
Eskimo Pie brand confectionery is still sold today by a Canadian Company, CoolBrands International, which acquired Eskimo Pie Corporation in 2000.