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Frosty Boy
Frosty Boy blinking

KaiApril 8, 2023

Is Frosty Boy the NZ icon we think he is?

Frosty Boy
Frosty Boy blinking

He’s up there with the Buzzy Bee and Footrot Flats in the Kiwiana stakes  – but Frosty Boy’s true origins may come as a shock.

With an ice cream cone in his hand and the world at his feet, Frosty Boy has become one of our most recognisable Kiwiana figures. You can wear the Frosty Boy logo close to your heart, or hang him on your wall, or let him light up your home. We’re so fond of Frosty Boy that Team New Zealand put him on their boat for the 2013 America’s Cup, and one brave soul even got a tattoo of the wee fellow in this touching tribute to New Zealand. Heck, Frosty Boy even made number 16 on The Spinoff’s ranking of iconic New Zealand logos, jammed between fellow culinary titans L&P and Jimmy’s Pies.

Frosty Boy is as Kiwi as the Buzzy Bee and Footrot Flats… right? Wrong. After a Reddit user recently posted a picture of the Frosty Boy logo on a German clothing website, we began to wonder. Is Frosty Boy really the New Zealand icon we think he is? The answer, it turns out, has more twists than a vanilla soft-serve.

1960s: New Zealand…?

According to the Frosty Boy New Zealand website, Frosty Boy started in the South Island during the 1960s. Oamaru-based Milligans Food Group Ltd has owned Frosty Boy NZ since 2007, selling the soft-serve mix to dairies and stores around the country. It’s a simple process to make the ice cream, with water added to the pre-made mix which is then churned and frozen in soft-serve machines.

Logo of Frosty Boy, a blonde boy wearing a red tshirt and blue pants and holding a soft-serve icecream cone
The Frosty Boy we know and love

Frosty Boy NZ doesn’t elaborate further on where in Te Waipounamu their first soft-serve cone was poured. When asked for more details about these mysterious beginnings, Milligans referred The Spinoff back to their website. “Since first beginning in the 1960s, Frosty Boy has established itself as a Kiwi icon among many New Zealanders,” the website states, adding that Frosty Boy first launched in the South Island as a “small independent business”. 

New Zealand was home to many small, independent ice cream businesses in the 1960s, and Frosty Boy’s iconic “often licked, never beaten” slogan was actually used by a number of companies as early as the 1930s. One of these was Frosty Jack, which began making hard-frozen ice cream in Wellington in the 1920s and later sold its products throughout the South Island. Was Frosty Jack the inspiration for Frosty Boy, or was it this similar blonde child who featured on Tip Top’s waxed cups during the 1950s (and who can be found today as wall art in a New Plymouth cafe)? 

Spoiler: it was neither. 

1970s: Australia

It’s not just Aotearoa which claims ownership of Frosty Boy. Across the Tasman, Frosty Boy boasts of being “proudly Australian owned”. While a spokesperson for Frosty Boy Australia said they couldn’t comment on the history of Frosty Boy in New Zealand, they did confirm that Frosty Boy Australia began on the Gold Coast in 1976.

So if we accept the somewhat vague claim that Frosty Boy began somewhere in the South Island sometime in the 1960s, it’s plausible that the beloved blond boy emigrated to Australia a few years later and began to assert global dominance, much like Sam Neill and Jim from Neighbours. 

But hold the cone, because it turns out the Frosty Boy logo – that cheeky little chappy so beloved by generations of New Zealanders – was in fact first trademarked in the US.

1970s: Michigan, USA

A black and white drawing of the Frosty Boy logo, featuring a boy holding a soft-serve ice cream cone
The original Frosty Boy (Screengrab: USPTO)

In 1973, an American company named Taylor Freezer applied to trademark a logo of a young boy holding an ice cream cone. Taylor Freezer was (and still is) a manufacturer and distributor of soft-serve ice cream equipment, and in 1970 it built Frosty Boy Adrian, a working showroom to promote their commercial ice cream business. A 2010 Michigan newspaper article states that “operators would come to [the town of] Adrian and see the equipment for themselves, and as long as they used the machines and the prescribed ice cream mix, they could use the Frosty Boy name”.

This appears to be the birth of Frosty Boy in America, and the restaurant is still in business today (though no longer owned by Taylor Freezer). Fifty-three years after Frosty Boy Adrian first opened, that familiar blond child still adorns their signage, as well as other Frosty Boys around Michigan, including Grand Rapids, Michigan City and Kalamazoo

A group of people huddle under a Frosty Boy sign in Michigan
Frosty Boy loves a wedding (Image: Frosty Boy of Adrian Facebook)

Could a company from America’s midwest have heard about a soft-serve ice cream created in Aotearoa and took it to the American people in 1970? Chris Newey from the New Zealand Ice Cream Association doesn’t think so. He describes the history of Frosty Boy as “quite murky”. Because Frosty Boy isn’t a hard-frozen ice cream, the companies involved with Frosty Boy weren’t members of the national Ice Cream Manufacturers’ Association, which means their history wasn’t recorded in the same way that companies like Tip Top or Queen Anne were. 

However, Newey remembers Frosty Boy being linked to the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company (now more widely known as Anchor) in Hamilton. He says they made milk powder (one of the main ingredients in the Frosty Boy mix) and were also capable of manufacturing and supplying soft-serve power mixes.  

“The likelihood is that both New Zealand and Australian Frosty Boy businesses were and still are using the Frosty Boy name and logo under licence to what is now known as the Taylor Company,” Newey says, before delivering the final chilling blow. “I don’t think Frosty Boy could have started in the South Island in the 1960s, and it certainly can’t have started in New Zealand or Australia any time before 1973.”

1980s: New Zealand

Frosty Boy appeared in an iconic TV ad during the 1980s (Image: YouTube)

There’s one person who can clarify once and for all if Frosty Boy is a New Zealand creation, and that’s Neil Tisch. In 1980, Tisch started Taylor Freezer of New Zealand Limited in partnership with the New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company, and began to sell Frosty Boy products and Taylor Freezer machines around the country. He trademarked the slogan and logo in the early 1980s, and confirms there is a New Zealand link to Frosty Boy – but there’s a twist.

“The actual logo of the Frosty Boy kid came from Michigan, but no product came from America,” Tisch says. To make the soft-serve, Taylor Freezer NZ used an existing product called “Lite Licks” from New Zealand Co-operative Dairy Company, and after making a few enhancements to the original formula, changed the name to Frosty Boy. Tisch’s brother was involved with Frosty Boy Australia, which would import the ingredients from New Zealand and manufacture it for the Australian market. 

The Taylor Freezer Frosty Boy NZ factory in Mount Wellington during the 1980s (Photo: Neil Tisch)

Tisch says Frosty Boy NZ was a huge success during the 1980s. Frosty Boy NZ began in offices in Otahuhu, before moving to a large factory in Mount Wellington, where they supplied restaurant chains like Georgie Pie, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s Supa Sundaes with Taylor Freezer soft-serve machines and Frosty Boy product. With a dozen distributors scattered around the country, it was an easy ice cream for people to get, which made it popular with customers. “It was a huge profit margin for shopkeepers over hard ice cream and it was easier to dispense,” Tisch remembers.

Tisch sold Taylor Freezer NZ in 1995, but children of the 1980s will still remember the catchy television ad that sang Frosty Boy’s praises, which Tisch developed in New Zealand with advertising company Leo Burnett. As for the iconic “often licked, never beaten” Frosty Boy slogan? “It came from my brother in Australia,” Tisch says, “and of course, we bought it in to New Zealand.” 

New Zealand’s dream of being the original home of Frosty Boy may have melted away. It seems that the iconic blond boy we painted across our hearts and boats is actually a Gen Xer from the US, and both Tisch and Newey reckon there’s no way Frosty Boy began in the South Island in the 1960s. Instead, that little Frosty Boy strutted his way from America to Australia and finally to New Zealand in 1980.

Perhaps it’s folklore – or Frostlore, if you will – that Frosty Boy started here, a nostalgic myth born out of a longing for simpler times when an ice cream could fix everything. Either way, Frosty Boy still lives on in a dairy near you. Often licked, never beaten. 

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