This month soft-serve monarch Dairy Queen turns 75. At its 10th anniversary, the company boasted more than 1,000 open and planned stores. Today, Dairy Queen counts more than 6,000 locations across 20 countries.
At a time when many established brands are struggling with an identity crisis, Dairy Queen seems to balance the tightrope between tradition and innovation.
“The Dairy Queen soft-serve is that same iconic product that conjures up these wonderful associations with our fans,” says executive vice president of marketing, Barry Westrum. “[It’s] still second to none as it relates to that emotional connection. As we think about our next 75 years, it’s about keeping the brand contemporary and relevant and we look to new fans.”
The March Blizzard of the Month, the new Grasshopper Mousse Pie, embodies that dual nature: The base is tried-and-true vanilla soft-serve, but similar to other LTOs appearing around St. Patrick’s Day, it is shamrock-green and blended with mint and chocolate flavors.
To underscore customer appreciation and promote its legacy, Dairy Queen will run specials throughout the year rather than limiting them to the summer as per usual.
“We as a global brand are thrilled and excited at this opportunity to celebrate 75 years of pleasing fans around the world,” Westrum says. “The Dairy Queen brand has a wonderful emotional connection with our fans. This really gives us an opportunity to celebrate.”
The “Fanniversary” began in January with a Birthday Cake Oreo Blizzard. On March 16, all Dairy Queen locations in the U.S. and Canada will offer free 5-ounce servings of vanilla soft-serve cones while accepting donations to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. In the past 30 years, Dairy Queen has raised more than $100 million for the charity.
Westrum hints at more menu surprises in the months ahead, including a new partnership with an entertainment property that will unveil “one of the biggest product launches” in the company’s 75-year history.
Although the latest data report from Technomic showed a 0.1 percent dip in unit count between 2012 and 2013 (but a 4.6 percent increase in same-store sales), Dairy Queen is still pushing into new territory. Last year it expanded to Laos, Taiwan, and New York City. In 2015, it’s looking to Kuwait, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the Dominican Republic. Domestically, the brand has its sights set on market saturation.
“We are adding new locations throughout North America at a rapid pace,” Westrum says. He adds that the corporate team is working with franchisee partners to increase its presence in the West coast, Texas, and parts of the Southeast including Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
By Nicole Duncan