Today in Brand History: Eskimo Pies
Updated: Feb 5
On January 24, 1922, Danish immigrant Christian Kent Nelson, a schoolteacher and candy store owner was issued a patent for his invention, a frozen confection encased with candy, which was sold at the time under the brand name “Eskimo Pie.” Nelson claimed to have been inspired to create the ice cream concoction when a boy visited his candy shop in Onawa, Iowa in 1920, unable to decide whether he should spend his money on ice cream or a chocolate bar. Nelson asked the boy why he didn’t buy both, to which he replied, “I want ‘em both, but I only got a nickel!”
He went to work on an idea to coat ice cream bars with a hard shell chocolate and by 1921, he had perfected the process. Nelson filed for a patent and reached an agreement with a local chocolate maker by the name of Russell C. Stover to manufacture them. Yes, that Stover. Originally called the “I-Scream” Bars when he was selling them at local markets, Stover’s wife Clara convinced him to change the name to Eskimo Pie, which led to the creation of the Eskimo Pie Corporation. Nelson and Stover licensed the rights to manufacturers to make the confection and Nelson became independently wealthy off the royalties from the sale of Eskimo Pies. By 1922, he was selling one million pies a day. However, the patent was challenged, and the Eskimo Pie Company spent a considerable amount of time defending their broad patent. Doing so was costing them around $4000 a day in legal fees, or $60k per day at today’s value.
Russell Stover pulled out of the Eskimo Pie Corporation in 1923 to start the candy company that today bears his name. In 1924, Nelson sold the company to the firm that was making its wrapper, the U.S. Foil Corporation, which later the Reynolds Metals Company. The patent, which applied to any type of frozen confection encased in candy, was invalidated in 1928.
Out of boredom, Nelson joined what was then called Reynolds Metals Company in 1935, working on new methods of both making and shipping Eskimo Pies. He was an executive with the company until finally retiring in 1961. Nelson died in 1992, the same year that the Eskimo Pie Company was spun off of from Reynolds rather than be acquired by Nestle.
CoolBrands International acquired the Eskimo Pie Company and added it to its portfolio including Chipwich, Godiva, Betty Crocker, Trix, Yoo-hoo…and Weight Watchers. In 2007, CoolBrands sold off many of its core brands and the Dreyer's division of Nestle acquired Eskimo Pie and Chipwich. In 2020, Dreyer’s announced that they would be changing the name of Eskimo Pies to “Edy’s Pie”, after Joseph Edy, one of the founders of Dreyer’s.