How Moose Tracks Became An Ice Cream Parlor Staple

Walk into pretty much any ice cream parlor, peer into the case filled with tubs of the frozen treat, and you're likely to see a flavor called moose tracks with a base of vanilla plus peanut butter cups and Moose Tracks fudge swirled in. The flavor has become so popular it now sells over $80 million every year. But how did it achieve such staple status?

The flavor's origins start in northern Michigan's Upper Peninsula where it was created in the late 1980s by Wally Blume, co-owner of Denali Flavors. Blume spent much of his early career in dairy sales, but eventually wanted to get away from the corporate aspect of the business and create his own ice cream treats. Soon enough, he crafted Moose Tracks in his basement and started selling it to local ice cream parlors where it took off.

Although the Upper Peninsula is known for having a large population of moose, the ice cream's name actually doesn't come from the animal or its tracks. Instead, it's in homage to a local mini-golf course that was located near the ice cream shop that first started serving moose tracks. After becoming popular locally, it spread around the country. 

The flavor was then licensed by Denali Flavors — the company Blume and his wife June founded after buying out Wally's original partner in 1990, and it owns the true version of the flavor made with their "Famous Moose Tracks Fudge." Other brands now produce moose tracks ice cream but stay true to the original recipe, some even using Denali's official fudge. 

What's so special about the fudge in the ice cream?

Every scoop of Moose Tracks ice cream that's officially created (visible by the trademark logo and Denali Flavors brand name) features the Famous Moose Tracks Fudge. This swirl is arguably the best part of the ice cream, but it's actually a secret recipe that can't be bought on its own and is only available in officially licensed ice cream sold by Denali. 

Although the official recipe isn't known, that hasn't stopped people from trying their hardest to replicate it in their own kitchens. There are entire Reddit threads dedicated to discussing breakthroughs in trying to recreate the famous fudge. One method savvy bakers have used is experimenting with the ingredients they see on the ice cream carton's label. 

Many have claimed they nailed the recipe, but ingredients vary slightly across Reddit threads. Some use powdered sugar, Dutch-process cocoa, peanut oil, milk powder, salt, and soy lecithin, while others swap canola oil with peanut oil and don't use milk powder or soy lecithin.

Denali Flavors has continued to expand its ice cream empire

Denali Flavors has a registered trademark on Moose Tracks ice cream. And since introducing the classic vanilla ice cream-based combination, the company has expanded offerings to keep up with demand. You can now buy mint-based Moose Tracks, caramel Moose Tracks that uses caramel cups instead of peanut butter, and extreme Moose Tracks, which is a chocolate base with fudge-filled cups. If you want to expand beyond the iconic flavor, there are a number of other polar animal-themed flavors to try as well. Caramel Caribou is a toffee-flavored ice cream with caramel cups and Denali's special caramel, and Bear Claw incorporates chocolate-covered cashews and caramel into a chocolate ice cream base.

Denali Flavors' sister company, Denali Ingredients, produces many of the components for Denali ice creams as well ingredients for other dairy companies. This includes focusing on what they call "baked inclusions" (cheesecake swirls, brownie bites, etc.), plus flavor bases, purees, and variegates — including the Famous Moose Tracks Fudge. While you may not always be getting the original Moose Tracks flavor, your grocery store carton could still be incorporating the official fudge — you'll know if you see the classic moose logo on the carton.