While on holiday in Florida in 1935, Sherman L. Kelly noticed staff at an ice cream parlour straining their wrists from the repetitive scooping of hard ice cream using a traditional squeeze-and-release lever. This observation inspired him to develop the ZEROLL® ice cream scoop, with a unique design that featured the incorporation of a heat-conductive liquid inside the handle.
This antifreeze liquid was designed to transfer heat from the user's hand to the shaft of the scoop and up to the scoop itself, making it easier to release the ice cream as it rolled across the surface. It takes a surprisingly short amount of time (just a few seconds) for the scoop to get warm enough to melt the ice cream. It’s a very nice solution to the problem of ice cream sticking to the scoop. The scoop itself is made of aluminium, which also aids in the heat transfer.
It’s also nice that the scoop has no moving parts. Nothing to go wrong.
The ZEROLL was an immediate hit, selling thousands of scoops in 1936, its first full year of production. The scoop quickly gained popularity among ice cream shop owners and home users alike. Its ability to create smooth, perfectly rounded scoops of ice cream with ease made it a valuable tool in the ice cream industry, and its patented design set it apart from other scoops on the market.
The design is distinctive and timelessly modern. The Museum of Modern Art featured the ZEROLL ice cream scoop in a 2004 exhibition of "Humble Masterpieces" put together by renowned curator Paola Antonelli.
This exceptionalism has stood the test of time. The ZEROLL is, to this day, the preferred scoop for most ice cream shops. In 2013 The New York Times voted it the world’s best ice cream scoop, a decision that they repeated as recently as 2022.
There is also a fascinating connection between the ZEROLL and the historic Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, carried a ZEROLL with him. It had a practical purpose. The scoop was used to collect lunar samples during the mission. The scoop's unique design, with its ability to transfer heat, made it useful for handling objects in the extreme cold of space, making it quite literally out of this world.
Interested in how they are made? Watch this short video from The Zeroll Company.
Story Idea: Remo Giuffré
1. ZEROLL® Ice Cream Scoop
2. ZEROLL doing its thing
3. ZEROLL patent from 30 May 1935
4. ZEROLL parts
5. Ad celebrating the 75th anniversary of the ZEROLL in 2010
6. Vintage ZEROLLs have become collectible
7. MoMA Humble Masterpieces exhibition, 2004
8. Buzz Aldrin, on the left, practices scooping up a sample while Neil Armstrong, on the right, photographs the collection, during a practice session held before the Apollo 11 mission. Image credit: NASA Johnson.
9. Video: How they are made courtesy The Zeroll Company