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Sophistication in Simplicity

by Benjamin Sheng

Obituary: Choco Taco

The Choco Taco, a beloved treat, was discontinued by manufacturer Klondike on July 25th due to “portfolio” issues after 40 years of creating fond memories for children and adults alike

The Choco Taco reportedly once said that it lived only by one motto: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. It followed this motto well, too. A delectable waffle shell (in the shape of a taco, too – what could be more ingenious?) was filled with ice cream, then covered in a fudgy chocolate shell and sprinkled with crushed peanuts. Such a simple idea, and yet it was one that provided such a complex dance of flavors and tastes. And it was this tango that skyrocketed the Choco Taco to popularity as well, with over a billion sold. Many of those who enjoyed it were children who waited for the ice-cream truck just so they could savor another of these iconic treats. Now adults, these same people lamented that their children would never be able to experience the nostalgic treat.

It took the death of this hero for its life to be revealed. Inspired by the trend of Mexican food that was sweeping across America, Alan Drazen, the senior vice president of a local Pennsylvanian (not even Texas or New Mexico, but Pennsylvania) company called Jack and Jill, created the Choco Taco in 1983 (he later claimed that a vision of what the Choco Taco was meant to be came to him while hiking alongside a river). In the early days of its existence, the frozen taco was sold exclusively from ice cream trucks until ice cream company Good Humor and its parent company Unilever (which owns many frozen dessert brands, including Breyers and Talenti) purchased it in 1989, allowing for the distribution of more and more of these tacos to more and more people.

But what made the Choco Taco stand out from its competitors? What allowed it to gain such a prominent hold in the memories of so many generations today? Drazen claimed that it had to do with the structure of the treat. The unique shape of the taco shell, based on a popular Mexican food, would allow for a distinctive eating experience. “When you eat a sugar cone, you generally eat the nuts, chocolate, and ice cream on the top, and then when you get to the cone, you’re [only] eating ice cream and cone,” Drazen said. “With the Choco Taco you’re getting the ice cream, cone, nuts, and chocolate with just about every bite.” This blending of flavors was what really made the Choco Taco shine. 

Eventually, the taco made its way from ice cream trucks to hundreds of thousands of convenience store freezers. More flavors were eventually introduced, like Heath, strawberry, cookies and cream, fried ice cream, and more. The Choco Taco reached such a level of popularity that many people tried to replicate it at home or in their own stores, but no matter what improvements they made, they never quite replicated the real thing. What made the Choco Taco the Choco Taco was its not-quite-chocolate chocolate fudge, its not-quite-ice-cream ice cream filling, and its not-quite-waffle waffle shell. 

Klondike, which owns the Choco Taco, as well as its signature Bar, claimed that due to an increase in demand for other items across its portfolio, it was no longer able to continue producing the Choco Taco. This abrupt announcement caused multitudes of people to rush to social media and declare their outrage that such a misfortune was happening. As a result, the popularity of the taco increased to epochal levels. A quick Google search for ‘Choco Taco’ will even reveal, in addition to countless homemade recipes and articles, its own Google animation. As word spread of its disappearance, throngs rushed to the nearest convenience stores to purchase the last Choco Tacos. Others thought to create their own tacos, but none were able to amount to anything even remotely close to the original. 

Some hope that the Choco Taco will continue to live on in homemade or commercial versions, such as the one created by Salt and Straw, an ice cream brand best known for its idiosyncratic flavors (toffee mealworms, anyone?), or that the sudden disappearance of the fan-favorite tacos might simply be a marketing stunt. No matter what some may still believe, it seems that the Choco Taco is truly gone, dying as it lived in the service of providing sophistication in simplicity.


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