The Klondike Choco Taco, invented in 1983, has been discontinued as part of a move to streamline the company’s product line. The treat has surprisingly devoted fans, who responded to the news with anguish, outrage, and sometimes profanity. It was a huge outpouring for a small, mass-produced ice cream novelty that was supposed to be crunchy but usually wasn’t. Many business leaders dream of creating iconic products with devoted super-fans, but few ever actually manage it. What’s the Choco Taco’s secret?
For months, people on social media had been speculating that the famous treat was gone, but Klondike assured them that only the grocery-store-friendly four-pack had been discontinued. “The Klondike Choco Taco single serving is available at ice cream trucks and convenience stores nationwide,” the company tweeted on July 17, and provided a store locator for good measure. Less than ten days later, it had to eat those words.
The public and media response was immediate and heartfelt, with a surprising number of celebrities weighing in on the Choco Taco’s demise.
Or even hoping to resurrect it.
Why so much lamentation over the departure of the Choco Taco? The confection has a bizarre fictional origin story, involving a mirage seen while lost in the desert in Mexico. In fact, it was invented by Alan Drazen, an executive at the ice cream company Jack & Jill (now part of GlacierPoint Enterprises). At the time, Jack & Jill didn’t have its own signature confection so Drazen set out to invent one. Mexican food was the fastest-growing food-industry segment so an ice cream novelty in the shape of a taco seemed like it might be a hit. He later said that the Choco Taco’s folded shape was the true secret of its success. Rather than eat the toppings and then work your way down to the crunchy cone as in an ice cream cone, you got ice cream, toppings, and cone in every bite.
The Choco Taco counts more than one celebrity chef among its fans. New York restaurateur and taco expert Alex Stupak asked a French pastry chef to work with him on creating a limited-edition version for one of his restaurants. And Tyler Malek, owner of the upscale ice cream chain Salt & Straw, has loved the Choco Taco since childhood. He too created his own version, called the Chocolate Tacolate for the company’s now-defunct soft-serve store. Now that the Klondike treat has been discontinued, he’s considering bringing back the Chocolate Tacolate to fill the gaping void that the Choco Taco left behind.
Is all this love for the Choco Taco really about the confection itself? No, some argue, especially comedian Roy Wood Jr., who made a persuasive case for this view on The Daily Show.
I believe this is the real secret behind this and other beloved products. They connect us to our childhoods, to the people from our past, and to summertime, when we might have enjoyed a Choco Taco with family or friends after working in the yard or going on a fun outing. It’s a product that engages people’s nostalgia.
Even Klondike seems to be aware of this. “We know Choco Taco is a huge fan favorite and a top seller for our out-of-home business, so this is particularly painful,” it tweeted to one disgruntled fan. “We’re working hard to find a way to bring Choco Taco back to ice cream trucks in the coming years.”
There’s a growing audience of Inc.com readers who receive a daily text from me with a self-care or motivational micro-challenge or tip. Often they text me back and we wind up in a conversation. (Interested in joining? Here’s more information and an invitation to an extended free trial.) Many are entrepreneurs or business leaders, and they tell me how compelling anything that connects us to our childhoods can be. If you create a product that calls up those feelings, that can be very powerful indeed.