Hoffman's Houston
rip choco taco...?

Ken Hoffman's icy prediction on the demise of an ice cream favorite that has celebs and the internet on fire

Hoffman's stone-cold prediction on the demise of a U.S. ice cream fave

Klondike Choco Taco press conference
The Choco Taco called a press conference to address the rumors of its demise. Klondike/Facebook

To everybody who’s wringing their hands, grieving and chanting the Tibetan Book of the Dead over Klondike ending production of its Choco Taco ice cream treat:

When exactly was the last time you actually ate one? Uh, think maybe that’s why it’s being discontinued?

I remember the time I told my friend Jimmy that Houston’s legendary hard rock radio station KLOL was switching formats to Spanish-language pop music. He was devastated: “They can’t do that! KLOL is my favorite station!”

I asked Jimmy, when was the last time you listened to your favorite station? He confessed, “I guess it’s been a few years.”

KLOL didn’t change formats because too many people were listening, and Klondike isn’t dropping the Choco Taco because its factory couldn’t keep up with demand for it.

The Choco Taco origin story
Klondike introduced the Choco Taco 40 years ago. It had a cute name and unique shape. It was a folded waffle shell filled with vanilla ice cream and covered in chocolate. Like a taco. An ice cream cone with bad posture.

Remember the song, “Big Yellow Taxi,” and its telling line? “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone?”

Don’t you know, the Choco Taco is gone.

Choco Taco fans took their eye off the ball. They abandoned the Choco Taco for high priced pints by Haagen-Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s, or expensive cones and sundaes at designer scoop shops like Marble Slab, Cold Stone Creamery and Baskin-Robbins.

The 18th-century French philosopher Voltaire wrote in Candide that if you don’t “tend to your garden,” someone else will, and next thing you know, your girl goes out with other guys, KLOL is playing Spanish hip-hop, and Klondike stops making Choco Tacos.

 

Why the taco melted away
Choco Tacos never were a runaway hit with consumers. Choco Tacos never achieved the popularity of Dixie Cups Drumsticks or ice cream sandwiches. Unless you live near a supermarket that carries Choco Tacos or an ice cream truck still plays Yankee Doodle Dandy on a loop down your street, you may not even know what they are. I visited four supermarkets over the weekend. None of them carried Chocolate Tacos.

I have an emotional attachment to the Choco Taco. Over my years as the Houston Chronicle’s lead restaurant critic (under $10), I wrote 1,122 fast food reviews as the “Drive-Thru Gourmet.” The first one I did — on spec — was the Choco Taco. My side hustle was born.

America’s reaction to the demise of the Choco Taco was swift and overwhelming. TV news covered it like a coast-to-coast disaster. Online comment boards were filled with teary-eyed memories. Late night talk hosts delivered mournful remembrances.

Celebrities and the nation react
Of course, celebrities jumped on the bandwagon, like chef Andrew Zimmern, Chrissy Teigen, Stephen Colbert, and even Stephen King. One, Alexis Ohanian — the founder of Reddit and husband of Serena Williams — provided a eulogy for the Choco Taco, which he claimed was his favorite childhood dessert.

Ohanian also alleged that the Choco Taco did not die a natural death. He suspects foul play. It was murder! And the killer is … the ice cream cone!

“I bet the ice cream cone is happy about Choco Taco’s death – look how inferior every bite (of a cone) is by comparison. He (the cone) was jealous. We have a motive, folks,” Ohanian wrote.

Klondike explained that it was discontinuing the Choco Taco because its sales lagged behind its other ice cream products. That may be true, but here’s the thing about its No. 1 seller, the Klondike Bar. Talk about a design flaw. A Klondike Bar is a square hunk of vanilla ice cream covered by a chocolate shell. There’s nothing to hold onto – no cone, no cup, no stick. You have to grab it with your hands. Eat one outside in the summer and your hands become a sticky chocolatey mess.

The jingle goes, what would you do for a Klondike Bar? I would ask for extra napkins.

While I’m not calling for a murder investigation like Ohanian is, I do smell a phony baloney publicity stunt. Klondike might think, we’ve got a product that is slipping, let’s announce that we’re discontinuing it and gin up some sympathy. We’ve got nothing to lose.

This is Munchausen syndrome by proxy in the frozen food aisle. Klondike is creating unnecessary danger, then expects to be hailed as a hero when it rescues the Choco Taco. It’s a marketing trick as old as New Coke.

Choco Taco going all Coke?
In 1985, Coca-Cola announced that it was changing the formula of the most popular soft drink in the world. It was being replaced by — yuck — “New Coke.” Coke fans were infuriated and felt abandoned. A few years later, Coca-Cola announced it was bringing back “Classic Coke,” and a grateful public pushed sales through the roof. “New Coke” was ditched, never to rear its horrible aftertaste again.

Klondike already is backpedaling on its death knell for the Choco Taco. Now the company is saying it’s stunned by the outpouring of love for the Choco Taco and we should all “stayed tuned.” It also posted on social media that it hasn’t decided yet what to do with the last remaining 912 Choco Tacos (yes, they counted) at corporate HQ — even asking fans for inspiration with the hashtag #WhatShouldWeDo.

I give it six months for Klondike executives to announce, “We listened to fans of the Choco Taco and we’re bringing it back! Ain’t we just the best people ever?”