There was much tearing of clothes and loud wailing at the recent news that Choco Taco (1983-2022) was no more. The frozen novelty—vanilla, peanut, fudge, and milk chocolate ice cream, delivered in a taco-shaped cone—was killed when its maker, Unilever, decided to streamline its Klondike product line. The announcement was cool and clinical: due to supply chain challenges and an “unprecedented spike in demand” for its offerings, Unilever was discontinuing some items so it could focus its manufacturing efforts on a smaller set of Klondike’s delicious treats , such as the Krunch Bar and the Reese’s Mini Bar. Adieu, Choco Taco. The public response was emotional and full of angry denial. How could Choco Tacos die in a world where the Unicorn Dreamin’ Cone survived?
Alas, the world of junk food is cruel. One day you enjoy your Trolli Road Kill Gummi Candy, or your Wonka Oompas, or your Altoid Sours, or your Doritos Guacamole – not only enjoy but develop a specific, urgent craving for them – and the next day, without so much as a goodbye, they are gone. Sometimes the product is a commercial bomb, and its termination is hardly surprising. (Here’s to you, McAfrika, Coca-Cola Blak, Cheetos lip balm, Ore-Ida Funky Fries.) Sometimes, in the grocery business, for example, it’s more a matter of product overpopulation. This is often the case with Trader Joe’s, which is notorious for having products come to light and constantly undo the issue. “We have to manage our store space smartly,” says the company’s Discontinued Product Feedback page. Unlike Unilever, which didn’t hesitate to issue the death notice for Choco Tacos, Trader Joe’s acknowledges the pain one might experience upon discovering that Chile Lime Mayonnaise has departed this realm, writing, “We are not makes the decision to stop a light product. We understand that it can be disappointing — devastating, even. We’re Trader Joe’s customers too, after all.”
It is elemental in the human condition to struggle against the cruelty of mortality. Although we have always raged against the dying of the light, perhaps, during these times of feeling bad, the loss of a simple delight feels especially unsettling. Take, for example, the case of Costco’s Combo Pizza, a nearly seven-hundred-calorie-per-slice pepperoni, sausage, green pepper, onion, and black olive mix that was a favorite in the chain’s food courts for many years. In 2020, Costco, deciding it needed to simplify its menu, quietly sent the Combo Pizza to its grave. The food courts – which bring in a billion dollars in sales each year – had previous casualties. In 2018, for example, the Polish sausage was put to rest, and in its place arose food court-like items such as an açai fruit bowl with granola. The Combo Pizza was not going lightly. Social media was full of outrage. On Reddit, the grief was palpable: “I can’t take it anymore.” “My day is ruined and my disappointment is immeasurable.” “This is my husband’s favorite and he misses it a lot. His birthday was in May and the one thing he wanted was a Combo pizza from Costco, but no dice. We refer to his loss as another tragedy of the pandemic. ” Believing there was an opportunity to roll the stone away, an individual calling himself Tobi O. started a petition on change.org, “Bring the COMBO PIZZA back to Costco Food Courts,” and noted that the pizza “is a wonderful combination of meat. the goodness and richness of vegetables. . . . The combo pizza ignites a party of immense flavor in the mouths of millions of Costco membership holders. The termination. . . not only sad, but completely insane and straight up WRONG.” At last count, more than twelve thousand people had signed the petition, but Costco has not budged.
And what about the Choco Taco? There was so much uproar at the announcement of its demise and so much inciting desire (countless stories featuring beautiful pictures of new Choco Tacos, a little steam glistening on their chocolate shells; a Pavlovian urge to have one even if you’ve never had one do that. want one, just because you know you might never get one) a cynic might wonder if it was a little too neat, some kind of staged Andy Kaufman-style event that came with more attention and declarations of love than any other ice cream novelty could even dream of. How viral to get an offer from Internet entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian to buy Choco Taco from Unilever to save it from its fate. (“I can’t let this happen,” Ohanian declared on Twitter. “Not for America. Not on my watch.”) The suspicion that this was a fake death was so serious that Choco Taco himself had to deny it. on official Klondike Twitter Feed. (“I want to address the rumors: I really am being terminated, it’s not a PR stunt.”) But, aside from that, the account suggested that everyone was “waiting.” Could this be something like the triumphant return of the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza, which sold more when it was miraculously resurrected than it did when it was just a regular menu slouch?
We will see. In the meantime, you can buy one of the last of the dying breed on eBay, for just $6,942. “Owning a Truly Rare Item,” says the seller. With the loss of Choco Taco, he added, “it’s really a tough time to be alive.” ♦