News that Unilever was going to drop ice cream product Choco Taco was met with shock, dismay and (satirical) calls for government intervention. But the fast-acting free market is already gearing up to resurrect frozen treats.
In response to Switzerland-based Unilever’s announcement, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted that he would introduce legislation that would invoke the Defense Production Act to keep the Choco Taco alive. On the House side, Rep. Chuy Garcia (D – Illinois) called for a congressional investigation.
????NEWS: Tomorrow I am introducing a bill invoking the Defense Production Act to mandate the continued manufacture of Choco Tacos. Please call your senator and demand that he co-sponsor. https://t.co/7XLgs6IfOn
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) July 26, 2022
I call for a congressional investigation into the end of the Choco Taco. https://t.co/JuHnu9bFQr
— Congressman Chuy García (@RepChuyGarcia) July 27, 2022
The two lawmakers were obviously joking, though that didn’t stop the military news site from Task and objective to explain precisely why using the Defense Production Act to make Choco Tacos would be as bad an idea as using it to make anything else.
But the nation’s ice cream entrepreneurs aren’t treating this as a laughing matter. In response to the news, a Portland, Oregon-based ice cream maker announced it would be rolling out its own ice cream taco to its collection of Pacific Northwest stores.
Tyler Malek, the founder of the Salt & Straw chain, described to the San Francisco Chronicle why it was a natural opening for his own business.
“Now there is this hole in the world,” Malek said. “We’ve been debating all day…I don’t know if we have the right answers, but we really want to figure out how to fill that void.”
Salt & Straw’s ice cream taco won’t be ready until National Taco Day in October. That might be too long of a wait for some Choco Taco fans. Do not worry!
The oregonian notes that several other Portland ice cream makers have announced plans to make their own ice cream taco products, some of which are expected to launch as early as next weekend.
These new variations are entering a market that is already home to some of the earliest Choco Taco imitators. The the Chronicle notes that Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos has been making a similar product in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost a decade now. Rep. Garcia Noted that businesses in its Chicago-spanning district also make their own local version.
Clearly, the appeal and success of the Choco Taco was more than just its ingredients. Unilever and its Klondike subsidiary have perfected the mass production of the product, keeping its unit costs low enough to make it affordable for the average consumer. With a network of convenience stores stocking it, most Americans could easily get their hands on it. A smart brand has sold the nation something they didn’t know they needed before, and now they’re clueless at the thought of living without it.
These are the characteristics that will be the most difficult for novice and first-time competitors to replicate, as Salt & Straw’s Malek noted. while discussing his company’s past efforts to make an ice cream taco.
“By pouring ice cream by hand into each mold and making sure it didn’t slip or melt, we could make about 10 a day. To this day, I have no idea how [Klondike was] capable of making that many,” he told the the Chronicle.
Even here, there is hope. Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian tweeted on Monday that he wanted to buy the rights to Choco Taco to save it for future generations.
Expensive @Unilever “I’d like to buy the rights to your Choco Taco and keep it from melting away from the childhood of future generations. https://t.co/eXsmoR8kIV
— AlexisOhanian7️⃣7️⃣6️⃣ (@alexisohanian) July 25, 2022
In the follow-up comments to Fortune, Ohanian insisted he was serious about the plan. With its backing, the product may well have the capital it needs to remain an inexpensive, available, and loved mass-produced candy.