Capitalism Killed the Choco Taco. It's Also Resurrecting It.

The announcement that Unilever will discontinue the popular treat has small-time entrepreneurs and big-money investors rushing to keep the product alive.


The news that Unilever would be discontinuing the Choco Taco ice cream product was met with shock, dismay, and (satiric) cries for government intervention. But the fast-acting free market is already preparing to resurrect the frozen treat.

In response to the Swiss-based Unilever's announcement, Sen. Chris Murphy (D–Conn.) tweeted that he'd be introducing legislation that would invoke the Defense Production Act to keep the Choco Taco alive. On the House side, Rep. Chuy Garcia (D–Ill.) called for a congressional investigation.

Both lawmakers were obviously joking—although that didn't stop military news site Task and Purpose from explaining precisely why using the Defense Production Act to make Choco Tacos would be just as bad of an idea as using it to make just anything else.

But the country's ice cream entrepreneurs aren't treating it as a laughing matter. In response to the news, an ice cream maker based in Portland, Oregon, announced that it would be rolling out its own ice cream taco treat at its collection of stores throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Tyler Malek, the founder of the Salt & Straw chain, described to the San Francisco Chronicle why this was a natural opening for his own business.

"There's now this hole in the world," said Malek. "We've been debating all day….I don't know if we have the exact 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. Not to worry!

The Oregonian notes that several other Portland ice cream makers have announced plans to make their own ice cream taco products, with some planned to launch as early as next weekend.

These new variants are entering a market that already hosts some early Choco Taco imitators. The Chronicle notes that Rocko's Ice Cream Tacos has been making a similar product in the San Francisco Bay Area for nearly a decade now. Rep. Garcia noted that businesses in his Chicago-spanning district make their own local version too.

Obviously, there was more to appeal and success of the Choco Taco than its mere ingredients. Unilever and its subsidiary Klondike perfected the mass production of the product, keeping its unit costs low enough to make it affordable to the average consumer. With a network of convenience stores stocking it, most Americans could get their hands on one with ease. Clever branding sold the nation on something they didn't know they needed before, and are now distraught at the idea of living without.

It's these features that will be hardest for upstart and small-time competitors to replicate, as Salt & Straw's Malek noted while discussing his company's past efforts at making an ice cream taco.

"Hand-piping ice cream into every single mold and making sure it doesn't slide out or melt out—we could make like 10 a day. To this day, I have no idea how [Klondike was] able to make so many of them," he told the Chronicle.

Even here, there's hope. Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian tweeted Monday that he wanted to buy the rights to the Choco Taco to save it for future generations.

In follow-up comments to Fortune, Ohanian insisted he was serious about the plan. With his backing, the product might just have the capital necessary to remain a cheap, available, and beloved mass-produced treat.