hand holding a klondike choco taco

From push-up pops to ice cream sandwiches, pre-packaged ice cream treats come in many shapes and flavors. Perhaps none of them, however, are quite as novel as the Klondike Choco Taco. It’s only been around since 1983, per Eater, yet the product is already considered an American classic and a staple in the ice cream industry. Whether you find yourself near an ice cream truck at a neighborhood park or in the convenience store of a random gas station, you’re basically guaranteed to find a Choco Taco anywhere ice cream is sold.

For such a sought-after treat, there’s really nothing fancy about a Choco Taco. It features all the same components as a standard ice cream bar; the only difference is that it’s shaped like a taco. It has a waffle cone taco shell, vanilla fudge-swirled ice cream filling, and, to top it all off, a hardened chocolate coating studded with peanuts (via Klondike). Ingredients-wise, the Choco Taco may sound a lot like a Drumstick, the iconic ice cream product created decades before. But instead of eating it from top to bottom, you get a mouthful of all the flavors and textures in a single bite of the taco, making it one of the most unique ways to enjoy ice cream.

The Choco Taco wasn’t created for Taco Bell

taco bell restaurant sign

If you think back to the first time you ever ate a Choco Taco, there’s a pretty good chance that your memory is associated with Taco Bell. One of the first places the Choco Taco appeared when it was introduced to the public was indeed Taco Bell, Eater reports. While the fast food chain did contribute to the popularity of the ice cream, it merely sold it and did not have a part in its creation.

When the Choco Taco was invented in 1983, family-owned ice cream company Jack & Jill began distributing it to wholesalers, which in turn sold the product to ice cream trucks. As sales continued to increase around the country, Jack & Jill attracted the attention of Good Humor, the ice cream giant behind brands like Klondike and Popsicle. Jack & Jill was subsequently bought out by Good Humor (owned by Unilever) in 1989 and officially adopted Unilever’s Klondike name in 1993. This opened doors for further distribution to retailers and restaurants, including Taco Bell. Unfortunately, as is the case with many beloved Taco Bell menu items, the chain eventually ended up pulling the Choco Taco from the menu.

A former ice cream truck driver invented the Choco Taco

alan drazen standing by ice cream van

You might assume that a product as successful and marketable as the Choco Taco had a whole team of executives behind its creation, but the truth is that the name, concept, and recipe were created by a former ice cream truck driver, per Vice. Alan Drazen was only 18 years old and still in college when he got his first job in the ice cream business working as an ice cream truck driver for Good Humor. "I was very fortunate to work for a company that, when I had an idea, they kinda let me run with it and develop it," Drazen told Vice.

According to NPR, Drazen worked his way up within the company, becoming a manager in 1974. But it wasn’t until 1983 on a random workday that the idea for the Choco Taco came to him. At the time, "Mexican food was the fastest-growing segment of the food industry, and the taco was the most recognizable shape," Drazen shared in an interview with Eater. "It went from me selling it to my friends around the country," he said, to more than a billion Choco Tacos sold today.

The Choco Taco packaging revolutionized the ice cream industry

choco taco package on white background

It’s common nowadays to see ice cream wrapped in foil or plastic, but before the Choco Taco was invented, packaging looked a lot different. Alan Drazen told Eater (via YouTube) that in the early stages of its development, the shape of the Choco Taco presented a bit of a challenge to mass distribute. Whereas ice cream cones are structurally sound, taco shells, even the kind made out of waffle cones and filled with ice cream, are inherently fragile and don’t travel well. Drazen’s team, therefore, faced a great deal of difficulty figuring out how to ensure that the Choco Tacos wouldn’t break before they reached customers.

The solution came in the form of a brand new type of packaging made out of metallized polypropylene. Not only did the new technology help the Choco Tacos keep their shape, but it also gave them a longer shelf life. "Everything was paper back then. The air gets through the paper," Drazen explained to Eater. "This was the first ice cream novelty to use metallized polypropylene packaging." To this day, Good Humor still wraps Choco Tacos in the same material.

The current Choco Taco recipe isn’t the original one

unpackaged choco taco

The Choco Taco may have been a hit as soon as it was created, but that doesn’t mean the recipe was perfect from the get-go. Eater reports that the first Choco Tacos were a lot higher in calories and fat than the ones sold today. The recipe was only changed because of Taco Bell, which at the time was actively making the switch to reduced-fat and low-calorie offerings. The Choco Taco had to follow suit with "light ice cream" if it wanted to be on the menu.

Fortunately, the new recipe was pretty similar to the original, as it didn’t change either the flavor or the texture. Furthermore, t’s unlikely that customers even noticed any difference, as the Choco Taco wasn’t a household name at that point. Choco Tacos today, on the other hand, are so recognizable that there’s surely no chance Good Humor will be messing with the recipe, despite the fact that it doesn’t use the highest quality ingredients. "They dip it in some weird glacage that’s super low-grade cocoa powder mixed with a lot of cocoa butter, or god knows what else," chef Alex Stupak explained to Eater — and that’s as someone who likes the treat.

Choco Tacos are called Winner Tacos in Europe

unboxed winner taco

As much as Choco Tacos are a cornerstone of American ice cream culture, they’ve also made an impact overseas — just under a different name. According to Vice, Choco Tacos go by "Winner Tacos" in Europe. The product had seen so much success in the U.S. that Unilever, Good Humor’s parent corporation, decided to bring Choco Tacos to Italy in 1998 and Sweden in 1999, where they were distributed by Algida, the European distributor of Unilever’s products.

As seen in a commercial from 1998 (via YouTube), the Winner Taco was nearly identical to the Choco Taco, except the ice cream flavor was caramel and vanilla instead of fudge and vanilla. Since it wasn’t nearly as chocolaty as its American counterpart, it only made sense that Unilever would change the name to a more fitting one. Just as they were in the U.S., Winner Tacos quickly became a childhood favorite of many Europeans but were discontinued in 2000 seemingly overnight. It was only thanks to a surge of social media campaigning in 2013 that the Winner Taco was ultimately brought back in 2014. Apparently, the taste of nostalgia is universal, and it often comes in the form of taco-shaped ice cream.