Choc-Ola returns, and not a moment too soon

GateHouse — When you see the phrase “Indiana entrepreneurs re-launch” at the beginning of a sentence and you are from Indiana, a few thoughts rocket immediately through the parts of your brain not dedicated to inventing increasingly desperate excuses for why IU hasn’t won a championship since ’87:

  • “Mellencamp’s giant robot will soon rise!”
  • “There must have been tremendous increases in the production of rickety hoops which can be attached to barns.”
  • “Whatever it is, Peyton Manning is shooting a commercial for it in the morning.”
  • “Automated Mitch Daniels-hitting device”

Ha! I kid Indiana because I love Indiana, except its stupid approach to time zones, which is such that when my cousin asked me last week what time it was in my current location I CACKLED WITH GLEE FOR TEN MINUTES because that’s literally the first time the question has swung that way in 35 years. I’m still cackling. I think I’ll take a small cackle break right now. Ha HO! Oh, it feels so good to laugh when you’ve spent 12 years calling people at incorrect times for interviews, such as that one time I woke up “Weird Al” Yankovic’s baby. Still feel bad about that.

But though I love Indiana as a state, frankly many of their exports have left something to be desired, and yes, I’m looking at you, Babyface. You and Choc-Ola, an old chocolate-based beverage that’s being relaunched by two Indianapolis-based entrepreneurs, Dan Iaria and Joe Wolfla, the latter of whom said “It’s the greatest-tasting chocolate milk you’ve ever had.” The GREATEST-TASTING. Brave words, Wolfla; rare is the man who messes with Hershey and survives.


Carolina Chocolate Drops – Knockin’


Choc-Ola debuted in the 1940s, but was at its most popular in the ’70s, when it was pitched on an Indianapolis kids’ program by a guy named “Cowboy Bob” because television for kids in the ’70s was terrible. I don’t remember Cowboy Bob, but I do remember picking up some Choc-Ola on exciting family road trips to places like Kokomo and Muncie, and finding, even as a delicious beverage-appreciating fourth-grader, that it tasted like Swiffer fluid that had 35 gallons of imitation child-labor-created Chocolate Flavor Simulator poured into it. I haven’t touched it since ’81; the drink was phased out in 2001 by parent company Yoo-hoo in what still stands as the decade’s most hilariously named cutback.




Needless to say, with the actual beverage tasting like the drippings from a rag used to clean up something at a horse race, Choc-Ola sales will depend heavily on Nostalgia, that delightful and inexplicably pervasive notion among us 20-to-40-somethings that if something existed in the past, it must still be awesome. (I didn’t write that, I stole it from the leaked pitch notes to “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.”) This is an actual quote from an industry analyst named Harry Balzer, who inexplicably survived his childhood: “We are always looking for variety in the beverages we consume. We love new things, even if they’re old things. We know chocolate, and we like it.”


Related, sort of

• Count Chocula = Impossible to buy in South Carolina. HALLOWEEN IS CANCELED


Yes! This astute fellow has not only totally nailed Americans’ love of things both new AND old, but astutely points out that we have previously encountered chocolate, both good reasons to buy a drink. On the plus side, if the drink doesn’t sell, perhaps it can be used to fuel Mellencamp’s robot.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

5 responses to “Choc-Ola returns, and not a moment too soon

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