29 July 2022
The Choco Taco and ever-present nostalgia
An announcement that discontinued a beloved treat shows the pull of memory.
An announcement that discontinued a beloved treat shows the pull of memory.
Peruse the lineup of recent brand collaborations and new releases, and a flood of nostalgia-driven media, products, oral histories, sequels and anniversary events will start standing out.
Kellogg’s recently partnered with Nickelodeon, and the focus was a throwback to the slime era of the 1990s. On Netflix, the latest season of Stranger Things reminds us that the series doubles as a thriller and a trip through the 80s, presenting plenty of brand collaboration opportunities along the way. Meanwhile, one of the nation's biggest music festivals of the fall is called When We Were Young.
The pace and consistency of these memory-invoking moves begs the question: Why is a consumer culture that’s always looking for what’s next so obsessed with the past?
For one perspective on what's at work here, let’s unwrap the recent exit of the Choco Taco.
On Monday, Unilever-owned Klondike announced that it was discontinuing the beloved, frozen treat that made tacos sweet.
Like many developments over the past two years, this news was deemed the result of a mismatch between supply and demand.
“Over the past 2 years, we have experienced an unprecedented spike in demand across our portfolio and have had to make very tough decisions to ensure availability of our full portfolio nationwide,” the brand wrote on Twitter.
\u201c@basicwitchxbts Unfortunately, the Choco Taco has been discontinued in both 1ct and 4ct packs. Over the past 2 years, we have experienced an unprecedented spike in demand across our portfolio and have had to make very tough decisions to ensure availability of our full portfolio nationwide.\u201d— Meg\u2077 2!3! NeverNeverFall (@Meg\u2077 2!3! NeverNeverFall) 1658575560
An outcry on the internet followed. Headlines talked of people in mourning. Many talked about not only their love for the combination of tasty dessert and Mexican staple, but also the memories associated with it.
The catch is that many more who were moved by its demise probably haven't had a Choco Taco in a while.
As The Guardian put it, “Some Twitter mourners admitted that they had not had a Choco Taco since childhood, but the pain was real.”
They remember the taste of the Choco Taco, and how that made them feel. Maybe, it even harkened back to where they were when they would eat it.
That doesn't just tap into what’s in a person's head, or their hunger. It also pulls at their heart, producing some combination of longing and satisfaction.
That's a powerful emotion for a product to inspire.
\u201cDear @Unilever \u2014 I'd like to buy the rights to your Choco Taco and keep it from melting away from future generations' childhoods.\u201d— AlexisOhanian7\ufe0f\u20e37\ufe0f\u20e36\ufe0f\u20e3 (@AlexisOhanian7\ufe0f\u20e37\ufe0f\u20e36\ufe0f\u20e3) 1658777606
As this sentiment took hold, sudden last-ditch efforts to preserve the Choco Taco emerged. US Senator Chris Murphy proposed invoking the Defense Product Act. Reddit cofounder and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian offered to buy the rights to the product, and make more. An artist preserved it in 3D, and was hailed as a hero.
As humans, we want to hold onto that tangible connection to the past, even if we hadn't thought about it in a while. Factor in ice cream, and there's a strong chance that the memory is a joyful one.
As the news and remembrances made the rounds, rumors started emerging saying that the Choco Taco's cancellation may have been a marketing stunt. That's what happens when people want to hold onto it so badly.
Even if it's not something they seek out, knowing it's always there is comforting in and of itself.
Plus, people have seen comebacks before.
Klondike disavowed the rumors, saying the discontinuation was real. At the same time, a glint of hope emerged for some as the statement from Klondike suggested the brand was "discussing next steps."
\u201cI want to address the rumors: I\u2019m really being discontinued, it\u2019s not a PR stunt. I knew you loved me, but not THIS much. While I reflect on this outpouring of support, we are discussing next steps, including what to do with the last 912 (we counted) tacos at HQ. Stay tuned\u2026\u201d— Choco Taco (@Choco Taco) 1659029350
All the same, it had tapped into the same kind of nostalgia in a cancellation that brands hope to inspire with their new collaborations and releases. If Klondike executives were to bring it back, it feels like they could probably sell a few.
After all, you've now thought about the Choco Taco for the first time in years.
Dealboard has funding and M&A updates from ecommerce aggregators and forecasting software.
This week, the aggregator space is active with M&A, IKEA is ready to roll out newly-purchased warehouse management software and Authentic Brands Group acquired a boot icon. Plus, there’s new investment to report for YouTube influencer Emma Chamberlain’s coffee brand and retail forecasting.
Here’s a look at the latest deals:
Chamberlain Coffee, the consumer brand founded by YouTube influencer Emma Chamberlain, raised $7 million in new funding.
The financing included backing from existing investors including Blazar Capital, Chamberlain and United Talent Agency. New investors include Volition Capital, Electric Feel Ventures, L.A. Libations and Noah Bremen, founder of PLTFRM.
The new funding follows the launch of a Ready-to-Drink (RTD) product and coffee pods. Previously, the brand raised a Series A in August 2022.
"Creating a uniquely inviting coffee brand has been my dream for so long now, and having key investors back us allows us to build Chamberlain Coffee in ways that feel fresh and exciting,” said Chamberlain, in a statement. “There are so many products I am eager to develop and projects I'm excited to get working on. With such an incredible team and group of investors I am more excited than ever to see what the future holds for Chamberlain Coffee."
Impact Analytics, a software company for retail supply chain and merchandise planning, raised new funding from Vistara Growth.
The new investment, the amount of which was not disclosed, comes after Impact raised funding in February 2021 and October 2022 from Argentum.
The funding will help Impact Analytics further develop its Impact Analytics SmartSuite product portfolio, which is designed to help optimize forecasting, merchandising and end-to-end lifecycle pricing. Rather than the traditional forecasting approach of basing decisions on the preceding year, Impact Analytics applies a model that includes 150 variables from internal and external sources, while combining recency and history. Clients include BJ's Wholesale Club, Dick's Sporting Goods, Puma and Tapestry.
Selva Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on consumer brands that promote healthier living, closed its second fund at $34 million, TechCrunch reported.
With the new funding, Selva will invest in brands across categories including health, wellness, beauty and personal care. The fund expects to write checks of $1-2 million in seed and Series A startups, while assisting in areas like finance, operations and retail partnerships.
Backers of the second fund include Unilever Ventures, PagsGroup and Obelysk.
Nautica and Forever 21 owner Authentic Brands Group acquired the intellectual property of Hunter, a 160-year-old British outdoor lifestyle brand known for its Wellington boots.
With the deal, ABG appointed longtime partners Batra Group and Marc Fisher to execute retail and ecommerce operations, as well as continue to expand the brand in the UK and U.S., respectively.
“At the intersection of fashion and outdoor, Hunter introduces another elevated global brand to Authentic’s diverse Lifestyle portfolio,” said Authentic CEO Jamie Salter, in a statement.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
DTC cookware brand Great Jones was acquired by Meyer Corporation, a global company that also owns kitchen brands such as Farberware and KitchenAid.
Founded in 2018, Great Jones grew with stylish, colorful cookware that stood out on Instagram feeds. CEO Sierra Tishgart will remain in the lead role, and take on an expanded role as the creative director of Meyer. Previously, Meyer was both a supplier and minority investor in Great Jones through fundraising. Now, Meyer will support product expansion and international retail development.
"I have long admired Meyer's expertise in our category, and I've had the personal pleasure of getting to know the Meyer family and team over several years," said Tishgart, in a statement. "I am ecstatic about the opportunities their support will unlock for Great Jones. We've operated as a small team of less than 10 throughout the company's four-year history, and this collaboration will strengthen our technical capabilities and secure our reach for many, many years to come."
The investment arm of IKEA parent Ingka Group acquired the warehouse management software platform Made4Net.
As a result of the deal, Made4Net’s software will be deployed across IKEA’s 482 stores and fulfillment centers. Made4Net will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary of Ingka, with a headquarters in New Jersey. CEO Duff Davidson will remain at the helm of the company.
“Our business currently requires a better fulfillment operations system with more accurate data that better supports handling for our customers,” said Tolga Öncu, head of retail at Ingka Group, in a statement. “Our goal is to become leaders of life at home, serving more people in an omnichannel reality, whenever and however customers choose to meet us.”
European ecommerce aggregator SellerX acquired Elevate Brands, a U.S.-based aggregator.
The combined companies will be known as SellerX Group. It will comprise a portfolio that includes 80 Amazon-native private label consumer brands in categories including sports and outdoors, home, mobile accessories, pets and consumables. The portfolio will span over 40,000 products.
With the deal, SellerX Co-CEOs Philipp Triebel and Malte Horeyseck will lead SellerX Group, while Elevate Brands cofounders Ryan Gnesin, Jeremy Bell and Robert Bell will remain in key leadership positions.
“This acquisition combines our know-how and diversified portfolios of strong brands with a market-leading technology platform and strong operational infrastructure,” said Triebel, in a statement. “By leveraging our combined strengths, I am convinced we are well-positioned to drive further consolidation in the industry.”
Ecommerce aggregator Society Brands acquired Wolf Tactical, a tactical gear company.
Founded in 2017 by Tim Wu, Wolf Tactical makes products including DC belts, range belts to weighted vest and tactical backpacks.
"I started Wolf Tactical by myself as a side hustle with very limited knowledge of business and entrepreneurship. A combination of hard work and relentless learning allowed me to build it into a multi-million-dollar business," said Wu who will remain as brand president, in a statement. "With the help of Society Brands, I have access to untapped potential that I would not be able to achieve by myself.”