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Choc-Ola is an American chocolate beverage that was formulated in the 1940s by Harry Normington, Sr. from Pennsylvania. Normington distributed the beverage through Choc-Ola Bottlers Inc., which he founded in 1944 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
After his chain of ice cream parlors was forced to close due to a poor economy, Normington found work at Meadow Gold Dairy (now part of Dean Foods) in Vincennes, Indiana. After moving his family down to Vincennes, he began making plans for a new business in which he planned to bottle and sell a 6-oz chocolate drink, which is what would eventually become Choc-Ola.
By 1944, Harry had finally found an adequate building in nearby Indianapolis. That same year, after moving his family to Indianapolis and establishing Choc-Ola Bottlers, Inc., Harry purchased a route truck and in conjunction with larger distributors like 7UP, he began having Choc-Ola distributed throughout central Indiana and eventually to all of Indiana and the bordering areas of Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan.
Choc-Ola sold to Moxie Industries
Choc-Ola continued to gain popularity throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. In 1977, at the height of its success, Harry sold the company to Atlanta-based Moxie Industries. Moxie continued to operate the Indianapolis plant and distribute Choc-Ola in much the same way that Harry Normington had; however, periodic problems with cocoa quality and issues with changing FDA regulations caused some challenging production issues.
Eventually, unable to meet the new FDA regulations without incurring substantial costs, Moxie opted to close the Indianapolis plant in 1982 and relocate the packaging operation to a contract manufacturer in Doraville, Georgia called Consolidated Chocolate. Packaging of Choc-Ola continued at the Doraville facility until at least 1985. So any cans or bottles that list Doraville, GA as the packaging location were all manufactured in 1982 or after.
Yoo-Hoo purchases Choc-Ola
Eventually, in 1985, Moxie decided to sell the Choc-Ola business to The Chocolate Group (later renamed to Yoo-Hoo Industries), which was also the parent company of Yoo-Hoo; one of Choc-Ola's major competitors at the time. Shortly thereafter, The Chocolate Group began phasing out production and distribution of Choc-Ola. It is not known precisely when production completely ceased; however, it is believed to have been largely shutdown by the late 1980s.
Mott's acquires Choc-Ola
In 2003, Yoo-Hoo Industries sells several beverage brands to the Mott's division of Cadbury-Schweppes. Choc-Ola was one of the brands acquired by Mott's during that acquisition. The trademark for Choc-Ola expired in June 2009 and Mott's did not renew it - stating in an Indianapolis Star article on 29 November 2011 that they had no intention of doing anything else with Choc-Ola.
Prairie Farms secures trademark
In early 2010, the owner of the Rock-Cola '50s Cafe in Indianapolis secured the trademark and began selling Choc-Ola out of his 1950s-style cafe.
On March 21, 2011 it was announced that an agreement was made with Prairie Farms to produce and distribute Choc-Ola through South Bend, Indiana-based Martin's Super Markets, a regional 21-store chain.
In late November 2011, a deal was struck with Prairie Farms Dairy to manufacture Choc-Ola at their Anderson, Indiana facility. By early December 2011 major retail outlets like Walmart, K-mart, Safeway, IGA began selling Choc-Ola along with a number of smaller, central-Indiana regional retail outlets.
Prairie Farms says they plan to eventually distribute Choc-Ola in 18 states in individual-sized bottles and half-gallon jugs, primarily at grocery stores and convenience stores.
In May 2012, a deal was struck with Dairy Farmers of America-based out of Springfield, MO to co-pack Choc-Ola in 12 oz shelf-stable cans to avoid the shelf-life limitations and refrigerated storage requirements imposed by the half-gallons (22 day shelf-life) being manufactured by Prairie Farms. At the same time, Choc-Ola discontinued its non-shelf-stable manufacturing partnership with Prairie Farms.
In November 2013, Choc-Ola became available for online purchases on their company website.
In September 2014, Choc-Ola changed packaging from 24-pks translucent shrink-wrapped cases, to full color market wrapped 12-pks. The size change was to facilitate a lower weight point-of-sale product and also lower weight item to ship. The change to the shrink-wrap was to create a more attractive and marketable package.
At the same time that the packaging was being changed for a better retail fit for smaller retail outlets, Choc-Ola Corp. partnered up with Walgreens to offer Choc-Ola in the Central Indiana region. Future expansion plans were discussed that would target southern Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio if the initial rollout was successful.
In the 1970s, as Choc-Ola was gaining a loyal following, it was helped along by advertising spots on local Indiana independent television station, WTTV 4. Choc-Ola's target market at the time was children and young adults, so kid's programs like Cowboy Bob's Corral (aka Cowboy Bob's Chuckwagon Theater) and Nightmare Theater, hosted by Sammy Terry, were regularly utilized as strategic advertising mediums.
In 1978, Rose contacted Choc-Ola in an attempt to partner with them. He liked chocolate beverages and Choc-Ola was one of his favorites. So, together they launched a separate chocolate beverage which would be officially endorsed by Rose called "Pete", figuring that his enormous popularity at the time would make a Rose-endorsed beverage an instant success.
However, what Rose didn't take into account was that, per his contract, he was prohibited from making any unauthorized advertising reference to the Cincinnati Reds, including being shown in his Reds ball cap. This hampered the success of the "Pete" beverage and, although it was actually distributed for a period of time, the short-lived drink was shelved almost as quickly as it was conceived.
At some point, the Indianapolis plant acquired a mascot of sorts; a giant white and black spotted cow that was raised on a white pole at the south end of the main parking lot. In fact, it was erected on the same site that the Normington house once resided.
For a good portion of the cow's existence, Indianapolis residents could pass by this roadside icon and, if they were very observant, they could see an actual arrow sticking out of the side of the cow facing the street. That arrow, too high to easily reach and remove, stayed there for years. It is not known who shot the cow or exactly when, but the cow never appeared any worse for wear.
After the plant closed, many wondered what became of the old cow. It is rumored that it was sold to a local used car dealer on the west side of Indianapolis. So it could perhaps still be hanging around yet today.
- 1943: Harry Normington founds Choc-Ola Bottlers, Inc.
- 1944: Choc-Ola begins 1st year of production
- 1977: Choc-Ola is acquired by Moxie Industries, Inc.
- 1978: "Pete" chocolate beverage is introduced
- 1982: Mott's is acquired as a separate division of Cadbury-Schweppes (now Cadbury plc)
- 1985: Choc-Ola is acquired by The Chocolate Group, Inc.
- 1989: Choc-Ola trademark is renewed by The Chocolate Group, Inc.
- 1993: The Chocolate Group changes its name to Yoo-Hoo Industries, Inc.
- 2003: Yoo-Hoo Industries is acquired by Mott's, LLP (now a division of Dr Pepper Snapple Group)
- 2008: Choc-Ola remains under the Mott's division as Cadbury-Schweppes North America reorganizes into Dr Pepper/Snapple Group
- 2009: Choc-Ola trademark expires
- 2010: Choc-Ola trademark is acquired by BIC, LLC of Indianapolis, IN
- 2011: Choc-Ola available at all store locations of Martin's Super Markets.
- 2012: In May, production of 12 oz shelf-stable cans begins
- 2013: Online sales of 24-pk cases of Choc-Ola begins
- [dead link]
- "Choc-Ola". Choc-Ola. 2011-03-17. Retrieved 2016-05-28.
- David M. Jordan. "Pete Rose: A Biography". Books.google.com. p. 10. Retrieved 2016-05-28.
- Keating, Thomas R (1 August 1978). "Pete Peddles New Drink". Indianapolis Star.
- "Trademark Status & Document Retrieval". Tarr.uspto.gov. Retrieved 2016-05-28.