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Choc-Ola® is an American chocolate beverage that was formulated in the 1940s by Harry Normington, Sr. from Pennsylvania. Harry, born in England, was the son of Young and Mary Normington. In 1907, his father brought him to the United States, along with the rest of his family, when he was 7 years old. Coming from England on the RMS Lusitania, they arrived like many immigrants of the time through Ellis Island.
The family settled in Lanark, Pennsylvania and started a dairy farm called The Normington Dairy. The Normington Dairy was quite successful and later was renamed Dairyland after it became part of Lehigh Valley Dairy. Lehigh Valley Dairy eventually became Avondale Dairy & Ice Cream.
Harry worked at the dairy until his father's retirement, at which time he purchased his father's shares of stock in Avondale Dairy & Ice Cream.
At the age of 34, Harry established a chain of Avondale ice cream parlors and restaurants in and around the Allentown, PA area and was quite successful for a period of time. However, an extended down-turn in the economy eventually took its toll on his parlors and restaurants and he was forced to close all of his businesses in around 1941.
Afterwards, Harry left Pennsylvania in search of work, and in 1943 he eventually found a job at Meadow Gold Dairy (now part of Dean Foods) in Vincennes, IN. 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®.
His business planning started with visiting nearby big cities to scout out locations for a building suitable for bottling. While he wasn't doing that, he was out acquiring some of the equipment and materials he would later need at the plant, such as motors, wood crates, glass bottles, etc. Much of this would come from junk yards due to the limited supply of materials as a result of WWII.
By 1944, Harry had finally found an adequate building in nearby Indianapolis, which also happened to have a house available right next to it into which he could move his family. The building was located at 2301 Churchman Ave. and the house was at 2323 Churchman Ave.
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® would eventually gain an enormous and loyal following over the years. But that would all begin to change in the late 1970s.
- 1 1977: Choc-Ola® sold to Moxie Industries
- 2 1985: Yoo-Hoo purchases Choc-Ola® from Moxie
- 3 2003: Mott's Acquires Choc-Ola®
- 4 2010: A New Era Begins
- 5 March 2011: Market Test with South Bend-based Martin's Super Markets Begins
- 6 December 2011: Large-Scale Distribution Begins
- 7 May 2012: 12 oz Shelf-stable Cans Become Available
- 8 November 2013: Online Sales of Choc-Ola Commence
- 9 Nostalgic Memories
- 10 "Pete" the Pete Rose Chocolate Drink
- 11 The Choc-Ola® Cow Mascot
- 12 Key Dates 
- 13 References
- 14 External links
1977: 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 1983 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 1983 or after.
1985: Yoo-Hoo purchases Choc-Ola® from Moxie
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.
2003: 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 29Nov11 that they had no intention of doing anything else with Choc-Ola®.
2010: A New Era Begins
By 2000, Choc-Ola® was all but a memory. For years after The Chocolate Group (Yoo-Hoo Industries) ceased production of Choc-Ola® there were rumors of it still being available in a small town here and there. But those were most likely just bottles or cans that had been produced prior to the shutdown, but had not yet been consumed.
From 2000 to 2009 Choc-Ola® sightings faded into obscurity, while conversely, its fanbase's desire for its return strengthened. Fans constructed message boards to discuss Choc-ola®, they emailed and called the company, and they wondered when, if ever, Choc-Ola® would return.
Though its long absence made it unlikely, Choc-Ola® would indeed return.
In 2010, a new era for Choc-Ola® began. A native Indianapolis man and avid fan of Choc-Ola® made it his personal mission to revive Choc-Ola®. In early 2010, the owner of the Rock-Cola '50s Cafe in Indianapolis secured the trademark and began selling Choc-Ola® out of his authentic 1950s-style cafe.
March 2011: Market Test with South Bend-based Martin's Super Markets Begins
Beginning March 21, 2011 Choc-Ola®, it was announced that an agreement was made with Prairie Farms to produce and distribute Choc-Ola® through South Bend, IN-based Martin's Super Markets, a regional 21-store chain. Martin's Super Markets are located throughout northern Indiana and southern Michicgan. Martin's will have the exclusive right to sell Choc-Ola® until May 22, 2011. After May 22, expect to see new announcements regarding where Choc-Ola® can be purchased.
December 2011: Large-Scale Distribution Begins
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.
May 2012: 12 oz Shelf-stable Cans Become Available
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.
November 2013: Online Sales of Choc-Ola Commence
In November 2013, Choc-Ola became available for online purchases on their company website (www.choc-ola.com).
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.
9½ oz can of Pete
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.
The Choc-Ola® Cow Mascot
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: Beginning March 21, Choc-Ola® will be available at all (21) 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
- "Normingtons arrive at Ellis Island".
- "Choc-Ola message board 1".
- "Choc-Ola message board 2".
- "Choc-Ola message board 3".
- Source: Pete Rose: a biography; pg 101.
- Source: Indianapolis Star 01AUG78 / Article written by Thomas R. Keating
- "Source: United States Patent & Trademark Office".