Snacking nostalgia is a heady drug. Sometimes the longing for the flavors of our youth gets so strong, we lose sight of how objectively bad a food or drink actually was. (See: Crystal Pepsi.) Sometimes, though, a generation of junk food eaters will band together in attempt to resurrect a beloved lunch box staple of a by-gone era. They beg and plead with corporate Twitter accounts and start online petitions as a form of post-postmodern grassroots organizing. (See: Dunkaroos.)
Junk food-obsessed millennials across the pond are just as much in the grip of this nostalgia as Americans are. And the successful resurrection of a certain packaged ice cream treat is a perfect case study.
The Winner Taco is the European export version of the beloved American Choco Taco. The Choco Taco, invented by a former Good Humor ice cream truck driver turned corporate employee, was created in Philadelphia in 1984. It’s rampant success throughout the 90s in the States led parent company Unilever to introduce the crunchy, chocolatey ice cream cone-taco hybrid to the Italian and Swedish markets in 1998 and 1999, respectively, under the name Winner Taco.
It soon became a beloved frozen snack among kids and teens, in an era where American youth culture permeated the Western hemisphere. European children of the aughts will remember the endearingly creepy ads for the packaged treat, showing an enthused boy crunching into a Winner Taco, the sheer bliss of the vanilla and caramel ice cream filling transforming him into a Hulk-like polar bear.
And then, overnight, the Winner Taco disappeared from shelves, and with it, the joy of youth at the turn of the 21st century. In 2000, Algida, the European distributor for Unilever’s ice cream treats, discontinued the product completely. The tantalizingly brief but glorious run of the Winner Taco was over.
But as those youths—the first wave of hyper-online people, the ones who speak in memes with a social media accent—came into adulthood, they decided to band together to demand justice from their corporate ice cream overlords. In 2013, Facebook groups and Twitter accounts popped up as forums for Winner Taco fans from Italy and Sweden to reminisce, and strategize on how to demand action from Algida. Doing what millennials do best—they trolled, they meme-ified old Winner Taco ads, and they annoyed the hell out of Algida’s social media person until they got what they were looking for. Thousands joined these Facebook groups and more subtweeted Algida without mercy.
In January of 2014, Algida announced the return of the Winner Taco to its original European markets. By February of that year, the fudgy, nutty treat had returned to store shelves.
“La guerra es finite,” wrote one of the organizers of an Italian Facebook group dedicated to the cause, "Give Us Back the Winner Taco." "Our work on this planet is finished," they said, posing like the victors they were with Winner Tacos in hand. For those who worshipped at the altar of the Winner Taco, the war, indeed, was over. And victory was sweet.
For all of us Americans dying for the sweet, sweet taste of Dunkaroos not smuggled over the border from Canada, we might take note of their success.