It takes a while to eat a Chocodile!
As a child, my mother often used small rewards to encourage my cooperation during our numerous errands. These treats varied from simple candy bars to sodas, depending on where we were. Among my most cherished rewards were snack cakes, a rare treat at home due to our family's policy of rationing them out sparingly. Growing up in New Jersey, not far from New York, I was fortunate to have a plethora of snack cake options from various companies like Hostess, Little Debbie, Drakes, Tastykakes, Dolly Madison, and more. This diversity meant standing in front of a towering rack of treats, deliberating over my choice.
This routine changed when I encountered the Chocodile. As a long-time fan of Twinkies, it was my go-to snack for my lunchbox or monthly treat. However, one day at a local deli, I spotted a snack that would alter my snack preferences forever: the Chocodile. The packaging featured a colorful, crocodile-like character and promised a Twinkie-like experience with a chocolate twist. Upon trying it, I was instantly captivated by the chocolate-coated, Twinkie-esque treat. From then on, Chocodiles became my snack of choice, overshadowing all others.
Today I will delve into the history and intricacies of the Chocodile, a snack that, despite its brief surge in popularity, remains unknown to many. The journey of this unique treat reflects not just personal nostalgia, but a wider story about a snack cake that refuses to quit.
What is Hostess
You can’t talk about Chocodiles without discussing the company that made them, Hostess. Hostess, as a brand, started in 1919, with the sale of the first Hostess Cupcake. While Hostess cupcakes are delicious, the brand didn't become hugely popular until they introduced the Twinkie in 1930. Since most of you know the Twinkie, even those of you who haven’t had one, you know they are a big deal. Hostess was a solid brand, but eventually things went sour for them.
Hostess was owned by the Continental Baking Company until 1995, after which Interstate Bakeries Corporation (IBC) acquired it. IBC became known as Hostess Brands in 2009, coinciding with the beginning of their asset liquidation. Around this time, the cake business was sold to a new Hostess brand. In 2013, after about a year of unavailability, Hostess returned, starting off by reintroducing the Twinkie.
Over the years, Hostess has produced many great products and had memorable mascots. Their product line, besides cupcakes and Twinkies, includes Ding-Dongs, Donettes, Fruit Pies, Ho Hos, Snowballs, Suzie Q's, Zingers, and of course, the Chocodile.
These products appealed to me, not just for their taste, but also for their comic book advertisements featuring heroes and villains. Furthering their appeal, the mascots created for advertising, like Captain Cupcake, Fruit Pie the Magician, Twinkie the Kid, King Ding Dong, Happy Ho Ho, and the legendary Chauncey Chocodile, were captivating.
Who is Chauncey Chocodile
Chauncey Chocodile was the wonderful, but nearly forgotten mascot of his namesake snack cake, The Chocodile. His voice was provided by Allen Swift, a talented voice actor involved in many projects, including Sesame Street, Law and Order, and much more. Swift recorded tens of thousands of commercials during his lifetime. Here is a Chocodile commercial he did, see if it sounds familiar.
The Launch of the Chocodile
The Chocodile got its start in 1977. A 1977 article from the ITT Continental Baking Company announced the introduction of Hostess Chocodiles in New York and Denver markets, following successful tests in Memphis and St. Louis. Chocodiles a year earlier.
There is some language from their press release that was widely published.
Chocodiles, represented by the cartoon character Chauncey Chocodile, are cream-filled golden sponge cakes enrobed with chocolate flavoring. Supported by heavy advertising featuring Chauncey, the launch included in-store appearances and promotional materials.
You read that right, for years after Chocodiles' release, Chauncey Chocodile would appear at Hostess stores, state fairs, often alongside Twinkie the Kid and other Hostess characters. Can’t help thinking how exciting it would have been be to meet good ol’ Chauncey when I was a kid. To me, he was as exciting as Mr. T, The Smurfs, Mickey Mouse, or Goofy.
The advertisement for Chocodiles in the 1970s marketed them as a sensible snack, emphasizing their wholesomeness. The ads read,
Your family's between-meal snacks should be wholesome and fresh, not candy. Try the new Chocodiles cake from Hostess. Your family will love the moist golden cake with cream filling inside and delicious chocolaty flavor outside. Hostess Chocodiles cost less than most candy, and with a special coupon, you save even more.
The Chocodile, essentially a chocolate-covered Twinkie, has frequently been mistaken for something more unique. However, in an episode of "Unwrapped" they interviewed an employee of Hostess, clarifying that it is, indeed, “just” a chocolate-covered Twinkie. Before you tell me that you are seeing these in stores nowadays, try not to confuse the Chocodile with the Chocolate Sponge Cake Twinkie. They are very different.
Chocodiles were often individually wrapped. This was likely due to the chocolate coating, which could cause them to stick together if they were touching when it got too warm. When they re-released them a couple of years ago, they did make a package that had two in it. Those seemed to travel fine, but that might have been because of a reformulation.
As I mentioned, they were officially released in 1977, and they remained available for about a decade nationwide. However, by the 1990s, they seemed to have disappeared from many markets. Needless to say, I was sad that they disappeared. I would often talk about them lovingly to anyone who would listen.
Then, a few years later, while visiting my sister in Seattle, I was thrilled to find Chocodiles at a local 7-Eleven. Despite her showing me many wonderful sights and foods, I was most excited about stocking up on Chocodiles. It turns out that while Chocodiles had disappeared from certain regions, they were still available in others. The west coast of the United States was awash in them.
Sadly, I needed to return home and the Chocodile became something I could only get when I visited my sister or when I could talk her into bringing me some when she came to visit back east.
This changed when the internet became more widespread. Then it became easier to order regional foods online, including Chocodiles. However, when the company declared bankruptcy in 2012, Chocodiles disappeared along with most of their products. But it is hard to keep a good product down.
About a year after the Twinkie's return, the Chocodile Twinkie was released. It had some branding and size changes, but it looked like a Chocodile. Yet the new version felt off, possibly due to ingredient or ratio changes. In 2017, Hostess rebooted the Chocodile as fudge-covered Twinkies, closer to the original size and with better-tasting chocolate. These were good! However, by 2018, these too were hard to find, and they too were eventually discontinued. I have just about given up on the Chocodile until about 2 months ago.
Did Hostess secretly re-release the Chocodile?
Recently, I discovered a potential return of the Chocodile in a new form. I was at a grocery store when I spotted a Hostess's Mash-Up product that combines Ding-Dongs and Twinkies. The results is a Twinkie sponge with cream filling coated in chocolate – reminiscent of a Chocodile. These cakes, although smaller, offer a similar taste experience. It might not be as perfect as fudge-covered Twinkies, but it’s the closest we Chocodile fans are probably going to get for a while.
While Chocodiles may not return in their original form, their legacy endures. If you're curious, you can try the Ding-Dong and Twinkie Mash-Ups as a close approximation. If you are a fan, it's worth reaching out to Hostess to express interest in the Chocodile's return. Despite the uncertainties of its future, for some, the Chocodile remains a cherished part of snack cake history and one that I will always want back on shelves.
If you enjoy Chocodiles, you might want to listen to the Retroist Chocodile Podcast that I recorded for supporters on Patreon.
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