The History of Choc-Ola

Choc-Ola has a history almost as rich as the milk itself. Created by Harry Normington, Sr. in 1944, Choc-Ola’s familial ties can now be traced to one of Indianapolis’ prestigious retail jewelry stores – Reis-Nichols Jewelers, which is owned and operated by Harry’s grandson, BJ Nichols.

While the name may no longer belong in the family, we believe in honoring tradition and catering to the generations that enjoyed Choc-Ola all those years ago. So, take a trip down your own memory lane to learn more about how Choc-Ola came to be and how, after nearly 40 years, it’s back on the market.


Choc-Ola® was invented by Harry Normington, Sr.

Choc-Ola was manufactured in Indianapolis, Indiana on Churchman Avenue and was the largest selling chocolate milk beverage in the Midwest where it sold nearly two million cases a year until its sale.

choc-ola factory


Mr. Normington sold Choc-Ola to Moxie Industries.

In 1977, at the height of its success, Harry sold the company to 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.

chocola truck


“Pete” chocolate beverage is introduced.

Pete Rose, an iconic sports legend, teamed up with Choc-Ola to introduce a unique chocolate drink named “Pete,” endorsed by Rose himself. Given his widespread popularity, it was believed that a beverage backed by Rose would flourish. Yet, due to contract restrictions preventing Rose from making any unsanctioned endorsements related to the Cincinnati Reds, including appearances in his Reds cap, the “Pete” drink faced challenges. These limitations ultimately led to the swift discontinuation of the beverage shortly after its launch.

Pete Rose chocolate drink


Moxie Industries closed the plant and moved operations to Atlanta.

Moxie decided to sell the Choc-Ola business to The Chocolate Group, which was also the parent company of Yoo-Hoo; one of Choc-Ola’s major competitors at the time. Shortly thereafter, The Chocolate Group shut down Choc-Ola’s Indianapolis plant and moved the entire bottling operation up to their Yoo-Hoo bottling facility in Carlstadt, NJ.

After the move to Yoo-Hoo’s Carlstadt facility, distribution of Choc-Ola was expanded into many other regions of the country, but ironically, distribution was discontinued in central Indiana; its own home turf.

1950s choc-ola


Mott’s bought the company and promptly phased out Choc-Ola.

Choc-Ola continued to be manufactured and distributed until Mott’s acquired Yoo-Hoo Industries (formerly The Chocolate Group) in the early 2000s. Since Choc-Ola was owned by Yoo-Hoo, it naturally came along as part of the acquisition. Shortly after the Mott’s acquisition, Choc-Ola began to be completely phased out.

old Choc-Ola can


Dan Iaria secured the Choc-Ola® trademark and began selling it out of his restaurant, Rock-Cola Cafe.

Fond memories of Choc-Ola from childhood left many wondering why it disappeared, a curiosity shared by Dan Iaria, owner of Rock-Cola Cafe in Indianapolis. Seeking to revive the nostalgic beverage and attract customers to his cafe, especially after the local job market suffered a blow, Iaria embarked on a quest to reintroduce Choc-Ola. Discovering the trademark had just expired, he faced the challenge of not having the secret recipe. A conversation with his mother led him to the Normingtons, the inventor’s sons, who were family acquaintances. With their help, Iaria obtained the necessary information to start producing Choc-Ola himself, now crafting about 50 gallons of the cherished drink every few days in his cafe’s kitchen, from the chocolate syrup base to the final product, keeping the legacy alive and well.

rock cola cafe


Production of 12 oz shelf-stable cans begins.

Dan Iaria and his investors Tommy Moorman and Terry Emrick entered into an agreement with Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) to co-pack Choc-Ola® in 12 oz shelf-stable cans. By the end of 2012, the shelf-stable cans were pilot-tested and approved. Active sales of the 12 oz cans began in the fall of 2013.

DFA produced Choc-Ola® until the end of 2017 when DFA decided that the bottling line that made Choc-Ola® was antiquated and once again Choc-Ola® disappeared from the market even though the calls from consumers and retailers to buy Choc-Ola® never waned.

boy drinking chocola


Choc-Ola making a return throughout Indiana

Hoosiers and people in surrounding states can now purchase Choc-Ola, thanks to Iaria’s partnership with Dave Hunter, a 40-year veteran in the beverage industry, who’s helped develop a distribution strategy to expand the Choc-Ola brand.

2024 Choc-Ola's Return