This Australian treat was productive 20 years ago when all traces of it disappeared

Do you remember the golden age of children’s snacks? I’ll give you a hint, it was the 90s.

A time when every school lunch box was a treasure chest filled to the brim with multicolored, multicolored treats of questionable nutritional value.

A time when the Dunkaroos fell from the sky and the Go-Gurts flowed like water.

And the king of these snacks was a special treat.

It was a multicolored icy pole that sat on two sticks and used a toucan as its mascot.

I remember it vividly, and so do everyone I’ve asked over 25.

Some were even able to recite the advertising jingle (“I can, you can, one or TWO can!”) and list the four colors of the frozen treat.

But for some inexplicable reason, when I did a search, I couldn’t find any pictures or reports of the Toucan icy pile online.

The childhood favorite seemingly disappeared overnight from our country’s gas stations and milk bars.Milk Bar Project: Eamon Donnelly

In 2022, it seems almost impossible that something does not have a digital footprint.

Despite being long out of print, photos and television ads for vintage treats like Incredibites, Fruity Bix Bars, and Sunnyboys are easy to find on the web.

How is it possible that an ubiquitous icy pool, beloved by people across the country, could just disappear without a trace?

I decided I was going to find the mystery treat.

Who made the Toucan?

It turned out to be almost impossible to find the manufacturer of this mythical frozen treat.

I reached out to both Streets and Peters Ice-Cream to find out if any of the dessert giants had produced a toucan-themed popsicle stick around the turn of the millennium.

I was greeted with polite confusion and dismissal.

Not only were there no photos of this icy pole to be found, but there seemed to be little evidence that it ever existed.

That was until I came across a document describing an intellectual property rights case brought before the Federal Court of Australia in the late 1990s: Kellogg Company v PB Foods Ltd – November 19, 1999.

The Kellogg Company, known for their breakfast cereal empire, had appealed a move by a firm called the Peters & Brownes Group (PB) to trademark the word “Toucan.”

Along with several paragraphs defining what a toucan was and transcripts of dialogue from Kellogg’s cereal mascot Toucan Sam in television commercials, the document revealed that PB owned three “Toucan” trademarks.

And buried in the text was one description, which read:

“PB also produces and sells the ice confection, ‘TOUCAN twin stick icy poles’ throughout Australia.”

Jackpot.

There – in a legal document from the Federal Court of Australia – was not only proof that this icy pole existed, but also a definitive answer as to its manufacturer.

Finding PB Foods in 2022 was a very different matter.

The document stated that the “Toucan twin stick icy pole” was made in a joint venture with Cadbury Schweppes, a company that has since turned into a multinational snack conglomerate Mondelez International.

PB Foods itself was acquired twice, first to New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra in 2002 and then again to food giant Nestle in 2009.

What started as an exercise to find a disused icy pool had turned into a financial investigation into multinational food companies.

To give you an idea of ​​the size of these companies, if Nestle were considered a country, its sales would be greater than the gross domestic product of 150 other countries on Earth.

Spokespersons for both Mondelez International and Nestle told ABC they had no data on the product.

So if the toucan’s seemingly mythical ice stick were found, it wouldn’t be in the records of a multinational corporation.

With PB Foods in mind, I tracked down David Hahn, who worked as a Product Manager at the company from 2000 to 2005.

“No, you’re not going crazy. We definitely made that product,” Mr. Hahn said.

“It was four flavors from memory, and you’re going to ask me which flavors they were, but that’s way back in the dark days, mate.”

He believes the Toucan ice cream stick was still made by Fonterra until the ice cream business was eventually sold to Australian dairy company Bulla.

“It’s probably at that point that the product is no longer being made, and the reason that would have been is that Bulla didn’t have the production — that double stick mold — they wouldn’t have had that piece of equipment,” said Mr Hahn.

The icy polar quest goes west

Mr Hahn told me that PB Foods owned the Peters brand exclusively in Western Australia and was registered as Peters (WA) before 1997.

I went west.

A phone call to the State Library of Western Australia revealed that there were over 70 files of financial records, photographs, packaging samples, inventory catalogs and more in the Peters (WA) Ltd. archive – each file containing up to 200 items.

With the help and patience of an extremely dedicated library team, a photo has been found.

A truck advertising icy toucan poles
This photo of a Browne’s Dairy truck was taken on February 21, 2005 in an Albany suburb of Mira Mar.Delivered: Peter Laurence

The photo was taken around 2005 by Canadian Peter Laurence.

In addition, the team was able to use the National Library of Australia’s Trove digital catalog to find more evidence of the frigid toucans pool.

As part of the Copyright Act 1968, every publisher in Australia is required to send a copy of every single item they publish to be held in the National Library.

But the National Library is also home to a huge collection of weird and wonderful artifacts documenting everyday Australian life through the ages.

For example, this 2004 canteen menu from Burwood East Primary School in Victoria, which clearly states that you can get an ice-cold Toucan pole for 95 cents.

A screenshot of a school cafeteria menu
This elementary school canteen menu provided more evidence that the toucan popsicle did indeed exist, as well as a grim measure of inflation.Trove: Burwood East Primary School

And I would have been pleased with these little snaps as proof that this childhood fun existed.

But fate had another surprise in store.

Meeting with the ice collector

I initially contacted Will McGowan on Nestle’s advice.

“Unfortunately, our archives are limited,” said a Nestle spokesperson.

“You may want to search online for collectors or enthusiasts who might be able to provide more information.”

Co-owner of Melbourne’s Vintage and Modern Toy Fair, Will is a hobbyist who collects and documents bygone relics from Australia’s ice past on his blog, Toltoy’s Kid.

A collection of vintage ice cream packaging
Will McGowan of Toltoy’s Kid has been collecting vintage ice cream containers for decades.Provided: Will McGowan

From a 1978 popsicle stick based on the hit TV show M*A*S*H to 1988 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ice creams, Will is a certified popsicle stick laureate.

Over the decades, Will has collected and archived a huge collection of vintage ice creams, toys, and other ephemera on his personal website and Instagram

His love affair with ice packs started when he was taken to Star Wars in 1977 and immediately became desperate for merchandise from the movie.

He saved everything from icy pole wrappers and the sides of cereal boxes to toy wrappers and posters, before starting to collect old cardboard ads in milk bars.

In 1999 eBay dropped by in Australia and Will immediately joined to enter a global marketplace for old merchandise.

A collage of old ice boxes
Many icy piles from Australia’s past can only be found online in Will’s collection.Provided: Will McGowan

The hobby, while quirky to some, is the only way to preserve many of the cultural treasures Australians grew up with.

Will owns multiple pieces that are the only ones of their kind and has even more photos of items that have only appeared on the internet once in all his decades of collecting.

He said rarer items were often held in private collections, requiring many thousands of dollars to release them for public viewing.

When I sent a desperate message asking for an icy toucan pole, he got to work.

“When you said Toucan, something started ringing,” he said.

Will dug into his own personal digital archive of photos from 1999 to try and find it and, buried in his treasure trove of ice creams past and present, he found this.

A collection of ice cream ads
Will supplied the ABC with perhaps the only surviving photo of the cardboard Toucan ice pole ads.Provided: Will McGowan

“It took me about five minutes to scroll through things to find it, which is really bizarre because I could have spent two hours not finding anything,” he said.

Will has his own white whale. Despite searching online for nearly 23 years and helping juices like me find our own mythical icy poles, he was never able to find his own dream item.

“The largest white whale is the milk bar sign for the Empire Strikes Back icy poles, which I have the box and packaging for,” he said.

“But I’ve never even seen a picture of the sign. If anyone has the board for the Empire Strikes Back icy poles, I’m your buyer.”

If you or someone you know has information about the Toucan Icy Pole, please contact me at: boaz.judd@abc.net.au


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