In 2013, Rowena Foods, manufacturer of that favourite of cinema-goers, the Choc Top, was bought by Bulla Dairy Foods. Rowena’s Choc Tops have been part of the cinema experience since 1990.
The company supplies the two biggest cinema chains, Hoyts and Village. However, it appears many cinemas still make their own Choc Tops, using a variety of ice cream brands. The one thing they all seem to have in common is Nestlé’s compound chocolate, into which the ice cream in its cone is dipped. Bulla is an Australian-owned company and said that none of the faithful Choc Top makers at Rowena would lose their jobs.
It’s not clear when Choc Tops first appeared in Australian cinemas, although Peters Ice Cream had a product of that name by the late 1940s. There’s a reference to them priced at 5d (5 cents) each being sold in Grafton in 1949 and 1950 through Rice’s milk bar and fruit shop, but no mention of cinema sales. The earliest reference I can find to Choc Tops in cinemas dates from 1982.
Ice cream had long been associated with movie-going, however. In 1929, splendidly uniformed boys strolled the aisles selling sweets, ice blocks and the newly-arrived Eskimo Pie. In the 1930s, “ice cream matinees” were widely advertised at movie theatres, the added drawcard for children being free ice creams. These were sometimes referred to as “slabs’ or “blocks” and it’s not clear how they were served or eaten. Perhaps in small square cones.
The common ice cream offered in cinemas from the 1930s onwards, however, was the dixie or bucket – a small cardboard container with a peel-off lid, supplied with a wooden spoon. These persisted for some decades before being replaced with Choc Tops.
Choc Tops are called Choc Bombs in Western Australia and are made by hand in many cinemas where the quality of their Choc Bombs is a selling point in itself. Grand Cinemas proudly announce that: Grand Cinemas serves the perfect snacks and drinks to couple with your movie experience. From fresh popcorn to confectionery to our handmade creamy choc bombs, you are sure to find a snack that will excite your tastebuds!