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The Great Otter Pop Protest of ‘96

August 4, 2015

The story of how a group of kids banded together to save their favorite, uh, freezer pop.

Outselling competitors like Pop-Ice and Fla-Vor-Ice, Otter Pops are the most popular brand of freezer pops: clear plastic tubes filled with colored liquid that turn into a Popsicle-like treat for kids when frozen. Otter Pops stand out because they don’t just have flavor names, but an anthropomorphic character representing them, like Little Orphan Orange, Strawberry Short Kook, and Sir Isaac Lime. Since its launch by National Pax Corp. in 1968, the lineup of flavors and characters had changed just once, when Rip Van Lemon was dropped in favor of Ponco Punch. In 1996, the company announced that it was replacing Sir Isaac Lime, which market research showed was its least popular flavor, with Scarlett O’Cherry, a flavor it had spent a year and more than $100,000 developing.

Sir Isaac Lime Otter PopBig deal, a new freezer pop flavor replacing an unpopular one. It was a big deal, to Costa Mesa, California nine-year-old Kevin Kee. He had gotten hooked on Otter Pops as a baby, teething on them, which grew into a three-a-day habit by the time he was in elementary school. Kevin heard about the Sir Isaac Lime switchout on an Otter Pops website for fans, and was livid. He wanted to tell National Pax not that he was unhappy, but that they shouldn’t be that willing to change a beloved product.

Wanting to help her son, Kevin’s mother Amy Kee Cordova thought back to an episode of The Brady Bunch, where the six sitcom kids successfully lobbied their town’s government to cancel plans to turn a park into a parking lot. As she told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Cordova told Kevin to “always stand up for what you believe in.”

With the help of three younger cousins, Kevin collected signatures at his elementary school on a “Save Isaac Lime” petition, which he planned to present in person at National Pax headquarters in Riverside, California. (Kevin and his cousins also made up a bunch of protests signs adorned with slogans like “Scarlett O’Cherry is Unnecessary.”)

News of the death of Sir Isaac Lime spread via the Otter Pops fan website, and by the time Kevin, his mother, and 12 other kids picketed National Pax headquarters, they had 130 signatures…and company CEO Ron Cedillos had dozens of angry letters. A Stanford professor and Otter Pops fan accused the company of “otter-cide.”

Cedillos invited Kevin and his friends inside and defended the end of Sir Issac Lime, explaining market research and development costs. But Kevin must have said something persuasive, or he kept saying it, because by the end of the protest, he’d been given 1,000 free Otter Pops, a 3-foot-tall inflatable Sir Isaac Lime toy…and Cedillos word that Scarlett O’Cherry would not be replacing Isaac. He kept his word—Sir Isaac Lime is still available in packages of Otter Pops.

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