Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge soda is an aspartame-sweetened carbonated soft drink canned and distributed by the A.J. Canfield Company of Elgin, Illinois, USA, a division of Select Beverages. Production for the midwestern United States is handled by the American Bottling Company, a subsidiary of Dr Pepper Snapple Group and distribution by Kehe Foods of Chicago.
The beverage, introduced in the early '70's and re-introduced in 1984, was only one of many brands of chocolate soda marketed that year but soon became one of the most successful and helped turn a regional bottler in the Chicago area into a national brand.
Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge was also re-introduced at an opportune time in one other significant way. It was during that period that Coca-Cola was in a tailspin over its poorly received New Coke and consumers were seeking alternatives. When Chicago Tribune reporter Bob Greene reviewed the product and described it as tasting "like a calorie-free hot fudge sundae," sales went from lukewarm to one of the hottest in the soft drink market practically overnight.
By 1985, regional bottlers across the United States were seeking franchise rights. With these rights in place, more than twenty-five million cans of Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge soda were sold in four months with projected sales of 165 million cans for the remainder of the year.
As competition from other makers increased, Canfield's grew increasingly protective of their "Chocolate Fudge" moniker, going so far as to sue rival maker Vess Beverages over their use of the name, "Vess Diet Chocolate Fudge." A federal district court judge ruled in favor of Canfield and issued a preliminary injunction disallowing the use of the word "fudge" on their packaging. Though the injunction was later overturned, the case, known as Canfield v. Honickman, continues to be used as an example during the study of trademark product law.
Spinoffs proved less successful. 1987 saw the introduction of "Diet Cherry Chocolate Fudge" and "Diet Peanut Chocolate Fudge," both of which are still sold today in limited numbers.