The oldest chocolate brands in the world
We know we have a lot to thank the Aztecs for, and I’m not talking about their innovative agriculture or ornate temples and pyramids, I’m talking chocolate.
Originating as a drink made from the beans of a cacao plant (xocoatl) and now enjoyed in many differing forms, from plain solid bars to truffles to coated fruits and nuts; with a history stretching thousands of years, it is no wonder that chocolate has become such an essential everyday item in our lives.
The plant’s beans have seen value since day one with the Aztecs using them as currency, to being adorned with the name ‘the food of the Gods’ (the Latin name for the cacao tree – Theobroma cacao) when they reached Europe in the 17th century, and even occasionally being used as payment to soldiers during the Amercian Revolutionary War.
With the industrial revolution in Europe, mass production of sweetened chocolate became possible and in the early 19th century, the drink that came to be known as Dutch cocoa was invented, with solid chocolate following soon after.
Some of the most famous chocolate brands we know today had started selling chocolate bars by the middle of the century, increasing our love affair with this intense, energizing food. While many of those early treats are still around, the evolution of chocolate has continued, with new flavors and organic chocolate to suit the tastes of new generations.
It should come as no surprise that many of the favourite brands today are also some of the oldest. Cadbury’s, Toblerone, Nestle, Lindt and Hershey’s have all been around for over a hundred years, and while their classic chocolate bars are well known and loved around the world, they also continue to innovate with artisanal, sustainable, organic and fair trade varieties.
Read on to find out how each of these brands made a contribution to the development of the sweet treats we love.
Established in 1924, this British company was named after founder John Cadbury, whose son George built Bourneville as a model village for his workers. Classics include the Dairy Milk bar, which was first introduced in 1905, and its variants the Fruit and Nut bar and a chocolate bar with whole hazelnuts. The company is also famous for its Easter-only treat, the Creme Egg as well as Roses, which are an enduring choice for thank you gifts.
The famous Toblerone milk chocolate bar with nougat, almonds and honey, with its unique prism shape, made its debut in 1908. The original bar and its many variants (dark and milk to name a few) are still one of the most popular chocolate bars around the world, you can’t walk through an airport without spotting one for sure!
Lindt and Sprungli
Better known just as Lindt, this Swiss company was founded in 1845. The founder Rodolfe Lindt has the distinction of accidentally inventing the process of conchong or tempering, which gives modern chocolate its melt-in-the-mouth texture. The Lindt Milk Chocolate Bar, which is still one of the company’s signature offerings, debuted in 1879 and the brand is growing ever famous for its chocolate truffles, which can be found in many flavours.
The Pennsylvania-based company was founded in 1894 and the famous Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar was introduced in 1900, when it became an instant hit. Other famous products include Hershey’s Kisses and Mr. Goodbar, but while Hershey’s chocolates remain top favourites in the US, they are not well known outside. Recently, Hershey’s has branched out into artisanal and organic chocolates, while maintaining the classic varieties.
It was perhaps inevitable that milk chocolate would be invented in Switzerland and this was achieved by Nestle in 1875 with many of the bars being created to compete with Hershey’s. Nestle also owns other well known chocolate brands like the KitKat bar, Toll House, Smarties and the Milky Bar.
The company was incorporated in 1852 in San Francisco and is one of the oldest chocolate companies in the US. It is now the US division of Lindt and Sprungli and produces chocolate bars in a variety of flavors, with the distinctive smooth texture making this a favorite among chocolate aficionados.
Founded in 1842, Whitman’s is another one of the oldest chocolate companies in the US. It is still famous for boxed chocolates like the Sampler, which was introduced in 1912 and, like Hershey’s, Whitman’s continues to be a perennial American a favourite, but is not well known abroad. From 1993 to 2014, Whitman’s was owned by Russell Stover Candies and is now owned by Lindt and Sprungli.
This Belgian gourmet chocolate company was founded in 1857, and is known for its luxury bonbons, truffles, and ice cream. In 1912, Jacob Neuhaus II invented pralines, or soft-centered Belgian chocolates, which could be filled with various nougats, cremes, fruit and liqueurs. Pralines, also known as bonbons, have become the signature of Belgian chocolatiers.
The old classics are still relished by millions of chocolate lovers around the world, and with new variations and flavours being presented by chocolatiers all the time, our love for the good stuff certainly won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
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