It really is fascinating how “xocoatl”, a bitter drink brewed from cocoa beans by the Aztecs in Central America, became a fashionable drink in the 17th century Europe and ultimately evolved into the chocolate treats of today. By the latter half of the 1800s the City of Vevey on the lake of Geneva had become the home of several “chocolate pioneers”. François-Louis Cailler, who had spent his apprenticeship in Italy as a chocolatier, invented a technique for making chocolate bars which he manufactured in a factory near Vevey. His daughter married Daniel Peter who founded his own chocolate factory and using condensed milk that he obtained from a local entrepreneur, invented milk chocolate. By the way, that entrepreneur was Henri Nestlé who invented a baby milk formula for infants who couldn’t be breast-fed.
Nestlé never made chocolate himself, he was a brilliant entrepreneur who fostered Swiss chocolate-making innovations. Nestlé did however launch its own milk chocolate produced by David Peter & Charles Kohler. Kohler’s claim to fame was inventing hazelnut chocolate and “sticks” of chocolate which he manufactured in a factory near Lausanne. He also taught the tricks of the trade to Rudolf Lindt who moved back to Bern to start his own company.
One of the pleasures of eating chocolates is the way it melts in your mouth. For this we have to thank Rudolf Lindt who developed a machine in his factory in Bern that mixed, stirred & aerated liquid chocolate to eliminate unwanted bitterness. The process is called “conching”. One of his first customers was Jean Tobler who’s son Theodor launched the world-renowned Toblerone. In 1970 Tobler merged with Suchard who in the late 1800s was producing half of all chocolate made in Switzerland at that time.
Numerous other mergers & acquisitions took place in the industry. Anglo-Swiss merged with Nestlé who in turn a few years later purchased the Peter-Cailler-Kohler Company. One of the most significant mergers was the sale by Rudolf Lindt to Rudolf Sprüngli. Today Lindt-Sprüngli is the largest producer of premium chocolates in the world.
For chocolate lovers a trip to Switzerland to visit one of the many showrooms, stores, & factories often appears on their “bucket lists”. Christine’s wish was a visit to the Cailler factory in Broc to learn how they produced her favorite “Femina” chocolates. For others a visit to Läderach is a must. Lindt & Sprüngli not to be outdone will be opening in the Fall of this year an incredible CHFr 92 million modern building with interactive multimedia facilities, showrooms, cafés and the largest Lindt Chocolate Shop in the world. It will definitely pop up on future “bucket lists”.
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