Until the beginning of the 20th century, chocolate remained the exclusive privilege of the rich and famous. Chocolate remained expensive due to very high cocoa and sugar prices in the 19th century. For the chocolate manufacturers, growth of the chocolate market could only be achieved by growth of the high-income group.
Around 1900, the prices of the two main ingredients for chocolate – cocoa and sugar – dropped tremendously. In addition, the liberalization of the cocoa trade and the abolition of government taxes on cocoa lead to a growing democratization of cocoa and chocolate. As a consequence, in ten years time, chocolate became affordable for a growing number of mainly middle class consumers in the first half of the 20th century.
In Italy, Francesco Buitoni, a relative of the renowned pasta making family, starts developing his chocolate activities in 1907. In 1922 he invents and markets the famous “baci”, which means kisses in Italian. These are small chocolates, wrapped in silver paper that contain a love message. Chocolate and romance go hand in hand.
Across Europe, the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century saw the establishment of the big names in the chocolate world: who started producing chocolate for bakers, chocolatiers and pastry chefs.
At the same time, some of the world’s most renowned chocolatiers started up their businesses: Neuhaus and Godiva in Belgium, La Maison du Chocolat and Fauchon in France, Lindt, Suchard and Sprüngli in Switzerland.
From the early 1820s, the U.K. had developed quite a unique chocolate taste and flavor. Their chocolate was dark and very often combined with strong, pronounced flavors like mint cream, rose & violet cream or ginger. Its history is also closely related to the British royal family: companies like Charbonnel & Walker (1825), Ackermans Chocolates (1919), Bendicks of Mayfair were appointed by her Majesty Queen Victoria. Even today, some of these companies remain connected to the royal family and still produce the same amazing and traditional U.K. chocolates.
Belgium in the year 1912: Jean Neuhaus, founder of the famous Neuhaus brand, invented a chocolate shell that he could fill with cream or nut pastes. He invented the real Belgian chocolate: the praline. “What is a precious but vulnerable praline without an appropriate chic and elegant packaging that protects it from being broken?” Jean Neuhaus must have reflected in 1920. As a solution to his problem, he designed an appropriate packaging for his pralines: the famous rectangular box – also called ballotin – that still today cherishes Belgian chocolates all over the world. Until Neuhaus’ revolutionary packaging, pralines were wrapped in small cone shaped paper bags.
The beginning of the 20th century announced the boom in industrialisation of chocolate production all over Europe and the U.S. Countries like Belgium employed 2200 people in 1910, a number which grew to 6180 in 1937. This gives a clear indication of the increase in volumes produced.
Belgium seemed to be at the cutting edge of innovation, fast production technology and new marketing techniques, compared to the rest of Europe. In 1920, for example, the Belgian-Anatolian family Kestekides launched their brand Leonidas: pralines and chocolate confectionery. This was sold at lower prices through window sales in the busiest streets of Belgium, later in Europe and then the rest of the world.
Another Belgian invention in the 1920s was the chocolate bar. Across Europe chocolate tablets of about 150g had become real bestsellers. Belgium was the first country to reduce the size to 30g and 45g and form it into a tablet shape, which was taken over by many foreign producers. The chocolate bar became a popular, affordable snack for an ultimate and individual indulging experience.
A third major (again Belgian) invention was made by Frans Callebaut. He thought of a way to produce couverture (couverture is chocolate with a high cocoa butter/milk fat content, mainly for professional use) and to stock and transport it in its liquid form. This revolutionary process avoided the need for chocolate to be solidified first in blocks, tablets or bars and allowed it to be delivered directly to the food manufacturers. This also lowered the production cost of chocolate which made it possible to integrate chocolate in a whole new range of foodstuffs, such as breakfast cereals, bread & butter spreads, filled bars, chocolate bars.
After the World War I, slowly but surely chocolate gained a new status in Mid Europe and the U.S. that changed it from an exclusive treat to a mass consumption foodstuff. Before World War I, the working class in Europe was only able to taste and enjoy chocolate on very special and rare occasions, like at Christmas or on birthdays. Low incomes and high chocolate prices still made it a luxury item. All this changed after World War I, with a new wave of industrialisation and automation in chocolate production, with Belgium at the forefront in maximising cost efficiency.
The development of chocolate products was also boosted to high levels. No longer was it limited to drinks and pralines, but an almost never-ending range of new possibilities in hollow figures, chocolate bars, filled eggs, truffles, biscuits, ice cream sticks, bread and breakfast buns developed.
The major reasons for the successful introduction of chocolate to lower and moderate income families was not merely the lower price at which chocolate products were sold by the 1930s and 1940s. Historians indicated that in the inter-war period and after, chocolate was the cheapest foodstuff per kilocalorie compared to eggs or meat. Many workers therefore saw a chocolate bar as a delicious and very convenient foodstuff that enabled them to recuperate very rapidly from heavy labor.
But also the common belief that chocolate had strengthening powers, that it could promote your love life and the fact that it enjoyed a luxury product status that became affordable, made it very attractive. The massive growth in the chocolate market was established between the World War II and the 1980s. Consumption became more and more integrated in daily dietary habits.
Through new product developments, chocolate also became an appreciated tastemaker in a wide variety of new and nutritious foodstuffs. The 1980s saw a new life style trend towards fitness and health, focusing also on dietary habits: light or diet-versions of all kinds of foodstuffs made their appearance. Nevertheless chocolate remained popular as the perfect, small-size tastemaker in between all sorts of diets and exercise.
The big difference was that from the nineties on, enjoying food and healthy food were valued as equally important. This explains why chocolate remained popular: for millions of people, chocolate provided the ultimate pleasure and enjoyment and was considered as pure and healthy when moderately consumed.
The end of the nineties and the beginning of the 21st century gave a new impulse to chocolate. More and more consumers worldwide actively search for food that is not only delicious but also carries some functional benefits for their health and body. Scientific studies on cocoa and chocolate have already revealed a lot of potential benefits from moderate consumption of cocoa and chocolate, and there is more expected. Maybe the Spanish doctors and early scientists back in the 17th century got it right after all when it comes to the nutritious and health benefits of the cocoa bean and chocolate.
Another new force in the development of new chocolate products has been given by the food technologists at Barry Callebaut. They launched chocolate recipes in which natural additives like plant extracts, herbs and green tea add functional properties to chocolate.
Other examples of new developments are chocolate enriched with inulin and oligofructose (100% vegetable dietary fibers) to stimulate the growth of the beneficial bifidobacteria. Or chocolate that tastes like milk chocolate but with no milk ingredients or lactose: the milk is replaced by rice powder. This gives it a delicious taste, very nutritious properties and the chocolate can be consumed by the growing numbers of consumers who are allergic to milk protein or intolerant to lactose.
Cocoa and chocolate are important sources of energy: with their concentration of calories in a small volume, cocoa and chocolate are among the most concentrated vegetable energy suppliers. That’s why they are one of sports peoples' favourite foodstuffs for recuperation after intense training.
Chocolate contains a combination of sugars and fats that can make you feel good during and after consumption. Relevant scientific studies show increased feelings of satisfaction among the majority of consumers.
Cocoa and dark chocolate contain no cholesterol. Milk chocolate and white chocolate contain only minimal quantities due to the added milk fats. Cocoa and chocolate provide a true treasury of minerals: copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, calcium. For example: 100g milk or white chocolate contains between 20 and 40% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium.
Certain polyphenols in cocoa and chocolate are thought to have an anti-oxidant effect, just like the polyphenols in red wine. Studies on this are proceeding apace and show promising results. For example the flavonoids present in cocoa may counteract the oxidation which turns good cholesterol (HDL) into bad cholesterol (LDL). Scientists even suggest that cocoa flavonoids might have a stronger anti-oxidant effect than the flavonoids found in red wine. Cocoa polyphenols may also protect the body against substances which damage the immune system, causing rheumatism and arthritis. Many of these studies were carried out in Japan, and additional research will be needed before definitive statements can be made. Scientific studies show that certain polyphenols in cocoa may render harmless the free radicals which affect DNA in body cells. In addition, they may neutralize other free radicals which cause cancer. Further research is needed into these scientific indications.
Cocoa and chocolate contain stearic acid. This unique saturated fatty acid has a neutral effect on the production of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, even with daily moderate consumption. The same studies show that the stearic acid in chocolate can promote the production of moderate quantities of “good” cholesterol in some test subjects.
Cocoa mass contains around 15% soluble and insoluble dietary fibre. Dietary fibre has an important function in supporting the passage of food through the gut and keep the gut and stomach walls clean.
Milk chocolate and white chocolate can be regarded as important sources of calcium and proteins. Barry Callebaut’s milk and white chocolates contain around 14-30% milk solids. This equates to 4-8g of protein per 100g of chocolate, or 15%-25% of the RDA.
Milk – one of the main sources of calcium in our diet – is declining in popularity among large numbers of growing children and adults. However, we need calcium to keep our teeth and bones strong. According to scientists, the use of chocolate and cocoa as natural flavourings for milk can play a role in countering this trend.
Cocoa and chocolate contain very minimal quantities of caffeine and theobromine. Scientists believe these substances have a stimulating effect on the human body. The amounts found in cocoa and chocolate are so small, though, that there is still no consistent evidence for these effects.
Regular, moderate consumption of chocolate fits perfectly into the context of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle that combines taste with health.
Depending on the type and the recipe, chocolates may contain several vitamins which help in obtaining the recommended daily allowance.
Cocoa and chocolate provide a treasury of minerals. Often working in conjunction with vitamins, these are also indispensable for normal physical function.