Quest for Sweetness: How Innovations in Chocolate Reflect a Love for Sugar

Although having been consumed as a beverage for many centuries, in the time following chocolate’s introduction to Europe, the collective idea of what chocolate is would change, along with how chocolate is enjoyed and how it tastes. As a beverage,

Although the splendor of drinking chocolate in White’s Chocolate House would appeal to the nobility, it was unreasonable and uncommon for members of the lower house to do so.
Although the splendor of drinking chocolate in White’s Chocolate House would appeal to the nobility, it was unreasonable and uncommon for members of the lower house to do so.

chocolate was almost entirely consumed by the higher classes, until innovations in chocolate production made it available to other classes which culminated in the first chocolate bars being produced. After this breakthrough, many more techniques would be invented such as conching, and filling chocolate, all changing how chocolate tastes, how it is consumed, and also how it is viewed by the public. In the early twentieth century, a result of these techniques is a huge boom in the variety of chocolate confections, with companies such as Cadbury, Hershey’s, and Mars dominating the market by offering many varieties of “chocolate”.  Starting as a froth beverage, chocolate-making techniques developed products which could be geared more towards common people-as eating a chocolate bar requires less effort than the laborious task of making a chocolate drink, which the rich had been employing specialists (such as the Fry family) to do for them. The evolution of chocolate consumption also reflects the growing usage of sugar in European Society, as chocolate was refined and altered to fit this palate, leading to the creation of sweet concoctions such as the Lindt truffle and Milky Way Bar.

As the task of brewing a chocolate drink required expertise, time, and resources, only the elite could afford to regularly enjoy chocolate throughout the eighteenth century (Green 2013). The invention of the Dutch Press in 1828 by the van Houtens helped to close this gap, as lower quality cacao could be improved through this process, and now producing chocolate could be less expensive. The long transition of chocolate from drink to a food may have been expedited by the van Houtens, but the goal of widespread chocolate sales in edible form was realized by J.S. Fry and Sons in 1847, when the British chocolate company was able to produce the first chocolate bar suitable for widespread distribution (Coe&Coe 2013). These innovations mark the point where chocolate does become somewhat cost effective for the average person,

Even in the modern day chocolate is advertised as a meal replacement, however as this video shows, the marketing techniques may have changed: https://youtu.be/pamyPaTK4pw
Even in the modern day chocolate is advertised as a meal replacement, however as this video shows, the marketing techniques may have changed: https://youtu.be/pamyPaTK4pw

and when consuming chocolate becomes far more convenient than in the past as people could now buy chocolate and consume it the very next moment, instead of having to brew and froth a drink. An added bonus to the now solid chocolate is that it can be seen as a meal replacement, and was often advertised as such by companies at the time and even companies in the modern day.

After Fry’s innovation, chocolate would continue to be altered, changed, and significantly improved thanks to the discoveries of early chocolate makers. The products which these men produced also reflect the British trend highlighted by Sidney Mintz in his book Sweetness and Power: the Place of Sugar in Modern History, where sugar started as a luxury but then came to be seen as a necessity even for the lower classes of Britain, and all Europeans craved for their sweet tooth to be appeased (Mintz 1985). As a result of this boom in sugar demand as well as supply, chocolate confections too became sweeter to match this changing palate and desire for sweetness. By using Henri Nestlé’s powdered milk, Daniel Peter was able to mix the first milk chocolate bar, which decreased the bitterness of the chocolate and became a sweeter way to enjoy chocolate, while also using less cocoa. With Rudolphe Lindt’s process of conching allowing chocolate to be smoother, more consistent, more flavorful, and all around more appealing to the consumer, the work of Fry, Nestle and others could now be fine-tuned into gourmet chocolate bars. A final major advancement in chocolate occurred in 1879, when Jean Tobler discovered how to fill a chocolate bar with other candy fillings. This invention continues and indeed personifies the trend of a greater desire for sugar, as now bars were not limited to

This graph shows the modern leaders in chocolate sales, and as the list is topped by companies known for chocolate confections(rather than pure chocolate bars) showing the importance of Tobler’s invention, and the far reaching implications of it. *Numbers marked with an asterisk include net sales of the company, not just of confections.
This graph shows the modern leaders in chocolate sales, and as the list is topped by companies known for chocolate confections(rather than pure chocolate bars) showing the importance of Tobler’s invention, and the far reaching implications of it. *Numbers marked with an asterisk include net sales of the company, not just of confections.

choclate only but could contain any number of sugary treats such as nougat, caramel, Turkish delight, and countless other delicious fillings. Throughout the twentieth century, Tobler’s discovery and the candy that could be produced as a result would come to dominate the market, and in the public mind would partially represent what chocolate is, something with far more put into it than cacao beans.

Evolving drastically from how chocolate was originally enjoyed by Europeans, chocolate making techniques developed throughout the nineteenth century changing chocolate from a drink to a treat that could be enjoyed in solid form, greatly expanding the amount of people that could consume chocolate. This evolution also reflects the growing usage of sugar and how chocolate was refined and altered to fit this palate, leading to an idea of chocolate as being more than cocoa, but also a combination of many other sugary treats. This idea continues into the modern day, where the majority of chocolate is eaten in the form of confections which contain minor amounts of chocolate surrounding other sweets and substances, which reflects the infatuation mankind has developed with sugar, as has the development of chocolate.

Multimedia Sources:

Works Cited:

  • Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
  • Green, Matthew. “The Surprising History of London’s Lost Chocolate Houses.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
  • Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, N.Y.: Viking, 1985. Print.
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