Industrial Rev. Brings Choc. to Masses

Milton Hershey revolutionized the American chocolate industry. You would be hard pressed to find an American who has not tasted and longed for the iconic Hershey’s Kiss. Part of Hershey’s success can be attributed to the efforts of other chocolate makers who created industrial developments that improved the process of making and consuming chocolate.

When chocolate arrived in Spain from the New World, it was still being processed by hand using the traditional manos and metates method. (Coe & Coe, 2008). Despite the presence of factories already existing in places like Germany and England, Dr. James Baker of Dorchester Massachusetts is credited as one of the first chocolate makers to use power machinery in 1765 to ground cacao (Coe & Coe, 2008).

The Walter Baker Company is among the first to use power machinery to produce chocolate. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Using power machinery to process cacao became a popular idea in other countries as well. M. Doret of France invented a hydraulic machine to grind chocolate later in 1776 (Coe and Coe, 2008). Fry, of the English Joseph Fry & Son company experimented using a steam engine to grind cacao in 1789 (Coe & Coe, 2008).

Not only were scientists and chocolate makers trying to improve the physical process of chocolate making but they were also trying to improve the quality of it as well. The melangeur or mixing machine was invented and later used for chocolate in 1826 (Coe & Coe, 2008). Between 1815 and 1828, Dutch Van Houten not only developed a hydraulic press which allowed him to make cocoa, he also invented the defatting and alkalizing processes that we are familiar with today (Coe & Coe, 2008).

Natural cocoa on the right and Dutch processed cocoa on the left aptly named for Van Houten who discovered the process. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Drawing on Van Houten’s work the Fry company in 1847 molded chocolate bars made from sugar, cocoa powder, and cacao butter which were an improvement over earlier French attempts at bar making (Coe & Coe, 2008). Swiss chocolate maker Daniel Peter further perfected the chocolate bar by creating the milk chocolate bar in 1879 (Coe & Coe, 2008). That same year Rudolphe Lindt developed the conche machine. The conche, according to Beckett in The Science of Chocolate, “…consisted of a granite trough containing a granite roller. The roller pushed the chocolate backwards and forwards for a long period of time, often amounting to several days. As the surface was changed volatile flavor components were able to escape into the air” (Beckett, 2000). Conching produces smoother and better tasting chocolate. The two ways in which it does this is further outlined by Beckett. The conche, he explains, “…still does change the flavor of the chocolate and also the way it melts in the mouth” and “…it determines the final viscosity of the liquid chocolate before it is used to make the final products” (Beckett, 2000).  The story of Lindt and the conching process is recreated here.

All of these developments in process and taste set the stage for Milton Hershey’s endeavors which would help place chocolate in every American household.

Hershey brought his chocolate making into the true industrial age. He was able to mass produce quantities of chocolate that were previously unheard of on his mechanized assembly lines (Coe & Coe, 2008). He also built electric railroads to obtain much needed sugar from Cuba (Coe & Coe, 2008). Not only did Hershey create innovative chocolate products in mass amounts, he also created an entire chocolate town in Pennsylvania around his chocolate factory. Hershey, Pennsylvania today is still renowned for its chocolate themed amusement park. Building on the previous success of industrial developments, Hershey was able to utilize the machinery as well as strategic advertising of his chocolate town to build sales. Coupled with the latest in mechanized equipment, Hershey was able to keep up with the demand for chocolate that he was amassing. Coe and Coe estimate that by the 1980s, 25 million Hershey’s kisses were being made each day (Coe & Coe, 2008).

Hershey Park
Milton Hershey’s Hershey Park is a popular chocolate lovers tourist attraction today. The chocolate factory smokestacks can be viewed in the background. Image from flickr

Industrial revolution developments in chocolate production go hand in hand with their effects on consumption. As technology began to improve, new ideas about how the chocolate making process could be refined kept coming. All of this worked to create products that were more palatable to the masses and to find new ways to reach them on a grand scale. While partaking in chocolate began as recreation for the elite in Europe, the industrial revolution affectively ended this privilege of consumption. Mass production made chocolate available to all.



Beckett, S. T. (2000). The science of chocolate. Cambridge, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry.
Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2008). The true history of chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.
Dutch process and natural cocoa [Photograph found in Wikimedia Commons]. (2004, June 08). Retrieved March 06, 2016, from (Originally photographed 2011, March 09)
Lindt Chocolate World (Producer). (2014, April 07). Why LINDT chocolate is special [Video file]. Retrieved March 06, 2016, from
View of Hershey Park. (2007, September 16).  Retrieved March 06, 2016, from
Walter Baker & Company [Photograph]. (1907). Cocoa and chocolate, a short history of their production and use, Library of Congress, Washington.

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