Tag Archives: Daniel Peter

The Development of Chocolate as an Industrialized Food

Anywhere you go in the world, you can find people enjoying various brands of chocolate with a smile on their face. With chocolate being so widely consumed, nobody ever thinks about how a market was actually born from the universal enjoyment of chocolate. It originated in the Pre-Columbian times as a ritualistic treat for Mesoamericans. Chocolate was not as sweet back then, but they nonetheless added sweeteners to try to improve the taste. Nowadays, much more complex ingredients are used to obtain the sweet, rich, and creamy goodness that is chocolate. Chocolate can be found in grocery stores and homes all over the world; it’s so commonly seen that if you went to a check out line in any store and they weren’t selling chocolate bars, you might actually question the legitimacy of their business. For as long as many of us have been alive, chocolate has been bought and sold abroad but it wasn’t always so widely industrialized.

Chocolate first arrived in Spain in the early 16thcentury. It took some time to become widely accepted, as many Spaniards were initially skeptical of the foreign, bitter drink (Norton 2004). Eventually, acceptance of chocolate became widespread in Spain as the Spanish royal court began to develop a growing taste for it and certified it as an elite delicacy. From then on, all of Europe had a different respect and interest for chocolate.

Until 1828 when a technique was developed to separate cocoa butter from cacao solids, chocolate was something you could only drink. Casparus van Houten created the cocoa press method and his son, a Dutch Chemist by the name of Conraad Johannes van Houten, perfected it. In an attempt to make chocolate more soluble, Houten was able to effectively separate the cacao butter from cacao solids by adding alkaline salt. This would make it so that chocolate could be made in the home fairly easily and therefore would be more accessible to the common man. With the invention of the cocoa press method, chocolate became more than something you could just drink; people were for the first time able to eat it as a snack (Cox 1993). Chocolate as a solid bar caught the attention of the entire continent and eventually became more prevalent than its previously enjoyed liquid form. The chocolate that results from the cocoa press method is now referred to as Dutch-Process cocoa. Dutch-Process cocoa is one of the standard ingredients in most of the chocolate we consume today.

With the European chocolate industry growing rapidly throughout the 19th century, people continued to try to find new ways to optimize the taste of it and make it more marketable. In 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle invented milk chocolate by blending milk with chocolate. Milk chocolate boomed in Europe, but the growing market for chocolate was increasingly more crowded. As more and more people got into the market and tried to develop better chocolate than their competitors, the quality of chocolate inevitably improved. With inventions like the conching machine in 1879 by Rodolphe Lindt, the texture of chocolate became much smoother and was able to be made much faster, pushing further industrialization. In order to attack a new market that had never seen the type of chocolate they specialized in, Peter and Nestle brought their product to America and created Nestle’s Chocolate Company in 1905. From the invention of milk chocolate and the introduction of it to the American market sprung the industry we are most familiar with today. Major chocolate companies today would not be so profitable if it weren’t for Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle.

Since 1905, a few (and I do mean a few) other companies have also gotten in on the mega-market that the sale of chocolate has grown to produce. The top companies that make close to all of the brands of chocolate sold around the world are Nestle (who is till the biggest company), Cadbury, and Mars. These companies drive what has turned into an ever-growing market that we all are guilty of contributing to on a regular basis.

Chocolate has come a long way from the time when it was first consumed on Earth to the much more marketed chocolate we are familiar with today. It went from being a hand made commodity to being produced through a much more mechanized process and from being consumed in one particular part of the world to being consumed worldwide. Chocolate is and will always be a part of our lives, as our love for it seems that it will never fade. Hopefully this Food of the Gods, as it was once regarded (Presilla 2009), will be waiting for us in the afterlife.

Works Cited

Cox, Helen. 1993. “The Deterioration and Conservation of Chocolate from Museum Collections”. Studies in Conservation, vol. 38, no. 4.

Norton, Marcy. 2004. “Conquests of Chocolate”. OAH Magazine of History, vol. 18, no. 3.

Presilla, Maricel. 2009. The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Nestlé’s Milk Chocolate & its Fortuitous Beginnings

Milk chocolate was once a special, distinct variant of the chocolate so cherished in 19th century America, and although households across the country enjoyed it all the same, it was a new, different experience from the usual. Today, milk chocolate is chocolate, and with the merging of these two concepts into one, a stark dichotomy between the past and the present is established. What was at first an original idea is now the accepted norm. What was formerly considered novel is now convention by popular demand. And what was in the beginning a humble invention, is now the leading product of the entire industry. However, milk chocolate was never expected to give rise to the largest corporations of the past century, nor was it ever meant to replace the standard so quickly. Rather, milk chocolate was brought about by the creation of a commodity hardly related to candy at all. This revolutionary good was nothing more than the powdered milk every mother is familiar with, but in developing it, Henri Nestlé also became the unanticipated inventor of the world’s first milk chocolate bar (Nestlé, “History”). As such, the sweet, luscious treats that have now redefined chocolate itself, owe their existence to a mere coincidence, a matter of excellent fortune, and the combined efforts of a Swiss nutritionist and his neighbor candle-maker.

To truly appreciate how far milk chocolate has come, one needs to look no further than the food’s fortuitous beginnings. It all started in Vevey, Switzerland, where an altruistic pharmacist, in the hopes of saving the life of his neighbor’s child, put together a mixture of “cow’s milk, wheat flour, and sugar,” a combination he referred to as “Farine lactée” (Nestlé, “History”).

Henri Nestlé's Farine lactée, a combination of cow's milk, wheat flour, and sugar
Henri Nestlé’s Farine lactée, a combination of cow’s milk, wheat flour, and sugar

The pharmacist, of course, was Henri Nestlé, and although his first steps towards the invention of milk chocolate was instead in the direction of infant nutrition, his greatest discovery paved the way for both. In 1867, Nestlé demonstrated for the first time a process to make powdered milk by evaporation (Coe, Coe 250). The resulting formula could not only be preserved for a greater duration of time, but also prepared into liquid milk for feeding infants wherever, whenever. This newfound portability and convenience provided more freedom for young mothers everywhere, allowing many to take advantage of the extra time in their daily routines. Thus, with society’s increasing dependence on Nestlé’s product, his recently founded firm soared to unimaginable heights, but it did not get there on baby formula alone.

A 1903 magazine ad for Henri Nestlé's powdered, milk-based baby food
A 1903 magazine ad for Henri Nestlé’s powdered, milk-based baby food

Henri Nestlé is known for his work in the confectionery business, but by solely crediting him for the creation of milk chocolate, the world neglects to acknowledge the equally important contributions of his partner, Daniel Peter. As a candle-maker at the time, Peter’s connections to chocolate may have been even less aligned than Nestlé’s, but when he married into a family of chocolatiers, he became the missing link between the pharmacist’s independent endeavors and the delicious candy people love today (Peter’s Chocolate, “Our Rich History”). In fact, Nestlé’s neighbor, whose child he saved, was none other than Daniel Peter himself, and ever since then, Peter was inspired to create his own milk product. However, perfecting this blend with chocolate was no easy task. Due to the high water content in normal milk, simply combining it with cocoa paste always ended in a rancid, inedible failure (Presence Switzerland, “Daniel Peter”). Nevertheless, in 1879, Peter’s breakthrough came with his neighbor’s help once again. The two devised a simple plan of using Nestlé’s condensed milk and drying the mixture before adding the necessary cocoa butter (Coe, Coe 250). This method not only produced creamy milk chocolate bars without the original bitterness, but it also enabled manufacturers to reduce the proportion of cocoa used in their goods, paving the way for mass production in factories like Hershey and Mars. If Nestlé represented the milk of milk chocolate, then through the collaboration between these two men, Daniel Peter was without a doubt, the once missing, chocolate half.

Daniel Peter called his new chocolate product "Gala" the Greek word for "milk"
Daniel Peter called his new chocolate product “Gala” the Greek word for “milk”

The chain reaction of events that led to the development of milk chocolate began as an entirely separate incident, one completely unrelated to the food at all. If not for Nestlé’s powdered milk or Peter’s confectionery experience, the course of chocolate’s culinary history would have taken a completely different route, one without the large corporations, wide-reaching economic influences, and the avid fans everywhere. Fortunately, that isn’t the case, and the world has a pharmacist, a candle-maker, and Lady Luck to thank for that.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

"Farine Lactee." Nestlé: Good Food, Good Life. Nestlé, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://www.nestle.com.my/csv/creatingsharedvaluecasestudies>.

"Gala Peter Chocolate." Milk Chocolate: History of Milk Chocolate. Whats's Cooking America, 2004. Web. 11 Mar. 2014. <http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/MilkChocolate.htm>.

"Nestlé’s Food." History Spaces: Out of the past. Blogger, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2014. <http://historyspaces.blogspot.com/2012/03/history-of-chocolate-chip-cookie-and.html>.

Nestlé. "History." Nestlé: Good Food, Good Life. Nestlé, 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2014. <http://www.nestle.com/aboutus/history#>.

"Our Rich History." Peter's Chocolate. Cargill, 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://www.peterschocolate.com/pages/history.html>.

Presence Switzerland, ed. "Daniel Peter." Swssworld.org: Switzerland's Official Information Portal. Ed. Presence Switzerland. Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. <http://www.swissworld.org/en/people/portraits_chocolate_makers/daniel_peter/>.