Chocolate Industry Before the Industrial Revolution
The industrial revolution took place about 1760 to 1850, all across Europe (especially Great Britain), and the United States (especially New England) (Allen, 2011). When most think of revolution they envision an oppressed people abruptly overthrowing the existing government and starting a new system of government. Like the American Revolution or the French Revolution, or the revolution that’s currently taking place in Venezuela. The industrial revolution was certainly a transition to a new system or way of producing things, but I like to think of it as more of an era of direct or indirect collaboration and healthy competition 😊 . I guess the industrial collaboration and competition just doesn’t have the same “oomph” to it.
The industrial revolution represented a transition to new manufacturing processes in many different sectors, that had previously been done manually or by hand (Allen, 2011).
Increase and efficient use of steam and water power, chemical and iron manufacturing and the development of machine tools and culminating in the mechanized factory system (Wikipedia, 2019). It also led to a sustained increase in population and economic growth. The textile industry primarily benefited from the Industrial Revolution, but the Chocolate industry certainly benefited from this era of innovation (Wikipedia, 2019).
Chocolate in different simple forms had been produced for consumption for Europe and the United States since its Spanish “discovery”, from the Mesoamerican peoples, in the 16th century (Coe & Coe, 2013). Spain had long had a monopoly on chocolate production and kept the price point high so when it was first introduced to other countries, only the wealthy could afford to buy it (Walter Baker & Co., 1884). This likely delayed an increase in chocolate production and also chocolate manufacturing and product innovations.
The processing of the raw material of cacao beans to edible chocolate had not changed significantly; roasting, winnowing, grinding, and milling (Leissle, 2018). Most of the process was done manually using simple devices and on a small scale. There was large scale chocolate production going on but that was producing chocolate in just wafer form for beverages and still done by hand. Like any developing industry, chocolate product costs were high, and there was not much availability or product variation (Coe & Coe, 2013).
Revolution is in the Air and in the Chocolate
One of earliest documented uses of power machinery being utilized for chocolate production was by Dr. James Baker of Dorchester Massachusetts and John Hannon of Ireland (Walter Baker & Co., 1884). Hannon was a chocolate maker. Dr. Baker had some knowledge of the cacao bean and chocolate and provided the funding for the startup business. Together, in 1765, they rented space in a grist mill in Milton Lower Falls, Massachusetts and ground cacao beans using hydro power (Coe & Coe, 2013). Previously, the grist mill had been used for flour for many years.
In 1772, Dr. Baker and Hannon marketed and sold their product as Hannon’s Best Chocolate, in the cake form. In 1799, Hannon disappeared en route to the West Indies and Dr. Baker continued the chocolate business under his name (Coe & Coe, 2013). Imagine starting and growing ANY type of business during the American Revolutionary War, near Boston, Massachusetts. Incredible.
A Revolution Takes Time
What many do not remember or never fully learned, was that Independence Day (4th of July), was the date (July 4, 1776) that the 13 colonies of America, declared their independence from Great Britain (Wikipedia, 2019). The Revolutionary War continued for another 7 years until 1783 when the Paris treaty was signed (Wikipedia, 2019). A revolution takes time.
In 1820, Dr. Baker’s grandson Walter, took over the business and the chocolate company was reorganized with other contributors and investors under the name of the Walter Baker & Company (Coe & Coe, 2013).
It produced many chocolate products like unsweetened cocoa powder and sweetened chocolate (named for John German (Walter Baker & Co., 1884)) for baking, dipping and candy making. Or any of their recipes.
Another major milestone for chocolate production was accomplished by Coenraad Johannes Van Houten in Amsterdam in 1828 (Coe & Coe, 2013). Instead of boiling and skimming to remove the cacao butter from the chocolate liquor, he developed a mechanized hydraulic press for that process function (Coe & Coe, 2013).
Van Houten used the mechanized hydraulic press to press the fat from roasted cacao beans (Coe & Coe, 2013). This hydraulic process created a cacao cake which then could be pulverized into cacao powder, which could be used in all manufacturers.
Van Houten also innovated the use of alkaline salts to remove the bitter taste and made it more water soluble. This is known as Dutching (Coe & Coe, 2013). Baker did not approve of Dutching or adding anything, including chemicals, to cacao. He believed the chemical process diminished the natural aroma and flavor of the cacao seeds (Walter Baker & Co., 1884).
Joseph Fry and his legacies had been making chocolate in Great Britain since 1728. In 1789, Fry purchased Watt’s steam engine (The steam engine was perfected by James Watt in the late 1700’s, for many different industrial applications) to be the motive force to grind his cacao beans, instead of hydro power (Coe & Coe, 2013).
In 1847, The Fry Company went on to create a blend of cocoa powder and sugar with melted cacao butter, instead of warm water, so a thinner viscous chocolate could be cast into a mold. This was the world’s first true eating chocolate, not brittle and dry as before (Coe & Coe, 2013).
Van Houten and Fry Take Production Skyward
With the Van Houten processing break through, and Fry perfecting a way to mechanize the grinding process, and other companies following suit, overall chocolate production on both sides of the Atlantic was able to increase substantially and meet consumer demands (Coe & Coe, 2013).
There were other chocolate innovations during the Industrial Revolution.
Such as, in 1826, Swiss Phillipe Suchard, began making chocolate with his invented machinery which included the world’s first melangeur or mixing machine (Coe & Coe, 2013).
And just because the Industrial Revolution ended, chocolate manufacturing processes continued to improve and innovate, and the chocolate product continued to be refined to satisfy all consumers tastes and thereby increase chocolate production.
In Great Britain, the Cadbury Brothers, who had a long history of making innovative chocolate and cocoa products, would always be competing with Fry to outdo each other with new product and gain more market share (Coe & Coe, 2013).
In 1867, Henri Nestle’ and Daniel Peter worked together to create the first milk chocolate bar. Peters, a swiss chocolate manufacturer came up with the idea of using Nestle’s invented powdered milk in his process (Coe & Coe, 2013).
In 1879, Swiss Rudolph Lindt invented the conche machine and the conching process. Conching is the process of rolling chocolate liquor and using that frictional heat to achieve a desired taste and smoothness. Chocolate was no longer coarse or gritty. Chocolate consumers loved it. Lindt called this chocolate fondant and the conching process became the standard for making chocolate (Coe & Coe, 2013).
And in 1903, like Thomas Edison or Henry Ford, Milton S. Hershey, would bring all the product and process development and innovation, together, that occurred before his time, and launch his chocolate company (Coe & Coe, 2013).
Over the many years, chocolate of all types, used in all applications were produced at lower and lower prices, and chocolate “went viral”. Adults and children everywhere can’t get enough of chocolate (and sugar, which has been a prevalent ingredient in chocolate and also has driven chocolate consumption (Mintz, 1986)).
Trending Chocolate Consumption
In 1830, both in the U.S. and U.K., we were eating about 3/5 oz. per capita (Walter Baker & Co. Ltd., 1917). In 1860, the U.S. and U.K were eating about 2 oz. per capita (Walter Baker & Co. Ltd., 1917). By 1915 we were eating over 30 oz. of chocolate per capita (Walter Baker & Co. Ltd., 1917). Clearly, we have loved chocolate and the companies and innovators of the industrial revolution learned to make a lot of inexpensive and a variety of quality chocolate for us.
WE WANT MORE CHOCOLATE!!
And that love relationship continues with the world today. In 2015, just in the U.S. alone, we ate 9.5 lbs. per person per year.
So the next time you tear open a Ghirardelli dark chocolate square, or unwrap a Hershey chocolate kiss, or a nice someone uses Baker’s Chocolate to actually bake you chocolate frosted chocolate cupcakes for your birthday…..before you devour that sweet mind altering chocolate treat, maybe tip your hat or give props to the chocolate industry innovators of the industrial revolution. They certainly enabled modern day chocolate manufacturing processes like the ones featured in this YouTube video by Tesco (Tesco, 2015).
Allen, R. C. (2011). Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Baker’s Sweet German’s Chocolate Product Image. (2019, March 13). Retrieved from https://www.joyofbaking.com/GermanChocolate.html
Coe, M. D., & Coe, S. D. (2013). The True History of Chocolate, 3rd Edition. London: Thames & Hudson.
Leissle, K. (2018). Cocoa. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Mintz, S. (1986). Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.
Niall McCarthy. (2015, July 22). The World’s Biggest Chocolate Consumers. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2015/07/22/the-worlds-biggest-chocolate-consumers-infographic/#2b4abcc84484
Tesco. (2015, Dec 9). Scrumptious Chocolate: How is chocolate made? Tesco.
Walter Baker & Co. (1884). Cocoa and Chocolate: A Short History of Their Production and Use. Dorchester: Walter Baker & Co.
Walter Baker & Co. Ltd. (1917). Cocoa and Chocolate: A Short History of Their Production and Use. Dorchester: Walter Baker & Co. Ltd.
Wikipedia. (2019, March 10). American Revolutinary War. Retrieved from http://www.wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Revolutionary_War
Wikipedia. (2019, March 10). Industrial Revolution. Retrieved from http://www.wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution