Chocolate Facts

Timelines in Chocolate History

Chocolate Timeline from Chocologie Publication

600 Culture and Cocoa

Around A.D. 600, the Mayas undertook a massive migration which led this highly civilized people from Central America deep into the northern regions of South America. In Yucatan, they established the earliest-known cocoa plantations. There is no doubt, however, that the Mayas must have been familiar with cocoa several centuries earlier.

1000 Beans and Figures

From the very early days of cocoa, the peoples of Central America used beans as a form of payment. The use of cocoa beans as units of calculation must also have become established before A.D. 1000. One Zontli equaled 400 cocoa beans, while 8,000 beans equaled one Xiquipilli. In Mexican picture scripts, a basket with 8,000 beans represents the figure 8,000.

1200 Chocolate War

By subjugating the Chimimeken and the Mayas, the Aztecs strengthened their supremacy in Mexico. Records dating from this period include details of deliveries of cocoa which were imposed as tributes on conquered tribes.

1502 Columbus and the Cocoa Bean

On his fourth voyage to America, Columbus landed on July 30,1502, in Nicaragua and was the first European to discover cocoa beans. These were used by the natives as currency and also in the preparation of a delightful drink. But Columbus, who was still searching for the sea route to India, was not interested in cocoa.

1513 Payment in Beans

Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez, who went to America in 1513 as a member of Pedrarias Avila's expedition, reports that he bought a slave for 100 cocoa beans.

1519 A Spanish Bank

Hernando Cortez, who conquered part of Mexico in 1519, finds the taste of cocoa not particularly pleasant and is, therefore, much more interested in the value of cocoa as a means of payment. He immediately establishes, in the name of Spain, a cocoa plantation where, henceforth, "money" will be cultivated.

1528 Sweet Plunder

In 1528, Cortez brings the first cocoa, and the utensils necessary for its preparation, back to Europe.

1609 The First Chocology

"Libro en el cual se trata del chocolate" is the title of a book which appeared in Mexico in 1609. It is the first book devoted entirely to the subject of chocolate.

1615 Fruitful Marriage

The Spanish princess Anna of Austria marries Louis XIII and introduces, amongst other Spanish customs, the drinking of chocolate at the French court.

1657 A Frenchman in London

London's first chocolate shop is opened by a Frenchman in 1657.

1662 A Solomon of Chocolate

After Pope Pius V had found cocoa so unpleasant that he declared, in 1569, that "this drink does not break the fast," the supreme church of Rome became more and more tolerant towards the exquisite beverage. The question of the fast took on a new urgency. In 1662, Cardinal Brancaccio hands down the judgment of Solomon: "Liquidum non fragit jejunum." In other words: "Liquids (in the form of chocolate) do not break the fast." Clearly, one had to wait until Easter to indulge in eating chocolate.

1670 The Fate of a Seaman

Helmsman Pedro Bravo do los Camerinos decides that he has had enough of Christian voyages of exploration and settles in the Philippines, where he spends the rest of his life planting cocoa, thus laying the foundations for one of the great plantations of that time.

1671 Blissful Accident

A clumsy kitchen-boy drops a bowlful of almonds on the floor. The angry chef tries to box his ears and, in the process, spills a pan full of hot, burnt sugar over the almonds. The Duke of Plesslis-Praslin, a marshall who is renowned as a gourmet, is waiting for his dessert. "What now?" thinks his personal chef and, in desperation, serves the marshall with the almonds covered with a coating of cooled sugar. The guest is delighted with the novel dessert and promptly gives his name to the new sweet. Not, however, the full name, but simply "Praslin." Since then this sweet has undergone many changes, including the development of the modern term "praline" from the original name.

1674 Roll Call

"At the Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll" was the name of a famous London coffee house, where as early as 1674, one could enjoy chocolate in cakes and rolls "in the Spanish style."

1677 A Royal Decree

On the strength of a royal decree dated November 1, 1677, Brazil – later to achieve an important position in the world market — establishes in the State of Para the first cocoa plantations.

1697 Premiere in Zurich

Heinrich Escher, the mayor of Zurich, visits Brussels where he drinks chocolate and returns to his home town with tidings of the new sweet drink.

1704 Chocolate Tax

Towards the end of the 17th century, chocolate makes its appearance in Germany. The policy of restricting the importation of foreign produce leads Frederick I of Prussia to impose a tax on chocolate in 1704. Anyone wishing to pay homage to its pleasures has to pay two thalers for a permit.

1711 Chocolate Migration

Emperor Charles VI transfers his court from Madrid to Vienna in 1711. With the court, chocolate moves in via the Blue Danube.

1720 Chocolatiers

As early as 1720, the coffee houses of Florence and Venice are offering chocolate whose reputation reaches far beyond the country's borders. Italian chocolatiers, well-versed in the art of making chocolate, are, therefore, welcome visitors in France, Germany and Switzerland.

1747 No Hawkers

In the year 1747, Frederick the Great forbids all manner of hawking, especially the hawking of chocolate.

1755 Last But Not Least

America, in those days not yet the land of plenty, learns of chocolate relatively late, in fact, not until 1755.

1780 First Factory

About the year 1780, the first machine-made chocolate is produced in Barcelona.

1792 Two from the Grisons in Berlin

The Josty brothers from the Grisons made a major contribution to the reputation of Swiss chocolate in Germany. In 1792 they open a confectioner's shop and chocolate factory in Berlin. Eberty, the historian, sings the praises of their products: "Everything which one got at Josty's was excellent, and the chocolate really first rate."

1797 Cautious Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe does not have much confidence in the Swiss hotel industry. For his tour of Switzerland in 1797, he includes in his luggage chocolate and a chocolate pot.

1810 Top of the League

Venezuela's leading position in the production of cocoa is established. A survey in the year 1810 shows that this country produces half the world's requirements. One third of the world's entire cocoa production is consumed by the Spaniards.

1819 Pioneers

The first Swiss chocolate factory is set up in a former mill near Vevey. The founder, Francois-Louis Cailler, had learned the secrets of the chocolate-making trade in Italy.

1822 Ornamental Plant

The Portuguese Jose Ferreira Gomes introduces the cocoa tree as an ornamental plant on the small island of Principe in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa.

1857 The Swiss in Africa

Under the encouragement of the Portuguese Baron of Agua-Ize, the cultivation of cocoa passes from Principe on the neighbouring island of Sao Thome, and from there to the African continent. In Ghana, the members of the Basle Mission promote it successfully. Surprisingly quickly, the many small and medium farmers develop the country into one of the most important producers.

1875 With Milk

After eight years of experimenting, the Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter puts the first milk chocolate on the market in 1875.

1879 Melting Sweetness

Rodolphe Lindt of Berne produces chocolate which melts on the tongue for the first time in the year 1879.

1900 Changes in Leadership

Spain, formerly the classic land of chocolate, falls far behind. Germany takes the lead in consumption per head, followed by the United States, France and Great Britain. In just a decade or two, another country will be playing first violin in the orchestra of the chocolate nations: Switzerland. The reputation of Swiss chocolate, bolstered by unbroken series of medals at international exhibitions, has not only fallen upon the ears of foreigners, it has also conquered Swiss palates. Like bratwurst, rösti and fondue, chocolate has become a national dish.

Extract from ©Chocologie, published by CHOCOSUISSE (Union of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers), Münzgraben 6, CH-3000 Bern 7

Chocolate Innovations: Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate and Boxed Chocolate (1800s)

Dark chocolate, used to form chocolate bars and confections, was invented in 1847 by Fry’s great-grandson, another Joseph Storrs Fry. He combined the dry cocoa powder with sugar and then added back some of the cocoa butter to produce a bar of chocolate that was solid at room temperature, but had a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth consistency. J.S. Fry & Sons won the contract to supply chocolate and cocoa powder to the Royal Navy and went on to become the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world by the late 1800s — proof of chocolate’s endearing flavor.
What is referred to as the Trinity of Quaker Chocolate in England was completed by the Roundtree Family (when they joined Quakers Fry and Cadbury) by opening their chocolate shop in York during this period as well.

In 1868, Cadbury’s created what is considered to be the first example of a chocolate box, developed by the family descendent, Richard Cadbury. It had a colorful lid depicting his daughter. In addition to that success, he went on to introduce the first Valentine's Day theme box, to the gratitude of men everywhere looking for gifts that would definitely be appreciated by their lovers. Beautiful boxes of chocolate have become their own art form. Just browse any fine chocolate or confectionery shop to see this high standard of packaging art. Some chocolatiers keep a traditional look in homage to their roots, while other chocolatiers change frequently to keep their modern edge.

Cadbury's company grew and his chocolate became a favorite of Queen Victoria, who bestowed a Royal Warrant, making the company the sole purveyor of chocolate to the Queen. All the chocolate companies founded by Quakers exist today, but Cadbury later merged with J.S. Fry & Sons in 1919 and then were purchased by Schweppes, Ltd. The Roundtree Brand is now owned by Nestlé.

The second exciting event, especially for lovers of milk chocolate, happened in 1875, when chocolate manufacturer Daniel Peter produced the first milk chocolate by using dry milk powder that had been invented by baby-food maker Henri Nestlé in 1867. He discovered how to add milk powder to the cocoa powder, sugar, and cocoa butter to produce a more creamy taste and decrease the amount of the more expensive cocoa ingredients in the mixture. He founded Peter’s Chocolate Company and worked together with the Henri’s Nestlé Company to bring to market many chocolate products under both brands. The companies continued to work together, even after the deaths of the two founders, and later became the multinational companies we know today.

The taste and mouthfeel of eating chocolate was further refined with the addition of the technique called conching, invented by Swiss Rudolphe Lindt in 1879. This technique mixes the chocolate over a period of hours or days to refine the solid particles, such as cocoa solids and sugar, to a much smaller size, as well as to release volatile oils that cause bitterness. Before this process was invented, chocolate was still a little gritty and grainy. Now it became sumptuous and luxuriously smooth on the tongue. Um, reminds me that it is time for a small bite of chocolate for research purposes only – to make sure it is conched properly.

Conching raised the bar on chocolate taste and all manufacturers added that extra step to their manufacturing processes. The Swiss are also credited with being the first to understand cocoa butter crystallization and the need to “temper” fine eating chocolate to retain the smooth, shiny appearance (much more about tempering later). These monumental improvements in confectionary technology gave rise to the financial fortunes of the Swiss companies for generations.

Industry Boom, Mass Production and the Great Houses of Chocolate (1800s to 1900s)

The industry boomed during the late 1800s. The shipments of cacao quadrupled to keep up with demand for chocolate. With the mass consumer popularity and affordability of hot chocolate, chocolate bars, and confections, chocolate companies vied for consumers by advertising using colorful art posters that have gone on to became highly-prized collectibles today. The originals or reproductions hang on many a loft wall, punching up even the most modern decorating styles. I happen to love food posters of all kinds, but the chocolate companies produced the most whimsical and fun images. If you put “chocolate” into a search on Web sites like you will see the variety of companies who used this media for advertising their chocolate products.

Meanwhile, European consumers continued to be fixated on flavor, giving rise to the great chocolate houses of Belgium, Switzerland, and France, with chocolate manufacturers like Callebaut, Cocoa Berry, Valrhona, Weiss, Suchard, and Tobler. Chocolate shops proliferated in small towns and city neighborhoods. Chocolate became the gift of choice for most family and holiday occasions and gave rise to the modern luxury chocolatiers, including Belgium’s Godiva, Neuhaus, Mary Chocolatier, Wittamer, Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier Bruxelles, France’s La Maison du Chocolat, Michel Richart, Jean-Paul Hevin, Chocolaterie Patrick Roger and Italy’s Perugina, Slitti, Paul DeBondt, Vestri, Roberto Catanari, and Luca Mannori.

Into the 20th century, British and American chocolate makers focused their efforts on mass production and price instead of quality. These key marketing strategies drove the industry in those countries until the close of the century. In the 1700s, chocolate production made its way back to North America, with the first chocolate mill established in 1765 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where chocolate was ground as a base for hot chocolate, a drink that was as popular in the Colonies as it was in Europe. At this time in chocolate’s history, it was considered a healthful drink that had beneficial medicinal qualities, such as providing energy. As I mentioned previously, chocolate could be a whole new area of medicine today if modern physicians took a cue from their predecessors in dispensing chocolate to relieve our aches and pains.
After that happy thought, back to history.

A more stable source of cocoa beans became available for grinding when fisherman from Massachusetts started accepting the beans as payment for cargo when they sailed the seas of Central America and the Caribbean. In 1765, John Hammon partnered with Dr. James Baker to produce chocolate from the beans. In 1780, Hannon's widow sold the Dorchester mill to Dr. Baker, who aspired to be a chocolate industrialist and the company was renamed Baker Chocolate Company.

Dr. Baker went on to make a number of products for both his retail customers and other chocolate makers, including a product that became a supermarket staple called Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate. It remained a family business until purchased by General Foods in 1927 and one of the most enduring American chocolate brands. Did you know that Jell-O Chocolate Pudding was originally "Walter Baker’s Dessert"?

Quaker Stephen F. Whitman opened his first confectionary in 1842 in Philadelphia when he was 19 years old, and today it is the oldest, continuously operating chocolate company in America. Whitman’s business strategy was to make chocolate and candy confections at an affordable price by manufacturing them himself. He came up with the idea of a printed box to market his products in 1854. His advertisements in newspapers were a success and, added to the medals and recognition he won for his products, proved he was not only a good chocolate maker, but a very savvy marketer.

Whitman's began to advertise in the Saturday Evening Post in 1909, and that tradition continued through the 20th century, with celebrities such as Bob Hope and Elizabeth Taylor posing for the ads and box tops. But the most important milestone for the company was the 1912 introduction of the now-famous Whitman’s Sampler, which went on to become the best-selling boxed candy in America.

The Sampler’s hinged lid, with an index on the underside, let customers pick their favorite type from a selection of their best-selling chocolates, including coconut creams, cherry cordials, caramel creams and assorted nut clusters. Whitman’s again revolutionized the boxed chocolate industry by wrapping their boxes in cellophane in 1924. The company continued to be a marketing powerhouse, developing the slogan: “A woman never forgets a man that remembers.” Working with General Electric, Whitman’s is credited with inventing the refrigerated display cabinet, which they provided to their retailers to display the Whitman line of tins and boxes.

In 1849, confectioner Domingo Ghirardell came to San Francisco during the Gold Rush from his native Italy, via Uruguay and then Lima, Peru. In the process, he changed his name from the Italian Domenico to the Spanish Domingo. He realized he could turn the money he made as a prospector into even more money by selling chocolate bars, flavored with fruits, nuts, and liquors, to miners, so he set up a tent in downtown Stockton, California. Ghirardelli’s chocolates were a big hit and provided a small indulgence for even the poorest miners. He sent for his family, named the business Mrs. Ghirardelli & Co., and ended up importing 200 pounds of cocoa beans a year.

Ghirardelli was ready for another challenge, so he opened his factory in San Francisco in 1852. His company is credited with inventing the Broma process, which is still the standard in the industry today. The process is simple. It was discovered in 1865 when Ghirardelli workers hung a bag of chocolate in a warm room as an expirement. As the cocoa butter melted, it oozed through the bag, leaving the chocolate solids behind. These were then processed into ground chocolate to create what would become Ghirardelli's popular "Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa," a product that is still its signature product today.

Steam-driven presses replaced the bags, and the company went on to be very successful, importing more than 450,000 pounds of cocoa beans in 1885. That’s a lot of cocoa! Ghirardelli’s sons joined the company and, in 1893, Ghirardelli moved to the San Francisco waterfront. The Clock Tower, designed in the style of Chateau Blois in France, still anchors the corner today. The building of the 15-foot lighted Ghirardelli’s sign welcoming ships into the harbor came in 1923. Later, the factory underwent a major renovation to become a shopping destination, and it was declared an official San Francisco landmark in 1965. In 1967, the company’s chocolate production was moved to San Leandro, California, where land costs were cheaper.

Etienne Guittard also came to San Francisco from France to seek his fortune during the Gold Rush. After spending three years in the Sierras, he returned to San Francisco and saw a need for luxury products for the successful miners coming into town to spend their money. He went back to Paris to work in his uncle's chocolate factory in order to raise money to buy chocolate manufacturing equipment. He brought his newfound expertise and equipment back to San Francisco and started Guittard Chocolate Company in 1868.

The company prospered, surviving even the fire of 1906, which destroyed the plant. Guittard’s son, Horace C,. rebuilt a new-and-improved factory, and Guittard expanded again and again, eventually selling not only chocolate, but coffee, tea, and spices as well. In 1954, the company moved out of downtown San Francisco to its current location, a few miles south in Burlingame.

Chocolate manufacturers from the eastern part of the United States couldn’t ship their finished chocolate across the country or around the Cape without it spoiling, so for many years, Ghirardelli and Guittard had the western United States as their sole market.
Henry Oscar Wilbur owned a successful confectionery business with partner Sam Croft in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1884 they divided the company, with Henry taking the chocolate manufacturing part of the business, and H.O. Wilbur & Sons was born. The company sold bulk chocolate to retail candy makers. The business was so successful that Wilbur retired and left the operation of the business to his sons. In 1893 the company created its now famous “Wilbur Buds” which are shaped similar to a Hershey’s Kiss but have “bud” like indentations on the bottom. Since Wilbur Buds predated the Hershey’s Kiss by 14 years, there is some speculation that Milton Hershey might have “borrowed” the idea from his neighbor. We can’t fault Hershey for knowing a good thing when he saw it. Many other chocolate manufacturers and makers travel the world gaining inspiration from one another.

In 1905, Wilbur’s grandson, Lawrence H. Wilbur, was trained in Germany and was tutored in the manufacture of chocolate by Steve Oriole. He developed the machine to foil-wrap Wilbur Buds. Over time, the Buds lost their foil wrapping and are now sold naked in boxes or bags. This might be in response to the Hershey’s Kiss foil wrapping as a way to differentiate from the Buds. Hershey did miss the opportunity to patent the foil wrapping, but was able to patent the flag that juts out of the kiss which was registered as a company trademark in 1924.

Wilbur continued to prosper and, in 1928, a partnership with the Swiss firm Suchard to manufacture their product line in America led to a name change: Wilbur-Suchard Chocolate Company, Inc. The Brewster-Ideal Chocolate Co., of Lititz, Pennsylvania, and Newark, New Jersey, was merged into the new business as well. The new entity concentrated on consumer goods (producing Suchard foiled squares and numerous bars for vending machines) out of the three separate factories in Newark, Lititz and Philadelphia. The 1900s saw the company bought and sold a number of times, until the name was finally changed to Wilbur Chocolate Company in 1958.

Meanwhile, up the road, the famous Hershey Bar got its start when Milton S. Hershey, a Mennonite, was apprenticed at 15 to a confectionery store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. At 19, he had his own candy business, which grew into a caramel manufacturing company. As owner of the Lancaster Caramel Company, Hershey traveled to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The Exposition is credited with introducing Americans to the European technological advancements in chocolate manufacturing, as well as a number of new chocolate products.

Based on his experience at the Exposition, Hershey felt caramels were a fad and chocolate was the candy of the future. Excited by the German chocolate-making equipment, Hershey promptly bought it and went on to sell his Lancaster Caramel Company for a million dollars to focus on chocolate manufacturing.

Hershey built his plant and a town, called Hersheyville, to house and provide for his employees in the Pennsylvania dairy country, in order to be close to a source of milk. Admiring the Quaker ideal of humanitarian service, and the English Quaker towns founded by Fry and Cadbury, he used those as a model for his town. Hersheyville, with the Hershey Mansion at the center of the town, grew to have its own bank, orphanage, department store and golf course. Hersheyville survives to this day as Hershey’s Chocolate World and Hersheypark, complete with streetlights in the shape of Hershey Kisses.

Hershey’s business strategy was to produce an affordable milk chocolate bar for the American public. In 1900, he realized his goal by using mass production methods and launched the Milk Chocolate Hershey Bar that changed the way Americans ate chocolate. In the process he became known as the Henry Ford of the chocolate industry. He replaced a percentage of the cocoa butter in the chocolate with solid vegetable oils to make the bars affordable and less apt to melt. The bar was the first product to be marketed across the country. It was followed by the Hershey’s Kiss, that famous foil-wrapped bite of chocolate.

On May 9, 1894, Otto J. Scholenleber founded the Ambrosia Chocolate Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Scholenleber named the company in honor of Theobroma cacao: "Food of the Gods." The company focused on solid chocolate confectionery, baking chocolate, and cocoa for consumers, then expanded to chocolate bars to fill vending machines. Mr. Schoenleber's daughter Gretchen brought the company out of the Depression by focusing on Dutch-processed cocoa and, in so doing, became the first women member of the New York Cocoa Exchange.
With the opening of the transcontinental railroads in 1869 and the Panama Canal in 1914, Ghirardelli and Guittard’s hold on the western retail chocolate market was breached as Hershey’s sent their product west. Their chocolate bars and cocoa competed very successfully with the western manufacturers, as Hershey’s products were affordable and the company was a fierce marketing force.

In 1901, an American from the Lamont, Corliss and Co. sales company was on business in England. He had an opportunity to taste Peter’s Milk Chocolate Gala Bar. He hadn’t tasted anything like it in America and negotiated for his company to be the North American sales representative and import the chocolate from Europe to their customers in America. That venture was so successful that Peter's Chocolate Company began manufacturing in the United States at a plant in Fulton, New York in 1908. It was eventually bought by the company that represented them and became part of Nestlé's Chocolate Company in 1951, famous not only for the chocolate bar Nestlé's Crunch, but also for their hot cocoa mix (Nestlé's Quik) and Nestlé's Toll House Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels. In 2002, Peter's Chocolate left Nestlé and was bought by Cargill Foods Company, Inc., and continues to produce a broad range of chocolate products and sells them across North America to customers, such as confectionery manufacturers, bakeries, candy craft-supply shops, and ice cream novelty manufacturers.
In 1911 Frank and Ethel Mars founded their candy business from their home in Tacoma, Washington.

They started selling butter cream chocolate candies. Mars was inspired by the soda fountain treat "malted milk." He wanted to produce a portable version and, in 1920, launched the Milky Way Bar that was an instant success. That was followed by the Snickers Bar, named after the Mars' favorite horse, and according to the National Confectioners Association today, it is the number one selling bar in the US.

Mars also got into the vending machine industry, a strategic move that sprang from the need to make its candy products available to consumers outside traditional stores. Their success with building machines to serve their candy and snack food brands led to the invention of the vending systems for drinks. Mars vending machine engineers also invented the first electronic vending system and now offer cash-acceptance technology for use in vending machines.