Toblerone first came into the world in 1908 | © Ashley Pomeroy/ Wikicommons

Toblerone’s famous pyramid-shaped chocolate bars are loved the world over. The chocolate bar’s distinctive shape has been so successful it’s been unashamedly pilfered by its rivals.

The story begins with Jean Tobler, a chocolatier based in Bern. He first opened his own confectionery shop in 1868 and, business was so good, he was able to open up his own chocolate factory in Bern in 1899. One year later, the elderly Jean passed on the reins of the family business to Theodor, his son.

Only eight years later and Theodor’s tinkering with different recipes and designs bore a glorious result. Mixing chocolate, honey, nougat and almonds, and setting it in a distinctive triangular shape, Tobler gave life to the Toblerone – a name that mixes Tobler and torrone, which is Italian for ‘nougat’.

Legend has it that the majestic Matterhorn, Switzerland’s most famous mountain peak, inspired the Toblers to fashion their chocolate this way. According to other sources, however, principally Tobler’s own sons, the inspiration was a little more human. They say that, in fact, it was a show at the Folies Bergère – a music hall in Paris, where frilly-dressed dancers formed a giant, human triangle for the final spectacle – that apparently impressed young Tobler immensely.

Some see a mountain in the Matterhorn, others might see a giant block of snow-covered chocolate | Julius_Silver/ Pixabay

Whatever the case, Tobler’s instantly recognisable chocolate took the world by storm. Years later, Toblerone launched its dark and white chocolate range and, ten years ago, they brought us a fruit-and-nut Toblerone bar.

Toberlone has now become a byword, dubbing structures across the world. In Switzerland, a series of concrete, anti-tank defenses that line its western border has been dubbed The Toblerone Line. There is also a Toblerone Building in Belgrade, Serbia, and Toblerone-shaped’ student accommodation at the University of Manchester.

Toblerone has also been in the news for all the wrong reasons. One bar caused the demise of an unfortunate Swedish politician, who was caught purchasing the chocolate using taxpayers’ money. The incident has been inscribed in Swedish history as the ‘Toblerone affair.’ Mondelez International, the American company that makes the bars, was heavily also criticised a few years back for altering the design and reducing the number of triangles in the distinctive bars to reduce their weight. Naturally, chocolate fans felt cheated.

Toblerone’s characteristic packaging, featuring the famous Matterhorn peak | Hans/Pixabay

We can only imagine that the Toblers would be incredibly pleased to see that their oddly shaped chocolate bar has seeped so deeply into the world’s psyche – to the point that some of us don’t see triangles or pyramids, rather we see giant concrete, metal or wooden Toblerones.

A Brief History of Chocolate in Switzerland

Swiss chocolate | © Howrin/ Pixabay

For many people, Switzerland is synonymous with chocolate. And not just any chocolate, but rich, smooth chocolate that leaves you wanting more and more! So, how did Switzerland, a country without colonies or cacao come to dominate the chocolate market?

Back in the seventeenth century, the Swiss made use of their strategic position as a transit point for goods passing through Europe to begin processing chocolate. It all began in the canton of Ticino, which sits on Switzerland’s southern border with Italy. Back then, chocolate wasn’t the luxurious eating experience of today, chocolate was at once gritty and chewy, verging on unpalatable.

It wasn’t until much later that the chocolate we know today came into existence, thanks to a legion of Swiss pioneers and chocolate tinkerers. In 1819, the first mechanised chocolate factory opened in the town of Vevey, which sits on the edge of Lac Léman. The factory was the brainchild of François-Louis Cailler who had worked as an apprentice with Italian chocolatiers in Ticino. Cailler’s machinery began churning out the first mass-produced Swiss chocolate.

For many a trip to Switzerland isn’t complete without sampling some chocolate | © bigbirdz/ Flickr

Many others soon followed his lead and before long, chocolate factories had sprung up across Switzerland. In 1836, the Sprüngli family set up a shop in Zurich which would later merge with Rodolphe Lindt’s Bern based factory in 1892, the basis for the Lindt brand which we know today.

But the Swiss weren’t just making chocolate, they were innovating with it as well. In Vevey in 1867, Daniel Peter opened up his own chocolate factory and, driven by a need to increase his sales, he decided to experiment by adding milk powder, made by his friend Henri Nestlé, to his product. In doing so he gave the world its first milk chocolate.

These steps forward gave life further innovations as the entrepreneurs built upon the work of those who came before them. In 1908, Theodor Tobler, working from his factory in Bern, threw milk chocolate, nougat, almonds and honey together and pressed it into a triangular shape, giving life to the infamous Toblerone bar. Many believe that Switzerland’s iconic Matterhorn mountain was Tobler’s inspiration.

Without other Swiss entrepreneurs, like Phillippe Suchard, who created a unique mixing method to smooth out the hard-to-eat chocolate of his day, and Lindt, whose conching method made his bars melt in the mouth, we wouldn’t be eating the smooth Swiss chocolates we have today. In the 1930s, Nestlé again brought the world something new when it launched its white chocolate Milkybar.

Without Rodolphe Lindt, today’s chocolate wouldn’t be the same | © Wikicommons

From the 19th century, the pioneers and their entrepreneurial spirit brought Swiss chocolate to the world, which duly fell in love with it, and in doing so empowered some of the biggest brands we know today. Not much has changed since then, apart from the quantities that are sold. In 2016, Swiss chocolate brands exported a whopping 122,034 tonnes of chocolate raking in 874 million Swiss Francs in the process.

Swiss chocolatiers continue to innovate and find new ways to wow our taste buds, and deepen their pockets, of course. Last year, Swiss-based company Barry Callebaut unveiled its new ‘ruby’ chocolate, the first new chocolate to be developed since Nestlé’s milky bar. Whether it will cause a chocolate revolution remains to be seen, but it hints that Switzerland’s role in the history of chocolate is far from over, something which many people will be incredibly happy to hear.

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By admintq