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1900 - today

Until the beginning of the 20th century, chocolate remained the exclusive privilege of the rich and famous. Chocolate remained extremely expensive due to very high cocoa and sugar prices in the 19th century. For the chocolate manufacturers, growth of the chocolate market could only be achieved by growth of the high-income group.

Around 1900, the prices of the two main ingredients for chocolate – cocoa and sugar – dropped tremendously. In addition, the liberalization of the cocoa trade and the abolition of government taxes on cocoa lead to a growing democratization of cocoa and chocolate. As a consequence, in ten years time, chocolate became affordable for a growing number of mainly middle class consumers in the first half of the 20th century. 

In Italy, Francesco Buitoni, a relative of the renowned pasta making family, starts developing his chocolate activities in 1907. In 1922 he invents and markets the famous “baci”, which means kisses in Italian. These are small chocolates, wrapped in silver paper that contain a love message. Chocolate and romance go hand in hand.
Callebaut factory

Across Europe, the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century saw the establishment of the big names in the chocolate world: such as our own brand Callebaut®, who started producing chocolate for bakers, chocolatiers and pastry chefs.

factory

The beginning of the 20th century announced the boom in industrialization of chocolate production all over Europe and the U.S. Countries like Belgium employed 2200 people in 1910, a number which grew to 6180 in 1937. This gives a clear indication of the increase in volumes produced.

Callebaut bar

A Belgian invention in the 1920s was the chocolate bar. Across Europe chocolate tablets of about 150g had become real bestsellers. Belgium was the first country to reduce the size to 30g and 45g and form it into a tablet shape, which was taken over by many foreign producers. The chocolate bar became a popular, affordable snack for an ultimate and individual indulging experience.

A third major (again Belgian) invention was made by Frans Callebaut, one of the owners of the Callebaut® brand. He thought of a way to produce couverture (couverture is chocolate with a high cocoa butter/milk fat content, mainly for professional use) and to stock and transport it in its liquid form. This revolutionary process avoided the need for chocolate to be solidified first in blocks, tablets or bars and allowed it to be delivered directly to the food manufacturers. This also lowered the production cost of chocolate which made it possible to integrate chocolate in a whole new range of foodstuffs, such as breakfast cereals, bread & butter spreads, filled bars, candy bars.

After the World War I, slowly but surely chocolate gained a new status in Mid Europe and the U.S. that changed it from an exclusive treat to a mass consumption foodstuff. Before World War I, the working class in Europe was only able to taste and enjoy chocolate on very special and rare occasions, like at Christmas or on birthdays. Low incomes and high chocolate prices still made it a luxury item. All this changed after World War I, with a new wave of industrialization and automation in chocolate production, with Belgium at the forefront in maximizing cost efficiency.
mold of the 1920s

The development of chocolate products was also boosted to high levels. No longer was it limited to drinks and pralines, but an almost never-ending range of new possibilities in hollow figures, candy bars, filled eggs, truffles, biscuits, ice cream sticks, bread and breakfast buns developed.


From World War II until today, the differences in chocolate consumption volumes between laborers, clerks and the highest income groups have almost disappeared. It seems though that workers tend to prefer chocolate in tablets and (candy) bars, whereas the higher income groups are more seduced by pralines.

Callebaut advertisement

The major reasons for the successful introduction of chocolate to lower and moderate income families was not merely the lower price at which chocolate products were sold by the 1930s and 1940s. Historians indicated that in the inter-war period and after, chocolate was the cheapest foodstuff per kilocalorie compared to eggs or meat. Many workers therefore saw a chocolate bar as a delicious and very convenient foodstuff that enabled them to recuperate very rapidly from heavy labor.

Chocolat Dauphin Chocolat Mexicain

But also the common belief that chocolate had strengthening powers, that it could promote your love life and the fact that it enjoyed a luxury product status that became affordable, made it very attractive.

The massive growth in the chocolate market was established between the World War II and the 1980s. Consumption became more and more integrated in daily dietary habits.

Chocolat Kohler Chocolat Menier

Through new product developments, chocolate also became an appreciated tastemaker in a wide variety of new and nutritious foodstuffs.

Since the 1990s, many consumers have shown a more balanced and sober attitude towards food in general than in the eighties. Health became very closely related to what we eat. Whereas the eighties were based on eliminating and prohibiting all kind of sugars and fats from our diet, the nineties added them back again but in a moderate and often pure and natural form: organic, kosher, or 100% vegetable chocolate was produced

the pleasure of chocolate

The big difference was that from the nineties on, enjoying food and healthy food were valued as equally important. This explains why chocolate remained popular: for millions of people, chocolate provided the ultimate pleasure and enjoyment and was considered as pure and healthy when moderately consumed.

The end of the nineties and the beginning of the 21st century gave a new impulse to chocolate. More and more consumers worldwide actively search for food that is not only delicious but also carries some functional benefits for their health and body. Scientific studies on cocoa and chocolate have already revealed a lot of potential benefits from moderate consumption of cocoa and chocolate, and there is more expected. Maybe the Spanish doctors and early scientists back in the 17th century got it right after all when it comes to the nutritious and health benefits of the cocoa bean and chocolate.

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