"The Chocolate Revolution"
This article appeared in the September 7, 1997 issue of
joys of milk flakes, chew bars and energy balls are the stuff of dreams,
writes Roald Dahl.
Today, chocolate-guzzling begins when a child is about
five and goes on until the guzzler is 12. After which, with the advent of
puberty, there is a gradual decline in consumption.
Things were different when I was young. I grew up in
the 20s and the chocolate revolution had not begun. There were very few
delicious chocolate bars to tempt us. That's why sweet shops were called
sweet shops and not chocolate shops.
When I was young, there was Cadbury's Bournville and
Dairy Milk. There was the Dairy Milk Flake (the only great invention so
far) and Whipped Cream Walnut, and there were also four different flavours
of chocolate-coated Marshmallow Bar (vanilla, coffee, rose, lemon).
Consequently, we were much more inclined to spent our
money on sweets and toffees or on sherbet-suckers, gobstoppers, liquorice
bootlaces and aniseed balls - we did not mind that the liquorice was made
from rats' blood and the sherbet from sawdust. They were cheap and to us,
they tasted good.
Then came the revolution and the entire world of
chocolate was suddenly turned upside down in the space of seven glorious
years. Here is a summary of what happened.
1876: Chocolate was first used by the
Spaniards, Italians and French in the early 17th century but only as a
Then, in 1876, a Swiss chap called Peters mixed
chocolate powder with sugar and condensed milk and made a solid bar.
Chocolate as we know it was invented.
1905: Cadbury got in on the act and
began production of milk bars, starting with Dairy Milk.
1920: The first speciality chocolate
bar, the Dairy Milk Flake, was invented. This was a milestone, the first
time any manufacturer had seriously played with chocolate in their
1928: Cadbury's Fruit and Nut bar popped
up on the scene.
From 1930 to 1937 virtually all the great classic
chocolate bars were invented and they are still on the best seller
1930: Frys invented the Crunchie.
1932: Mars appeared. In Chicago, a man
whose name was Mr Mars, owned a small factory that had been making the
Milky Way bar for a number of years. In fact, he had invented it
When his son, Forrest, finished his education as an
industrial engineer at yale, his dad said to him: "Son, there ain't room
for two of us in this little business of mine." So, he gave him US$5,000
(RM 13,500) and the recipe for Milky Way.
The younger Mars made his way to Slough in England,
intent on making a "chew bar", so he placed a strip of soft caramel on top
and then coated it with chocolate. But it is not easy to make chocolate
stick to caramel, as Cadbury discovered when, some time later, it made the
Curly Wurly. The chocolate kept flaking off. Parents complained that it
went all over the carpet, and the Curly Wurlys were withdrawn.
But Forrest Mars had the secret, and the Mars Bar was
born. It swept the world, the first ever chewy bar. And very soon 600
million were being eaten every year in England alone. That is 10 per year
1933: Black Magic appeared in boxes and,
for some reason, it is still a best seller.
1935: The wonderful Aero was
1936: Don't forget Forrest Mars. In spite
of the phenomenal success of his Mars Bar, he continued experimenting in
his laboratory. He took a pea-sized pellet of dough flavored with malted
milk and exploded it inside a vacuum. Then he coated the result with sweet
milk chocolate, and hey presto, another classic beauty was born! At first,
Forrest Mars gave these the charming name of Energy Balls but this made
the public smile, so he changed the name to Maltesers.
At the time of writing, Forrest Mars is very much
alive. His business is now enormous but has remained a family-run concern,
so Forrest is not answerable to any stockholders.
He is, therefore, free to run things as he likes, and
the way he likes is to treat his employees as one big happy family.
Everyone shares in the profits - the employees can get
a rise every four weeks provided sales have gone up in that period.
1937: Another golden year - Kit Kats,
Rolos and Smarties were invented. Some 10,000 million Smarties are gobbled
up every year in the UK alone. This includes the eight a day (four after
lunch, four after supper) that our dog Chopper consumes.
So there you have it. In music, the equivalent would be
the golden age of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. In painting, it was the
equivalent of the Italian Renaissance and the advent of the Impressionism
at the end of the 19th century; in literature, Tolstoy, Balzac and
Cadbury's, after an enormous amount of market research,
found out that what the public liked was not a sharp minty or sugary
flavour, but something bland, almost tasteless. It learned this by
studying the success of Heinz Baked Beans.
So it invented a bland, tasteless bar, which was
actually two bars. The company called it the Double Decker which sold more
than 160 million.
But this was nothing compared with the sales of the
blandest and most disgusting thing of all, the Creme Egg. Between
Christmas and Easter, Cadbury sells 350 million of these fondant-filled
horrors. I won't eat them. Nobody I know eats them. But somebody obviously
does, by the bucketful.
The most luxurious chocolate-makers in the world are
Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly. The fifth floor is redolent with
delicious smells. Everything is made by hand. Fondant centres are blobbed
by hand into soft holes pressed into trayes of loose starch, allowing a
natural set of 24 hours. The chocolates are all dipped by hand.
For the record, I am not overly fond of
chocolate-flavoured foods such as chocolate cake and chocolate ice-cream.
I prefer my chocolate straight.
Created and maintained by Kristine Howard with assistance from Michael Mander