The dark side of chocolate

Andrej Abplanalp

Andrej Abplanalp

Historian and communications chief of the Swiss National Museum.

When François-Louis Cailler founded the first Swiss chocolate factory in the canton of Fribourg in 1819, it was mainly women and children who succumbed to the sweet temptation. Men preferred coffee and tobacco. This situation remained unchanged until the end of the 19th century–but the number of chocolate factories continued to increase all the same. To be able to keep growing, therefore, the new branch of industry had to persuade men to buy their product. And thanks to the army it was successful. Chocolate is highly nutritious and easy to transport and keeps well, making it a perfect choice for military rations–initially for the Swiss fusiliers and later for soldiers all over Europe. But there is a dark side to this success story, for it was World War I that helped bring about chocolate’s big breakthrough. Whereas Switzerland exported 502 tons in chocolate in 1887, the figure for 1915 was 27,262 tons.

Export box for Cailler’s milk chocolate, 1900. Photo: Swiss National Museum

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