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Chocolate: From Luxury Item to Mass Product
In the course of the 19th century, the luxury item chocolate became a food for broad levels of the population. This was due on the one hand to an expansion of the cocoa growing regions, and on the other hand to technological advancements. Today the chocolate business is a globally booming economic factor.
The earliest evidence of chocolate we know about so far is on earthenware vessels from ca. 1150 BC in Honduras. More precise information about the enjoyment of the bean won from the fruit of the cocoa plant is first found in the Mayan culture. The chocolate consumed by them was very different from what we are accustomed to today. Moreover, it was apparently only drunk, not sweetened and tasted accordingly dry and bitter. As was the case throughout most of its long history, cocoa was not a mass product for the Mayans, but was reserved for aristocrats.
Chocolate enjoyed a very high status with the Aztecs. Here as well, the indulgence was reserved for the royal house, aristocracy and dignitaries. In addition chocolate was used as a form of payment. Since the Aztecs had no growing regions of their own, cocoa was imported through duties and trade.
As Columbus's fourth trip took him to Guanaja in 1502 he became the first European to discover cocoa. Later, after chocolate had become increasingly popular among the Spaniards who had immigrated to Central America, it also reached the Spanish royal court. This was the first step in becoming established in continental Europe. Probably the most significant change that helped chocolate break through was the idea to sweeten the drink with cane sugar. At the time Europeans were almost addicted to sweets after sugar had been introduced in medieval Europe. In the first half of the 17th century chocolate began establishing itself as a popular drink in the royal Spanish court and among the Spanish aristocracy. From there the popularity spread throughout Europe, primarily through the relationships between royal courts and princely houses, as well as the active interaction between cloisters.
Progress Through Industrialisation
The industrial revolution along with its massive effects on the social and economic landscape began around 1800. The chocolate industry was also affected, and the technological developments finally turned chocolate and cocoa into mass products. Already in the late 19th century, cocoa consumption had increased immensely. Growth continued at a hearty pace and cultivation spread from Central and South America to Asia and Africa. The largest consumer in 1911 was the USA with 59,000 tons, followed by Germany, England and France. Shortly after the First World War the chocolate business boomed anew until the Great Depression of 1929 hit even the industry giants hard.
During the Second World War there was no more chocolate available for civilian consumption in Germany, and the war also meant a cutback in chocolate consumption for the Allies. Chocolate production was not reinstated until the Reconstruction. Due to the powerful trend toward automation of chocolates production, the market was concentrated on fewer and fewer major manufacturers. Chocolate finally became a product for the masses with the simultaneous economic boom.
Asians Gain Ground
Still today many of the largest manufacturers are located in Europe. This supremacy in production is also reflected in the consumption: While a Swiss munches around 12 kilograms of chocolate per year, per capita consumption in Asia is only around 200 grams.
But the Asians are gaining ground: Chocolate is getting increasingly popular and seems to be replacing the traditional salted dried fruit - at least with younger Chinese. Experts predict that China will become one of the primary growth markets for chocolate products over the next several years. Until now the Chinese chocolate market has represented only about one percent of the global market. Consumption, however, is growing at around 15 percent annually.
Russia is also currently one of the most important global markets for sweets, especially chocolate. Forecasts show an annual growth rate of around 14 percent here as well.
These are developments that of course also have a positive impact on the import of packaging machines. Here the industry is looking at great long-term potential. At 1.5 kilogram the per capita consumption in Turkey still lies a good deal under the 8 to 12 kilograms consumed in several European countries, but this figure is expected to double over the next few years. The same applies to Poland - the market there is also growing continuously. Polish consumers are becoming increasingly demanding and are willing to pay more for good quality. Chocolate and sweetmeats represent a new, sophisticated, western lifestyle. Customers desire unusual flavours - and clever packaging. Poland's confectionary business has definitely reached the international market.
Chocolate is and remains a process-intensive product. Machine technology played an important role here very early on. Heinrich Stollwerck came forth as an important engineer and inventor, and presented a five-roller mill for the manufacture in 1873. Today especially high demands are placed on packaging: The level of automation and process safety are continually heightened in order to ensure that the cocoa powder reaches the buyer in immaculate condition. Then there is the demand for improved product presentation and reduced packaging material. Flexible and rational high-performance packaging facilities are called for to ensure that the still highly prized cocoa bean travels from the plantation to the consumer through production to finished chocolate safe and protected from harmful influences.