Holiday Chocolate Throughout History

New Years Day is perfect for working on your holiday chocolate stash, and for bite-sized mini dives into the history of chocolate.

For many years, my favourite holiday chocolate has been Terry’s Chocolate Orange (sadly lately only called “Terry’s Orange” in Canada due to its low chocolate content). I was shocked to discover some years ago that Terry’s is one of the oldest chocolate companies in existence, formed in the UK’s “Chocolate City” of York over 250 years ago.

Here are mini-dives into the history of three popular holiday chocolates:

Terry’s Chocolate Orange

The range of Terry’s products over the years (The Fact Site)

The oldest of the lot, Terry’s began in 1767 as “Bayldon and Berry,” a small sweets stall in York in northern England. They first sold lemon and orange candied peel until apothecary and chemist Joseph Terry joined the company in the 1820s. They renamed to “Joseph Terry and Company” and developed the first chocolate product – a chocolate apple. Chocolate was still not easily available at this time, but Terry used the developing railway system to ship his products down to London and around the country.

Terry’s 1767 Assortment (University of York)

Terry’s chocolate for the occasion of Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1897 (University of York)

Fast forward to 1932, Joseph Terry’s grandsons released a new product – the chocolate orange. Shaped like a real orange, with slices as we know them today, the product was an instant hit in England.

The orange was first produced in a massive factory in York called The Chocolate Works. While production now happens in France, the city of York is still considered the “Chocolate City” with much of its history shaped by chocolate manufacturing (Kit Kats were also born here!)

Terry’s chocolate apple, its first fruit product, and Terry’s chocolate orange (University of York)

Terry’s “Chocolate Works” factory in York, shut down in 2005 (The Northern Echo)


First Toblerone packaging from 1908 (Toblerone)

Toblerone was created by chocolatier Theodor Tobler in Bern, Switzerland in 1908. Born to a confectioner father who established the chocolate industry in Bern, Theodor Tobler took over the business and invented the triangular shaped chocolate with his cousin Emil.

Theodor Tobler’s father’s first chocolate shop in Bern established in 1867 (Toblerone)

The Toblers established a chocolate factory in Bern run by father and sons (Toblerone)

The chocolate’s name came from a mix of Tobler and torrone, the Italian word for honey and almond nougat. The shape was based on the Matterhorn (or Cervin in French) mountain, one of the highest mountains in the Alps known for its almost pyramidal, sharp-edged shape.

Packaging from the 1970s with the Matterhorn mountain (Toblerone)

The Matterhorn mountain (Zermatterhorn)

Early packaging and ads for Toblerone feature a bear, the city of Bern’s symbol which appears on their coat of arms.

A Toblerone ad from the 1920s and the Bern city crest (Toblerone)

Curiously, the bear is still incorporated into Toblerone’s modern day packaging – can you spot it?

Kinder Surprise

Kinder Surprise ad in Italian (Kinder)

Even though Kinder Surprise eggs are not as old and historic as the others, it’s included by special request from a reader. Created by Italian chocolate company Ferrero in 1974, Kinder Surprise was originally a nod to an Italian tradition of giving kids chocolate eggs with toys inside for Easter.

French Kinder Surprise ad from 1982 (The Vintage Toy Advertiser)

The Kinder Surprise egg was developed by Ferrero owner (and Nutella inventor!) Michele Ferrero who wanted to adapt the Easter tradition to every day. Kinder Surprise eggs have a shell of milk chocolate with a plastic container inside meant to represent the egg yolk.

Kinder Surprise ads also give us some classic 70s and 80s design and photography to look at:

Kinder Surprise ads from the 1970s and 1980s (Kinder and The Vintage Toy Advertiser)

Do you have a favourite holiday chocolate? Let me know in the comments below and happy, hopefully chocolatey, New Year!

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