Swiss confectioner pours a mixture of nougat and milk chocolate in the shape of the Matterhorn
JOHANN JACOB TOBLER (1830-1905)
The supreme moment dates from 1908 in the Swiss city of Bern. Emil Baumann had taken a trip to France and brought a few pieces of Montélimar nougat as a present for his Swiss boss, confectioner Theodor Tobler.
That same evening, the two men went into the kitchen to experiment in Mrs Tobler's cooking pots with nougat ingredients—almond nuts, honey and sugar—combined with milk chocolate.
The result was so successful that Tobler had to patent it to protect it from counterfeiting.
Today, the Tobler staff in Berne produces 135 tons of the substance in two shifts every day, converted into bars of 100 grams for no less than 283 kilometers. Even those who don't buy Toblerone know the product: triangular bars of Swiss chocolate, packed in cream-coloured cartons.
Against what background did this striking product come about?
Father Johann Jacob Tobler was born in the village of Wiehnacht-Tobel in the canton of Appenzell and had established himself as a confectioner in Bern in 1868 after seventeen French and German Wanderjahre.
He did good business with his Confiserie Spéciale, so ten years later he moved to larger buildings on Länggass-Strasse.
By the end of the century, the demand for old Tobler's artisan chocolate was so great that he built a small factory with his son Theodor.
In 1900, at the age of 70, he passed it on to his three children: Theodor, Emil and Martha, but it was mainly Theodor who would leave his mark on the future.
By 1902, the firm had 50 employees and had raised a million Swiss francs in capital with the first share issue. This made it possible to invest in the latest and best production techniques, so that the company could continue to grow.
According to the Tobler company itself, in 1908 Theodor was deliberately looking for a new product to expand its range and purposely sent his production manager Baumann to a confectioner's friend in Metz to engage in industrial espionage.
It's not clear whether Baumann brought the nougat to make it, to mix it with chocolate, or just as a souvenir. But Theodor knew he had made a golden find.
On March 29, 1909, he took a step that has so far remained unique in the Swiss annals: he patented 'a process for the production of a new type of chocolate'. At that time none other than Albert Einstein worked at the small patent office in Bern.
To the firm of Tobler it is a pleasant thought today that the man who went on to become one of the most famous scientists of the twentieth century may have approved this patent.
The text of the patent states inter alia: 'The object of the present invention is a process for the production of a new type of chocolate in which the chocolate slurry is enriched with a cooked mixture of fruits, supplemented with honey, glucose, sugar and egg white.
For example, almond nuts or hazelnuts can serve as fruits.
For example, the process is carried out as follows: first almond nuts are mixed with honey, glucose and sugar. This whole is cooked. Then the egg white is beaten to snow and added to the boiling mass.
The cooking will continue until the water in the raw almonds is gone from the mixture. Then this mixture is rolled, cooled and crushed.
The substance obtained in this way is then selected in the desired ratio to the chocolate mass whose production has progressed so far that the addition can take place shortly before moulding.'
According to insiders, a whole series of specific manufacturing secrets do not even appear in this patent. Two of them were once revealed in the Swiss press by a former production manager.
For the honey, not native but Mexican forest honey is used because it retains its flavor better when heated strongly. Furthermore, as in 1908, the nougat is cooked in copper kettles, because it heats up faster in them than in modern steel containers.
That speed is of great importance for the
There are all kinds of stories about the name Toblerone, the shape of the bars and the color of the packaging. Theodor recalled that in Italy nougat products called Torrone existed. He created the brand Toblerone from the family name Tobler and the nougat name Torrone.
The documents available in the company archive in all languages are silent about the idiosyncratic shape. But the story that Theodor wanted to imitate the Swiss mountains and in particular the Matterhorn as a symbol of Switzerland, sounds plausible.
Especially the advertising posters with such a serrated bar in the front and the mountain range in the background, suggest this connection. The edelweiss added to the logo speaks for itself.
Presumably, the practical consideration that a serrated chocolate bar was easier to break into bite-sized chunks also played a role. But it should be clear that the Toblerone bar has distinguished itself from all other chocolate products from the very beginning, thanks to its shape.
The cream-colored packaging with red print is said to have brought Theodor Tobler from his favorite city, Paris. He liked to be a guest at the Folies Bergères where his favorite dance group performed in red and cream colored costumes.
The Tobler company merged in 1970 with the large Swiss confectionery manufacturer Suchard. In 1982 Jacobs (coffee) was added. The tobacco company Philip Morris took over Jacobs-Suchard in 1990.