Even before moving to Switzerland, Toblerone had always been a part of my life (much like the line of St. Ives products and Swiss Miss, except that I’ve only recently come to find that these products feign their Swiss affiliation for the high-end association). Toblerone is actually my mother’s favorite chocolate bar. I always wondered why that was, considering that I grew up in the land where Hershey’s rules supreme – and is infinitely cheaper to buy.
It turns out that a friend of my late grandfather, who used to travel often to Italy for business, would buy the chocolate bars as gifts and bring them back to my mom when she was a little girl and still living in Cuba (the brand loyalty runs deep!). My mother, much like I did, found the peculiar shape of the Toblerone very intriguing, as well as its pyramids of chocolate and honey nougaty goodness. Don’t most kids?
Toblerone, the brand name, is the family name of the chocolatier who invented it, [Jean] Tobler, combined with torrone, the Italian word for nougat, according to the official Toblerone website. Due to a huge rise in demand for Tobler’s chocolates, he went on to open his first chocolate factory in Bern in 1899. In 1908, the original Tobler handed the company down to one of his sons, who introduced the unique chocolate bar we know today, containing chocolate, nougat, almonds and honey in a triangular prism shape. In fact, the Toblerone was the “first flagship bar to debut with a filling,” essentially “upending” the chocolate bar. In direct response to the Toblerone’s innovation, Hershey’s released a chocolate bar with almonds that same year.
Some people, strangely enough, use Toblerones as swords; others use them to make fluffy chocolate mousse (like the wife of one of F’s colleagues, who graciously invited us over for an exquisite four-course meal topped off with her very own Toblerone mousse).
For me, Toblerones are a source of comfort and motivation. This past year, while I was interning for no pay at the UN, I made sure to always have a bag of Toblerone Minis sitting in my desk drawer for those moments when I really needed a sugar rush.
Then, for my birthday, a good friend even gave me my very own Toblerone pyramid. Here it is (or was?), motivating me to get done with my work.
Now that I know the story behind my mother’s devotion to Toblerones, it’s no wonder that I enjoy them so much. It’s also no wonder that she used to get Toblerone bars as gifts from family friends after traveling – apparently Toblerones are mainstays in duty-free shops.
According to Marketing Magazine, “Toblerone accounts for 40% of Swiss chocolate exports and 96% of the bars produced are for export. It is reportedly the third-best seller in duty-free stores after tobacco and alcohol.” That’s insane!
Toblerone may no longer be Swiss-owned (the company was acquired in 1990 by Kraft Foods), but – luckily – it’s still Swiss-made and produced in Brunnen, just outside of Bern. It’s too bad that they don’t offer factory tours… I guess they do have a thing or two to learn from Hershey’s after all!