Uncovering the first milk chocolate

September 18, 2012, 1 Comment

“The original Swiss milk chocolate” is how it used to be advertised but it’s a brand I’ve never seen. Peter’s Swiss Chocolate has long since disappeared from supermarket shelves in Switzerland, so imagine my surprise to see it twice while I was in the UK this summer. Neither time was in a place I expected but, sadly, neither time could I actually buy any. Such a shame as Peter’s was the brand that gave the world milk chocolate.

My first encounter was a great news story in the British papers. Apparently the Nazis had planned to assassinate Churchill with bars of exploding chocolate that would detonate seven seconds after the first piece was broken off. To make the whole thing more credible, the bar-bombs were in Peter’s Swiss Chocolate wrappers, as that was one of the luxury goods allowed into the War Cabinet dining room. And of course, being Swiss they would be beyond suspicion. It’s a ridiculous plot that’s on a par with the CIA’s exploding cigars to kill Castro. They were as unsuccessful as the Nazis’ fake chocolate.

A few weeks later I was enjoying a day out at Beamish Open Air Museum and spotted the above display in the sweet shop. Unfortunately they were just original wrappers, without anything edible inside, but it was still fascinating to see them in among the thousands of items. Beamish is a wonderful living history museum near Newcastle with rescued and restored buildings, as well as double-decker trams and open-top buses, all recreated for the year 1913. Peter’s wasn’t the only Swiss brand on display – the grocery shop also has Cailler and Nestlé adverts.

Which is rather apt, as the three brands have a long history together and are now all part of the same company. Look again at the wrapper above and you’ll see that it has ‘D. Peter, Inventor’ on it. That refers to Daniel Peter, a candlemaker from Vevey, was the son-in-law of chocolatier Francois-Louis Cailler and the neighbour of industrialist Henri Nestlé. He combined his father-in-law’s dark chocolate with his neighbour’s new dehydrated milk and created the first milk chocolate bar in 1875. Thank goodness for that.

In Switzerland Peter’s has disappeared as a brand but in the States it is still around, albeit one owned by Nestlé. It’s been available there since 1901 and looking back at the old adverts, it’s easy to see why it became so popular.”Irresistibly delicious and wholesome as bread and butter” was one from 1905 that I saw on Ebay. Or how about “High as the Alps in quality” from 1906. I’m sure both taglines still apply to today’s Swiss chocolate – for me, anyway.

One Comment on "Uncovering the first milk chocolate"

  1. Julia Newton Friday September 21st, 2012 at 07:12 AM · Reply

    Dear Diccon, I’m just reading your book Swiss Watching at the moment. I picked it up at the Presse shop at Zurich HB. It’s very readable and I find your sense of humour similar to mine. Plus even after living here for 20 years, I have learnt a lot about Swiss history and politics.

    I would like to do an email interview with you for a website, the Zurich International Women’s Association. I write reports for the website including What’s On in Zurich which is popular on Google, and last year I did an interview with the author Andrea Levy, and met her on a book tour.

    I run an Interest Group called Discovering Zurich and Switzerland and have taken ZIWA members on tours in most parts of the country. Where do you feel most at home? I live in Thalwil and am just looking out at sunrise over the Zurisee.

    Hope to hear from you soon, and have a good weekend.

    Best wishes,

    Julia Newton

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