The van Houtens, The Netherlands and the History of Chocolate
With supermarket shelves stocked with a huge variety of goodies, boutique stores selling interesting and innovative products and the wholesale confectionery industry more exciting than ever, it is hard to think of a time before chocolate was in everybody’s cupboards. We often think of modern chocolate as originating in Belgium, or perhaps Italy, yet it was in the Netherlands that some of the most important inventions took place.
Why was the Netherlands so important? In the 1800s the Netherlands was small but powerful. As a wealthy, seafaring nation, it controlled the majority of the world’s cocoa trade. The city of Amsterdam was one of the most important cocoa ports meaning that the city was full of cocoa beans, ready for intelligent chocolate lovers to get inventive.
Inventing the Chocolate Bar
Imagine life without the humble chocolate bar. The snap of an 80% bar, filling the room with its bitter aroma, or the creamy comfort of a milk bar in front of your favourite film. We couldn’t live without them, yet the chocolate bar was invented long after the western world discover cocoa. The bar was invented by a father and son team almost 200 years ago in Amsterdam. It has been bringing joy to the world ever since by fulfilling all our sweet cravings.
Casparus and Coenraad van Houten – father and son – were both chocolate manufacturers and chemists in Amsterdam in the early nineteenth century. At this time chocolate was consumed in a very different way than today. Cocoa beans were ground up then mixed with milk to make a warming drink or baked into biscuits. The van Houtens changed everything!
Casparus van Houten invented a hydraulic press which transformed the manufacturing of chocolaty products. This press was for roasted cocoa beans and could press out around 50% of the cocoa butter from these beans. This meant that the resulting power was much more useful as an ingredient. Coenraad took up the family business and made more steps towards the perfect product. He added alkaline salts to the new powder which meant that it could be mixed easily with water. This process became known as "Dutching" due to the origins of its inventors.
Tradition and Innovation
It is thanks in part to the Netherlands that we have such a thriving wholesale confectionery industry today, which supplies stores all over Europe with delicious treats.
The Netherlands has a long tradition of quality products which have built on the van Houtens’ innovative inventions. In fact, the brand that Casparus and Coenraad set up is still running today. Van Houten produces some of the world’s best cocoa powder, perfect for cooking and baking. It also makes the ideal hot chocolate – just add whipped cream! The premium cocoa powder comes in stylish vintage-style tins in a nod to the van Houten legacy. The tins look great on shop shelves as well as on kitchen counters.
Another traditional Dutch brand, and a favourite in the wholesale confectionery world, is Droste. Droste was founded in Haarlem in 1863 and is renowned for its exquisite flavours. A particular highlight is their Chocolate Pastilles Selection which includes flavours such as stracciatella, orange and Madagascar single origin milk.
Angelina Moufftard works for hf Chocolates, established wholesale confectionery suppliers with decades of experience supplying sweets and high-end chocolates to retailers across the UK. Working with the most dedicated suppliers from France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, the USA and the UK, hf Chocolates' great tasting and beautifully packaged products add panache to any sweet display.
Writer and Online Marketing Manager in London.