WHAT’S your favourite chocolate treat? A Mars Bar? A KitKat? An Aero, or perhaps a Fry’s Chocolate Mint Creme?
As winter turns to spring, it’s not just budding daffodils that are appearing. No, it’s Easter eggs showing up in all good West of England shops, too!
I love seeing Easter eggs displayed every year, because we live in the place where the hollow chocolate egg was invented.
And this year there’s an eggs-tra reason to celebrate – because it was exactly 150 years ago that it happened.
When I nipped to the local shops on my travels last week and got chatting to staff busy putting a huge range of eggs on shelves, I told them that Fry’s chocolate makers – who started out in Bristol but later moved their factory to Somerdale, Keynsham, having merged with Cadbury – came up with the idea of the hollow chocolate egg.
The Fry family’s innovation was to make chocolate by mixing cocoa fat with cocoa powder and sugar. This made a super-smooth paste, which could be poured into egg moulds.
These new eggs were just as tasty but lighter than solid continental eggs, which made them easier to afford.
People couldn’t get enough of these new egg-shaped chocolate treats, and it wasn’t long before they were selling all over the world.
I love it when something that starts out as a new idea in our great region goes global – now as well as back in 1873. It’s a tradition we need to keep going!
In acknowledging our local history of chocolate manufacturing in the 18th and 19th centuries, we also need to recognise its ugly side, for sugar and cocoa grown on Caribbean plantations exploited and abused people of African descent, who were forced into slave labour.
While it is true that Quakers in the UK, like the Fry and Cadbury families, helped lead the anti-slavery movement, it is also correct to say that not every Quaker held this view, particularly in America.
Despite the closure of the Fry’s/Cadbury factory at Keynsham just over a decade ago, our region is today home to many, many independent chocolate makers – using creative talent and ethical practices including Fairtrade chocolate.
The commitment from chocolate companies to learn from the past actions, both good and bad, of their predecessors is encouraging and very important.