Did you know that despite the relatively short history of white chocolate, there is quite a bit of debate surrounding the origins of the white chocolate bar? Officially, Nestle claims to be the creator of white chocolate with the introduction of the white chocolate bar sometime in the 1930s, but some experts aren’t so sure.
You may be wondering how something so recent can have such a controversial history. What it boils down to is the definition, since connoisseurs were sceptical that white chocolate could be “real” chocolate. Here is an overview of the mysterious history of white chocolate.
What is White Chocolate
In order to understand why there is such an ambiguous history to white chocolate, you must first understand just what is white chocolate? White chocolate is sweet chocolate made from cocoa butter, milk, and sugar.
When it was first introduced to the mass market, people did not believe that it was real chocolate because it did not contain cocoa powder. However, the edible part of the cocoa plant is actually made up of over 50 percent cocoa butter. In fact, it wasn’t until 2002 that the FDA stated that white chocolate can be called “chocolate” if it has over 20 percent cocoa butter in it.
So what are the origins of white chocolate? No one can really decide. Chocolate wasn’t sold in bar form until 1847 when the first dark chocolate bar hit the market. After that, it wasn’t until 1875 that milk chocolate was created by introducing milk powder into the recipe. Previous attempts to create milk chocolate tried to use milk cream which did not work. However, Swiss chemist Henri Nestlé discovered the use of condensed milk to stabilize the chocolate in bar form. Even so, milk chocolate wasn’t sold as a chocolate bar until 1897.
Finally, entering the 20th-century, rumours of white chocolate emerged on a global scale, yet no bars were actively sold in any market. The first mentions referred to white baking chocolate which was most likely used for coatings and confections. Surprisingly, these mentions date as far back as 1865. There are a select few recipes in swiss cookbooks emerging in the 1860s that mention white chocolate. This confirms that white chocolate was recognized by some at least 70 years before it was ever sold commercially.
But how could white chocolate predate milk chocolate if milk powder wasn’t being used to stabilize it yet? Simple, these recipes were not designed for candy bars. Instead, they were mixed with creams or milk to create a caramel-like candy or set into a hard candy.
The Broma Process
The company Ghirardelli may actually be partially responsible for the introduction of white chocolate after creating a new process for making cocoa powder in 1865. A worker at the company invented what is now known as the broma process. During the process, the cocoa beans are roasted and then placed in a bag that sits just above room temperature. This allows the cocoa butter to drip out and the beans to be easily processed into cocoa powder. Through this process, manufacturers were left with an excess amount of cocoa butter which may have led to the experimentation of different applications that inspired the first white chocolate recipes around the same time.
Mass Market Sale
The only fact that is actually agreed upon regarding the history of white chocolate is that Nestle was the first to sell white chocolate bars on a mass-market level in 1936. But, white chocolate actually hit the market before that - we just don’t know exactly when. Globally, white chocolate was identified sometime during World War I when American soldiers reported stories of strange white chocolate in Europe.
This is supported by some products that were on the market at the time including white candy bars called the Double Zero Bar. The Double Zero Bar was introduced in 1920 as the first commercial application of white chocolate. However, the bar actually uses a mix of nougat, almonds, and white fudge - no actual white chocolate is used.
The company that is credited with the invention of white chocolate as a candy bar was Nestle in 1936, but even that is up for debate. Officially, the Chocolate Museum states that the invention of white chocolate was some time in the 1930s by Nestle in Switzerland. Nestle, however, stated that they began manufacturing white chocolate before that as a way to process excess milk powder during World War I. This claim is in line with claims from American’s around the same time. Officially, Nestle has never stated who exactly created the chocolate.
In addition, the company has stated that the creation of the first white chocolate bar came about during the experimentation of children’s vitamins. At the time, the world was in a state of war and there was increasing concern about maintaining vitamin intake in children. Nestle added cocoa butter to condensed milk in order to create a solid form of vitamin delivery for sick children. This was also introduced in 1936.
The first recorded official white chocolate bar was the Galak bar or Milky Bar. It was first released in both Switzerland and the United Kingdom in 1936 under the name Galak Bar which was the name of Nestle’s subsidiary that provided the milk powder. Even so, some experts still say this wasn’t officially white chocolate either.
Some sources claim that the first mass-produced white chocolate bar was the Alpine White Chocolate Bar made by Nestle in 1948. This claim is due to the fact that this was the first white Swiss chocolate to be distributed in the United States.
So how long was white chocolate around before it became commercially available? No one can really say, but we’re glad it did! Today, chocolatiers can craft deliciously intense white baking chocolate or subtly smooth white chocolate bars for snacking. It’s a shame that we will never quite know who to thank for such a wonderfully delicious treat.