Switzerland is famous around the world for its chocolate. It owes this renown to the innovative advances of Swiss chocolate makers in the 19th century.
Switzerland is one of the largest chocolate producers in the world, and has the highest per capita chocolate consumption. In 2016, Switzerland’s 18 leading chocolate producers manufactured more than 180,000 tonnes of chocolate, of which 64% was sold abroad. The largest producers are Nestlé, Lindt & Sprüngli and Frey.
The first chocolate factories emerged at the end of the 18th century in French-speaking Switzerland (Vevey, Morges and Lausanne) and in Val di Blenio in Ticino. During the 19th century, chocolate production spread. Mechanisation led to lower prices and, consequently, the customer base for chocolate grew ever wider.
A number of inventions were the brainchild of Swiss chocolate makers. For example, in 1875, Daniel Peter became the first person to make milk chocolate by combining Nestlé condensed milk with cocoa. Together with the descendants of Charles-Amédée Kohler, who invented hazelnut chocolate, Peter set up his own company. In 1879, Rudolf Lindt opened a chocolate factory in Bern and developed ‘conching’, a process which created the world's first ‘melting chocolate’.
In the 20th century a number of independent chocolate makers were bought by major food companies, such as Cailler which was taken over by Nestlé in 1929. Other small producers managed to remain independent, and continue to keep the artisan chocolate-making tradition alive in Switzerland.