The year 1825 saw many things that could be argued to have changed the course of history – everything from the invention of the shirt collar to the patenting of tin cans for food storage.
It was also the year that one of Switzerland’s oldest and best-loved chocolate brands was born.
François-Louis Cailler, then owner of a grocery business in Vevey, Switzerland, had returned from a holiday in Italy, where he had discovered a yet-unknown mixture of ground cocoa beans and sugar.
François-Louis Cailler was no stranger to chocolate. He had been selling it under the Cailler name since 1819 in his grocery store. The chocolate he sold however was a bitter paste of crushed cocoa beans, used mainly as a restorative tonic or addition for drinks.
The chocolate he encountered in Italy – a mixture of ground cocoa beans with sugar - was new and exotic. It was sold in the finest grocery stores, at a price affordable only to the richest.
François-Louis Cailler bought an existing Swiss chocolate factory to produce high-quality chocolate. Wanting to refine the naturally bitter taste of cocoa, he added sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to the ground cocoa bean paste.
He sold this new chocolate under the Cailler name too.
As a result of Cailler’s work, and that of his rivals, chocolate became tastier and more affordable at this time, but was still nothing like the products we enjoy today.
That changed with the blossoming of a friendship between Cailler’s son-in-law Daniel Peter and his neighbour Henri Nestlé, founder of Nestlé and inventor of infant cereal.
Although he experimented for a number of years, Daniel had little success in combining milk and chocolate – he found it impossible to mix milk, with its high water content, and cocoa mass, with its fat content.
Unexpectedly, Peter discovered the solution lay in a condensed milk product made by Henri Nestlé. It was still liquid, but part of the water had been extracted, making it possible to mix with cocoa.
Peter succeeded in inventing the world’s first milk chocolate bar and the first powdered milk chocolate - to be mixed with water - for drinking. He sold both under the name Peter-Cailler.
Brought together by their innovative nature and mutual interest in chocolate, Cailler’s grandson Alexandre-Louis Cailler, along with Daniel Peter and the successors of the Amédée Kohler and Henri Nestlé companies – joined forces to merge their different production techniques and distribution networks within one company.
They went on to develop a new strategy for manufacturing milk chocolate.
Alexandre-Louis Cailler had built the now famous Maison Cailler factory in Broc because it had many cows grazing in the area and enough water to operate a mill. He decided to take advantage of the factory’s close proximity to a milk supply and use only condensed milk for his milk chocolate – making it creamier and smoother than competitor products that used powdered milk.
A centuries-old secret
Cailler, despite being one of the oldest chocolate brands in Switzerland, has been a treasured Swiss secret for almost 200 years, virtually unknown outside of Switzerland.
“Cailler has always been very Swiss” explains Sandra Martinez, Head of Nestlé’s global confectionery business.
“It’s still produced at the historic Maison Cailler factory. The machines may have changed over the years but the special manufacturing techniques and chocolate recipes remain almost the same.”
The factory still only uses milk from the cows grazing within 30 kilometres of the plant. “Factory employees like to say they know the cows that deliver milk to Cailler by name” laughs Sandra.
But in spite of being so well-known in Switzerland, Cailler wasn't the obvious choice for Sandra and her team when it came to deciding which brand should lead Nestlé's move into international super-premium chocolate.
"We knew it was time for us to enter the category," said Sandra, "But at first we weren't sure Cailler was the brand to take us there."
Because Cailler is an amalgamation of four chocolate pioneers it does not have a harmonised identity. Each of its chocolate ranges have a very different look and feel, so the team spent days and nights at Nestlé’s historical archives department, trying to understand Cailler better.
They discovered ancient packaging designs well-ahead of its time - inherently Swiss motifs with levels of detail and quality that would be difficult to reproduce today. It brought home the innovation and beauty behind the Cailler brand and its very strong Swiss heritage.
“We knew Cailler’s quality was unmatched but its rich design history took our breath away” says Sandra “That’s when we knew, this was it. This was going to be Nestlé’s first super-premium chocolate.”
Cailler’s unique brand-image has been reincarnated in its latest chocolate box packaging. They are hand-designed by Swiss artisan, Marianne Dubuis, who incorporates the Swiss art of découpage (paper-cutting) into her silhouette-based designs.
Cailler is still the only major Swiss manufacturer to use condensed milk in its chocolate, making it a very popular product with the Swiss who love its unique creamy taste.
“Walk around Switzerland today and you’ll see Cailler chocolates everywhere” says Sandra.
“Generations of Swiss families have grown up with Cailler. Without a box of Cailler chocolates, any big event – birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas – is incomplete.”
Nestlé will make Cailler available in the international market on 1 October 2015. Learn more about Cailler’s global launch.