Many people, myself included, cannot really pinpoint what they love about it. Is it the sweetness? The heavenly milky vanilla taste? The deep, rich butter flavour? The mesmerising, super mouthwatering, creamy texture?
Well, it is hard to say why many people, myself included, love white chocolate. Eating white chocolate is an incredibly pleasing and vivid experience that most people enjoy rather than analyse.
On the flip side, many other people dislike white chocolate altogether. Moreover, they do not even consider it chocolate in the first place. And if a chef happens to be one of those people, we can expect that none of their desserts will ever contain white chocolate, no matter how much some of their customers may love it.
So why is white chocolate such a big deal? Why do some people love it and others do not?
What is white chocolate, in the first place? Who invented it? And is it really not chocolate?
Well, this is what we are going to explore today.
So, let’s hop into it.
While the invention of chocolate as food is believed to be thousands of years old, white chocolate is much more contemporary. The first white chocolate product ever came into existence only in 1936 and was called Milkybar.
Milkybar was invented by the Swiss food product company Nestlé. At the time, it was nearly the most prominent manufacturer of milk products that had been in the market for over 70 years. Established in 1866, Nestlé initially made many of its products from condensed milk. One of those products actually led to white chocolate.
Interestingly, white chocolate was invented entirely by accident, just like the microwave oven and X-rays—maybe we should write an article about inventing X-rays since it involved chocolate too.
So here is how the story goes.
In 1936, Nestlé was producing a pharmaceutical milk product called Nestrovit. That was a medical formula for children. Children’s formulas are usually food full of vitamins and nutrients to help support their health, just like food supplements. Nestrovit, which combined condensed milk with rich vitamins, was a popular product that parents trusted and consumed regularly at the time.
As it was very successful, Nestlé decided to make a different form of Nestrovit: tablets. To produce these tablets, they had to add cocoa butter.
So what is cocoa powder?
To make ‘regular’ chocolate, cocoa beans are pressed to remove their oils. The result is usually two things. The first is a dark powder known as cocoa solids or chocolate liquor. This is the raw, unsweetened, dark-coloured chocolate used to make regular chocolate.
On the other hand, the second result of that pressing process is the oils that came out of the beans. These are fatty substances most commonly referred to as cocoa butter. Cocoa butter has no chocolate solids. That is why it is not dark but rather creamy or off-white, the regular colour of butter.
Cocoa butter has a tender, sweet taste. It usually provides a creamy texture when combined with other ingredients.
Adding cocoa butter to Nestrovit gave it a profoundly rich, sweet flavour. So Nestlé decided to utilise this beautiful accident in a new product. If Nestrovit is a medical formula, why do we not make a non-medical version of it?
That meant the new product would not have the same vitamins Nestrovit had. Therefore, it would not be exclusive to children. Instead, everyone would be able to consume it.
And so they did.
The new product was given the commercial name Milkybar. It was a medium-sized bar, typically weighing 25 g, which equaled one serving. The bar was made from full cream milk as the main ingredient, combining cocoa butter, vegetable fat, natural flavouring, and sugar.
Only two years after Milkybar was launched, and while it was making great success here and there, World War II broke out in late 1939 and intensified in 1940. Like the rest of the world, Nestlé’s business was severely affected. There was no milk or sugar to manufacture their products, to begin with. So the production of Milkybar ended in 1940.
Although the war ended in mid-1945, the world, especially Europe, was devastated, and businesses took so long to get back to life. For Milkybar, Nestlé could not make a real comeback to the market until 1956. But since then, the production never really stopped, and Milkybar has continued to be a great success.
That said, one of Nestlé’s most successful white chocolate products outside of the Milkybar brand was the Nestlé Alpine White. As the name suggests, it was a white chocolate bar mixed with alpine almonds.
Besides the great taste, the bar’s wrapping had a fancy look manifested by a small silver label on the side reading Superior Quality, which might have attracted consumers in some way.
Nestlé Alpine White was first launched in 1948 and stayed in the market until the late 1980s when Nestlé decided to discontinue it for some reason.
So making white chocolate, according to Nestlé’s sweet coincidence, is relatively easy. All one needs to do is combine cocoa butter with full cream milk, sugar, vanilla, and TA Da! We have white chocolate.
Like regular chocolate, white chocolate is solid at room temperature, 25°C. That is because cocoa butter’s melting point is 35°C. As the temperature rises, white chocolate will start to melt.
While this is the original recipe for white chocolate that anyone can make at home, different companies already have their very own white chocolate formulas. The differences among them are what makes each company’s white chocolate special. It does taste like white chocolate but does not taste like any other company’s white chocolate.
Such unique tastes may also serve as foody trademarks, something that companies become known for.
So how are these different tastes produced? Well, simply by changing the ingredients as well as their amounts. The quality of the ingredients and the methods companies use to prepare them also make a big difference.
For instance, we know that cocoa butter is taken from the pressing of roasted cocoa beans. The temperature at which these beans are roasted can change the taste of the final white chocolate bar.
Many people do not consider white chocolate as ‘chocolate’ because it does not contain cocoa solids, the raw chocolate powder from which ‘regular chocolate’ is made. Others argue that it is, for sure, chocolate because it contains cocoa butter which is still an extract from cocoa beans, without which ‘regular chocolate’ itself would not exist.
While this argument has been going on for over 80 years, since Milkybar was introduced to the world, Nestlé has been referring to it as white chocolate. Even the other companies that produce similar products also label them as white chocolate.
So to settle the dispute, the European Union issued regulations to govern white chocolate back in 2000. For any product to be labelled as white chocolate, it must be at least 20% cocoa butter, 3.5% milk fat, and 14% total milk solids.
📌Like chocolate solids, milk solids are the dried milk powder left after evaporating the liquid from the milk. That is why most white chocolate recipes, even those homemade ones, include powdered milk since it is milk solids.
Such percentages are relative to the white chocolate product weight. So if a company is to produce a 100 g white chocolate bar, the ingredients should include 20 g of cocoa butter, 3.5 g of milk fat, and 14 g of total milk solids.
To sell their products, companies need to spread the word about them, tell the people how good they are, and convince them of the benefits they will get once they buy them. That is why advertising was invented.
So to increase the sales of Milkybar, Nestlé needed to advertise it. Thanks to the widespread use of televisions back in the mid 20-century, Nestlé and every other company could reach and promote their products to everyone who owned a TV.
So the first Milkybar advertisement was shown on TV in 1961, with a sweet theme song that will probably not get out of your head once you hear it. The ad ran for 37 seconds and starred a cute little cowboy kid, the Milkybar Kid, who gets into a room full of other kids and gives them all Milkybar, repeating the famous catchy phrase “the Milkybars are on me.”
Soon after, the Milkybar sales skyrocketed and gradually became almost everyone’s first choice for a sweet snack.
In 1987, Nestlé made another version of Milkybar. Using the same formula, they came up with Milkybar Buttons. These are small, delicious white chocolate drops that can be quickly consumed, just like popcorn.
Nestlé marketed Milkybar Buttons through another TV ad starring the same Milkybar kid. The ad was set in a circus where the Milkybar Kid showed a machine that could turn the regular Milkybar into Milkybar Buttons.
One thing that can also help with advertising a product and attracting more consumers is to attach it to specific occasions or holidays. For instance, candies are connected with Halloween, while coloured eggs are associated with Easter.
Well, Nestlé did the same with their new product, Milkybar Raisins. To widen the success of Milkybar, they started producing seasonal products available at certain times of the year. The first of such products was the 1989 Milkybar Raisins. These are dried grapes covered with white chocolate.
Milkybar Raisins, as a seasonal product, was not available all year long like Milkybar and Milkybar Buttons.
Artists know that creativity does not come out of talent as much as from consistent practice. The more we work on something, the more creative we become in it. And that is precisely what happened with Milkybar, as we have just seen.
The creation and significant success of the original Milkybar in 1937 inspired Nestlé to develop different new products that incorporate other ingredients alongside white chocolate. And what was once a single product turned into an entire brand over the years.
Like Milkybar Raisins, Nestlé produces Milkybar White Chocolate Christmas Reindeer, which is dedicated to and mostly consumed during Christmas. This is like the regular Milkybar white chocolate but shaped like multiple tiny reindeer instead of one big bar.
Another product dedicated to Christmas is Milkybar Festive Friends. It came out in 2021 and is specially made for sharing with friends during the holidays. Milkybar Festive Friends is a 57 g bag of eight small white chocolate figures of Santa Claus, reindeer, log cabins, igloos, and other things related to the season. The figures, wrapped individually, are a mix of crispy and creamy filling covered with white chocolate.
In addition to all these products we mentioned, there are now Milkybar Desserts, a white chocolate mousse with a super smooth and bubbly texture, Milkybar Cookies & Cream, Milkybar Choo, Milkybar Munchies, Milkybar Sharing Block, Milkybar White Moments, and Milkybar Raisins & Biscuit.
Interestingly, Milkybar varieties also change based on the market. Not everything launched in Europe, for instance, was produced and distributed in overseas markets such as the United States and Canada. So in total, the original Milkybar brand actually have a wide range of varieties.
Even big companies can be hit by failure even though they have been pretty successful for decades. And that is what happened with Nestlé.
As a continuation of the success of the original Milkybar, Nestlé’s creativity proposed an idea: how about we make a new white chocolate product with a reduced amount of sugar?
Back in 2016, researchers at Nestlé were able to change the structure of sugar using other natural ingredients. What they got was quite a breakthrough. A small amount of this differently structured sugar could provide the same degree of sweetness that a larger amount of regular sugar offers.
Wonderful, is it not? Making a product with less sugar but is still as sweet is such a big deal. It will be especially helpful for those on a diet or with diabetes as it will provide them with a healthier and still delicious treat. Or at least, that is what Nestlé thought.
Nestlé did not waste any time, and Milkybar Wowsomes was launched in the UK and Ireland markets in March 2018. It was exactly like the original Milkybar but with 30% less sugar.
Milkybar Wowsomes came in two varieties. The first was plain white chocolate with less added sugar, and the second contained oat cereal. That was also another healthy option, a quick energy booster full of fibre. Like all the other products, Nestlé anticipated another great success.
However, Milkybar Wowsomes did not live up to its expectations as consumers did not like it much, nor its variants. So, less than a year and a half after, Nestlé decided to shut down the production of Milkybar Wowsomes. While the company never really explained why it made that decision, it definitely had something to do with the sales numbers.
Another way to increase the sales of a product is to create varieties of the same product by providing different servings in each bag. Sometimes, companies may even give each bag another name, as if they have launched new products.
So almost every variety of Milkybar comes in different sizes. For instance, there is the original one-serving Milkyway Buttons bag. Still, they also made the Milkybar Buttons White Chocolate Giant Tube. This tube weighs 90 g and contains four servings.
Such large bags are sometimes labelled as friends bags or family bags. They encourage sharing the white chocolate with others which in return means more consumption and, therefore, more sales.
Products can also be sold as packages. For instance, Milkybar Desserts, that white chocolate mousse, is often sold as a package of four cups. These packages are typically sold in supermarkets at lower prices than the cost of buying four cups individually.
And as customers are encouraged by the money they save, they are more likely to buy those offers.
Not long after launching the first Milkybar, other companies started developing their own white chocolate formulas. Nowadays, numerous white chocolate products are produced by different food companies. Some of these include:
- Ferrero: Kinder Bueno White
- Ferrero: Raffaello White Chocolate with Coconut and Almond
- Mars, Inc: Galaxy White Chocolate
- Chocolat Suchard: Milka White Chocolate
- Cadbury: Cadbury White and Cadbury White with Fingers
Interestingly, Milkybar is not Nestlé’s only white chocolate product. It surely is the only brand that is entirely dedicated to white chocolate, but other brands by Nestlé also have white chocolate products, such as:
- KitKat White
- Crunch White Chocolate
- Smarties White Chocolate (bars and buttons)
- Aero Snowy White
And here we come to the end of this sweet adventure in the history of white chocolate.
In this article, we explored how and when white chocolate was invented. Thanks to the sweet destiny, Nestlé accidentally came up with the recipe for white chocolate, which is called so since it already contains cocoa butter, an important ingredient extracted from cocoa beans.
Milkybar, Nestlé’s and the world’s first white chocolate bar, was born in 1936, and soon after, it inspired other varieties. To promote its white chocolate products, Nestlé used TV advertisements starring little kids singing catchy theme songs.
For over 85 years, the Milkybar family has been roaming the world, crushing the markets, satisfying all needs and tastes, and providing everyone with heavenly, sweet snacks at affordable prices.
We hope you enjoyed today’s story about the origin and development of white chocolate. You can still learrn a lot about amazing things in our world by visitng other pages on our website.
Meanwhile, stay safe and keep learning.