In the late 18th century, France's Burgundy region became famous for its chocolate. In 1770, Dijon native Henri Duthu was appointed apothecary and chocolate-maker to Marie Antoinette. At the time, chocolate was still a novelty and a precious foodstuff reserved for the wealthy and powerful. Cocoa was taken as an aphrodisiac as well as for its therapeutic qualities, and the queen used it to mask the bitter taste of the medicines she was prescribed. It was not until 1862 that a chocolate factory opened in Dijon, at 73, rue des Moulins. The owner, a manufacturer named Théodore Truchot Mauverney, set up shop as a "distiller/chocolate maker". On 16 December 1865, he registered two trademarks, "Chocolat pour tous" and "Chocolaterie universelle", accompanied by a label that read "The Chocolaterie universelle produces only the highest-quality chocolates made with pure cocoa and sugar". Starting in 1866, Truchot turned away from chocolate-making and devoted his energy to manufacturing mustard. However, his chocolate factory continued to thrive. By 1878, it already had more than a dozen employees, laying the foundation for what was to become Chocolaterie de Bourgogne.
The Lanvin chocolate snails
Auguste Lanvin, the man at the origin of the legendary Lanvin snails, operated a sugar refinery in northern France. In 1912, he decided to move his plant to the Burgundy region. Nine years later, in 1921, he acquired a small chocolate factory in the centre of Dijon from the Burrus family. At the time, its workshops were producing nearly two tonnes of chocolate a day: some 300kg in chocolate powder, with the rest consisting of 250-gramme tablets. The factory employed nine workers and sold mainly to the local market. Its main brands were called Omnia and Montbla, but the packaging of the various tablets made reference to the surrounding territory, including "Chocolat Dijonnais", "Chocolat de Côte-D’Or" and "Chocolat de Bourgogne". It was Pierre Lanvin, Auguste's son, who turned the firm from a workshop into a real powerhouse. In 1926, the company moved to premises at 10, boulevard Carnot, and shortly thereafter expanded up to number 16. It employed some 200 workers, a number that doubled at Christmastime. Thanks to its original advertising campaigns, the firm's fame spread far beyond the region. In the 1930s, it started including images in its chocolate tablets for children to collect. In 1934, Pierre Lanvin invented the hinged mould for joining together two half-shells filled with praline, and the following year he launched the legendary chocolate snails that contributed to the company's fame. Cocoa bean shortages during World War II, led the firm to manufacture confectionary items and small quantities of chocolate tablets that were subject to rationing.
The post-war boom
Starting in 1946 and throughout the 1950s, the firm was extremely successful and underwent rapid modernisation. The plant was expanded, reaching a surface area of more than 8,000 square metres. The company also opened warehouses across France: first in Clermont Ferrand in 1950, and later in Lyon, Charenton and Neuilly-sur-Marne, among others. After Pierre Lanvin's death in 1965, his son Etienne took over as director. He launched an effective national communication policy, which culminated in a well-known advertising film from 1970 starring the artist Salvador Dali, who exclaimed, "I am crazy about Lanvin chocolates!" The firm enjoyed a market share of between 6 and 8% in France, a figure that reached nearly 20% at Christmas and New Year's. In 1967, construction began on an enormous industrial plant at on a five-hectare site in an industrial zone in the north of Dijon. On 11 September 1973, the board of directors voted to change, for the third time (and last since now), the address of the company's registered offices. In the late 1970s, however, the chocolate industry was hard-hit by crisis. Independent chocolate-makers were forced to seek partners, and the entire industry was obliged to restructure.
A time of globalisation
In 1977, the firm was acquired by the British group Rowntree-Mackintosh. The new owners continued to manufacture the Lanvin brands at Dijon, but new products began to roll off the production lines as well. In 1982, the famous Quality Street made its first appearance. Between 1983 and 1986, the plant's annual output rose from 5,000 to nearly 8,000 tonnes. Two years later, Rowntree-Mackintosh was the subject of a takeover bid by Nestlé. The sale went through in 1988, and in the years that followed, as other plants were shuttered, Nestlé transferred a number of activities to the Dijon site. New lines were installed, production equipment was updated and automated, and the site was expanded further. By 1996, the plant employed as many as 1,000 people at the height of the season, and annual production topped 36,000 tonnes. Starting in 2000, in addition to making chocolate, the plant was turning out cereal bars and gourmet bars, including the Lion bar, which has been manufactured in Dijon for the European market since 2001. In July 2007, the site changed hands once again; it was acquired by Barry-Callebaut, the world's leading firm specialising in chocolate. But in 2009, the Swiss firm decided to devote its efforts to industrial chocolate and abandoned consumer-oriented activities – the Dijon site's core business. Two years later, the plant was again up for sale.
Back to our roots
In late 2012, a group of three industry professionals with extensive international experience in consumer products and chocolate acquired the plant. Under the leadership of Philippe de Jarcy, they relaunched the business under the name Chocolaterie de Bourgogne. With far-reaching plans for growth, the trio plans to reconnect with the Burgundy region's chocolate roots and restore the plant to its former glory. To accomplish this, they are relying on modern, high-performance facilities and teams focused on ambitious projects. Under their leadership, the group is continuing its expansion and diversification policy. The firm is now split into two major divisions, both at the same site at Rue de Cluj in Dijon. The first is the consumer division, and 2013 will be a busy year, with many new and innovative products and large-scale investment programmes. The second is our B2B division that, with its outstanding production capacities, offers manufacturers a stable, flexible and responsible partner, capable of meeting the needs of a global and highly competitive market.