Chocolate from the West of England: An eggs-amination

Dan Norris, Mayor of the West of England

As you tuck into your Easter Egg, did you know that this year marks an egg-tra special anniversary? 

Because 2023 is the 150th anniversary of the world’s first commercial hollow chocolate Easter egg which was made in West of England by chocolatiers Fry’s. 

I think chocolate has brought more joy to the world even than the Beatles (which says a huge amount) so as Metro Mayor I’ve been spearheading a campaign to let everyone know the idea of the chocolate egg was first ‘hatched’ in the region I’m proud to represent. 

Yes, the hollow chocolate egg we all know, and love, was invented in my patch.

Some history. In 1873, the inventive West of England chocolate manufacturers, J.S. Fry & Sons (who, by the way, were also the first company to produce the solid commercial chocolate bar) hit upon the idea of making chocolate by mixing cocoa fat with cocoa powder and sugar. This made a super-smooth paste which could be poured into special moulds – producing the egg-shaped chocolate treat we know to this day.

People couldn’t get enough of these new chocolate eggs, and it wasn’t long before they were selling worldwide and other chocolate companies got in on the act too. I love it when the brilliance of my region’s businesses shines through, and a great West of England idea goes global – whether that’s in 1873, or 2023! As the local Metro Mayor, I’m absolutely determined we keep that tradition going.

The Fry’s were Quakers who first began to sell cocoa seeing it as a nutritious alternative to alcohol. Over the years Fry’s staff enjoyed good wages and support. Joseph Fry employed a doctor and nurse in the 1780s to attend to the medical problems of his staff, later young women leaving to get married received a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management.

Many older locals I meet still speak fondly of their time working in the Somerdale factory in Keynsham.  In the 1950s Fry’s staff there enjoyed a sports hall, sports ground, and even had their own cricket and netball teams. 

In recognising my region’s local chocolate manufacturing history, I’m determined we also acknowledge the ugly side to this story too. Sugar and cocoa grown on Caribbean plantations in the 18th and 19th centuries exploited people of African descent forced into slave labour. 

I have sent a pack about the special Easter egg anniversary to every primary school child and my office is full of poems from youngsters about all things Easter eggs. With the support of sponsors 150 eggs have been handed out to local people including care home residents and NHS workers, whilst locals have been “egged on” to support foodbanks.

So as you take a bite out of your chocolate egg this Sunday please think of the inventive people of the West of England. Have a great Easter!  

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