What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Toblerone? Its shape, right? In a world full of chocolate bars wrapped in foil and paper, not one of them stands out quite like the triangular box of a Toblerone bar. Its shape is so timeless and recognizable that even stripped of branding you’d know one when you see it. Without question, that’s the kind of iconic packaging we love. So, let’s take a little dip into the history of this delicious creation.
Toblerone was developed in 1908 by Theodor Tobler of the Tobler company, a popular confectionery business based in Bern, Switzerland at the time. It’s memorable name, which makes you drool at its mere pronunciation, is a portmanteau of Tobler and “torrone,” the Italian word for nougat. Based on its shape and packaging, Tobler knew he had a hit on his hands and patented the bar in 1909. It became the first patented milk chocolate bar with honey and almonds in it, a recipe that remained unchanged until 1968 when a dark chocolate version was introduced.
It’s widely assumed that the iconic packaging shape of a Toblerone bar is based off the Swiss Alps, or more specifically, the Matterhorn itself. But there’s an alternate version of its development told by the sons of Theodor Tobler. It’s said that he witnessed a cabaret performance at the Folies Bergère in Paris, where the women dancers formed a human triangle for their finale of the night. Their athleticism and dedication impressed him so much, the image of the triangle was burned into his head and inspired the shape of the Toblerone bar.
No matter the reference point, both the chocolate bar and the box it lives in are now among the most iconic packaging designs in the world. Think of it this way—can you call to mind any of Toblerone’s competitors?
In the decades that have followed, that delicious toast rack of chocolate, honey and almond nougat has become a worldwide brand. Though its base ingredients have remained largely the same, there have been variants offered at different times and different places, satisfying consumer requests (well, demands) for unique and limited-edition offerings. White chocolate snow tops, fully white chocolate bars, milk chocolate peaks with white chocolate centers and even fruit and nut styles.
Toblerone has also been unafraid to, from time to time, play around with the standard bar of peaks. Individual pieces are wrapped in foil and sold in bags under the name Toblerone One By One, and we’re sure everyone knows of the legendary giant bars with peaks seemingly as big as one’s head. A few years ago, you could even get your very own Toblerone bar with your name printed on it. But this willingness to toy with bar shape hasn’t always led to successes.
In 2016, two bars in the UK were altered due to increased ingredient and shipping costs. Two peaks were removed from the bars, and the remaining peaks were spread out more, creating an oddly-spaced and odd-looking Toblerone bar. To say people were not pleased would be quite the understatement. In 2018, the original design was restored, and Toblerone felt whole again.
Today, Toblerone bars are produced in Brunnen, which is just outside of Bern, Switzerland. While the bar is no longer Swiss-owned, producing it in Switzerland means it can still be labelled as Swiss-made. Toblerone currently makes up roughly 40% of Swiss chocolate exports, with 96% of bars being exported globally.
With such an interesting history and one of the world’s most recognizable bar shapes and packaging designs, it’s easy to consider Toblerone worthy of the iconic packaging mantle. What packaging do you think is iconic? Be sure to let us know!