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Chantal Coady says it was 1966 and Chloe Doutre-Roussel says it was 1974. Pretty big discrepancy.

Tags: campbells, chocolate, godiva

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Actually both are right, sort of.

The Campbell Soup Co. originally became interested in Godiva as a result of a trip to Belgium by the then CEO of the company and his wife. While the CEO was attending to business, his wife went shopping and ended up buying some Godiva chocolates. Upon returning to the US, the CEO convinced the board to start negotiating with Godiva to secure North American distribution rights. I am not sure when the negotiations started, but sometime in 1966, Campbell secured them and started up their North American operations. Importantly manufacturing continued to be done in Belgium.

The venture was so successful for Campbell that they eventually purchased the company - in 1973 according to my source inside the company. There is some confusion as to whether they bought Godiva outright or whether they bought rights to the company everywhere in the world except for Belgium. My sense from talking with company execs is that they bought the company outright. Most importantly, however, they moved the bulk of the manufacturing operation to the US and it is sometime thereafter that quality started to suffer as the pressure for improved fiscal performance (they were now part of a public company) led to a series of ill-conceived (in hindsight) changes in recipes over the course of nearly thirty years.

From what I understand, some product development and manufacturing was still done in Belgium, and i know for a fact that the company has at least three chef-chocolatiers, one of whom is based in Belgium - but who spends a lot of time in the company's manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania. One of the goals of the company over the past few years has been to consolidate the recipes that are used worldwide. For some time, the company had many different recipes for the same pieces in different countries, reflecting the differences in taste preferences. Recent product development in the "Gold" line (the basic one you find in the boutiques) has led to a significant reduction in the number of different recipes and the goal of the company is to get to the point where there is a single recipe for each piece worldwide.

Not all manufacturing is done in Pennsylvania. I believe that some of the pieces in the "platinum" collection, which is styled in a more traditional Belgian fashion, are manufactured in Belgium. The "G" line has been made by Norman Love down in Fort Myers, FL since its inception.

While many people may not like Godiva, I do have to say that product quality in all their lines has improved significantly in the past three years; a major feat for the company. Nowhere is this more evident than in the ingredients list on the boxes. While you may not prefer the texture or flavors over smaller, artisanal chocolatiers, the goal of much of this new development was to woo back to the fold the long-time Godiva loyalist who had defected to other European brands such as Leonidas, Neuhaus, and Teuscher. In this respect they have been very successful - annual sales last year were estimated at $500 million dollars making them one of the two or three largest premium chocolate companies in the world.

It will be interesting to see how the new owners (a Turkish conglomerate and the largest chocolate company in Turkey) will do with Godiva.

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