Meg Ast


“Sacrebleu” is a very old French curse which was blasphemous in its origins during the middle ages, it is still used when one is caught off guard and is very surprised.  It is unusual for us to refer to it when addressing the topic of chocolates.

Many chocolate brands are part of our American landscape even if at times the source is from Europe. One of the most recognizable brands is Godiva, sold in more than 10,000 retailers worldwide it owes its fame to an American institution known more for its iconic soups than for chocolate and that is Campbell.

Founded in 1926 by a Belgian chocolatier Joseph Draps, the family named Godiva Chocolates in honor of Lady Godiva. The sons took over the business after their father’s passing.  When you receive a box of chocolates from Godiva look up for her image on some of their chocolates.

In 1968, Godiva was appointed an official chocolatier to the Royal Court of Belgium.  A great honor to receive the prestigious Royal Warrant established Godiva as the ambassador to its home country.

It was introduced to the United States in 1966 and sold mostly in luxury shopping malls. A year later in 1967, Campbell acquired Godiva and it was part of their portfolio for 41 years.  Produced mostly in New Jersey and Virginia it became a household name; however, how many believe this continued to be a Belgian made product?

In December of 2007, Campbell sold Godiva to the largest Turkish food company.  While the brand remains strong it has become so common that you will find it at office supply stores as well as just about any other retailer that you can think of.

Another well-known brand is Leonidas chocolates.  While I remember being taken by my Belgian cousin to the Leonidas shop on Avenue Louise in Brussels, I only have the memory of the visit and not from the pralines they offered.  I would have forgotten about Leonidas if it was not for the fact that my own niece became Director of Leonidas France, how cool and awkward especially when she is unable to discuss some aspects of her job with me, the #1 Neuhaus Independent U. S. retailer in the country.  Leonidas and Neuhaus are fairly equal when it comes to quality of chocolate.

Founded in 1913 by Leonidas Kestekides (1876-1954) this is one of the few privately held chocolatiers with a worldwide presence.  If you do not know their praline Chocolates, you may be more familiar with their logo.

Born in what is today’s Turkey, Leonidas life trajectory is not completely clear. We know that they moved to Italy where he failed as a wine merchant, then moved to New York where he learned his trade as a chocolatier.  He attended the Brussels World Fair in 1910 where he won the bronze medal for his artisanal confections.  He again returned to Belgium in 1913 to attend the Grand World Fair where he won the gold medal and to be reunited with his sweetheart Joanna in Brussels.

Today the company still believes in its mission statement of producing fresh Belgian pralines, an affordable luxury for people to enjoy every day.

There is a lot to be learn about the world of chocolates, if there is a topic you would like us to write about please feel free to email Meg at Our next sweet side of things will be about Fair Trade Chocolate.

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