Haigh’s Chocolates Enjoyed for Generations, by food historian Barbara Santich »
Steeped in tradition, yet leading the way
By Larna Pittiglio
Enjoyed for Generations features 250 fascinating pages of historic photographs, anecdotal memoirs, business archives and family accounts that showcase the “legacy of a series of visionaries who recognised opportunities and were prepared to take calculated risks”. We’re talking chocolate, of course.
Haigh’s – a name synonymous with quality across Australia – celebrated their centenary with the release of Haigh’s Chocolates Enjoyed for Generations. Author and internationally recognised food historian, Barbara Santich recounts the history of the Australian chocolate industry, and the story of how a simple family business with modest beginnings, developed into an iconic South Australian and national brand and 4th generation, family-owned company now employing over 500 people.
As a confirmed chocoholic, I was always going to be enthralled by the tale of how the Australian chocolate industry developed. Santich provides a thorough explanation of the complex process of turning a cocoa bean into the ‘food of the gods’, complete with images from various Haigh’s factories. It made me wonder how we ever came to discover it!
I was equally captivated by how the Haigh family has been instrumental in the innovations and transformations required to make mass production of quality chocolate in Australia so successful. Had it not been for the Haighs, we may not enjoy the tradition of sharing a box of sweets at the cinema or theatre. A travesty indeed!
There is much to be learned from each of the Haigh’s leaders: from Alfred’s energy and vigour for many a grand scheme; to Claude’s more cautious, methodical mind and steady hand; John’s passion to produce chocolate equal to the highest standard European chocolate; and the first co-directors Alister and Simon, whose commitment to environment and sustainability and support of cultural and philanthropic activities provides an inspirational example for all Australian business owners.
Each generation has brought the skills, knowledge, passion and vision required to carry the business through the challenges relevant to their time.
Over the last century Haigh’s has continued to acknowledge the vital role played by loyal customers who have supported and sustained their business. This is reflected by actively contributing to their local community through sponsorship and philanthropy, and extends to the worldwide industry, through its support of environmentally sustainable practices, both in its own factories and on the farms of its suppliers.
Haigh’s are also committed to the UTZ label, a global program that certifies sustainably-farmed tea, coffee and cocoa, assuring a fair return for producers and improving the lives of the farming community. This also ensures traceability back to the grower. It is certainly reassuring to know when indulging in the delights of Haigh’s chocolate, the environment, farmers, and workers are being supported and cared for.
From humble beginnings in the Beehive building in Adelaide in 1915, Haigh’s has grown to now have 14 stores in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Each store reflects the company’s respect for tradition and history by ‘choosing sites of historic significance at the same time contributing to the maintenance of architectural heritage’. This makes every Haigh’s store a destination, not just for the chocolate lover, but also for the lover of history, architecture and tradition.
In 1995, Haigh’s opened a visitors’ centre that became a destination for both locals and tourists, with the inclusion of factory tours following in 1996. It is certainly at the top of my list of destinations to visit when I make a trip to Adelaide.
Until then, I will make the most of technology and order my Haigh’s treats from their online store (http://www.haighschocolates.com.au) and I will be certain to enjoy my Haigh’s Bilby for Easter (it makes much more sense to me than rabbits).
I recommend reading the story of Haigh’s Chocolates, but be sure to purchase a box of Haigh’s delicious chocolate treats while doing so, just as they have been Enjoyed for Generations. And look out for their wonderful stores when visiting Adelaide, Sydney or Melbourne.
Haigh’s Chocolates Enjoyed for Generations by Barbara Santich is published by Wakefield Press (SA, Dec 201; HB, 256pp). It is available where all good books are sold. RRP in Australia is $69.95.
Larna Pittiglio is a former ‘city girl’ now living on a large farm in the Midlands of Tasmania. As a mother of 6, (5 of whom are now adults living their lives elsewhere) she has long been passionate about cooking and understanding where our food comes from.
These days she spends her time studying Alternative Agriculture while tending to their farm animals and developing a self-sufficient vegetable garden. Larna also runs a small catering business called Mulberry Pie Catering servicing the Midlands specialising in home-style country cooking served as you would serve it at your family table. She dabbles in food writing, recipe development and social media marketing for local producers and is developing her own food and lifestyle blogs.
Larna also volunteers her time to support the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance to pave the way for a fair, diverse and democratic food system for the benefit of all Australians. (http://www.australianfoodsovereigntyalliance.org)
- Adelaide (SA)
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