The sweetest tastes of Hungary: Szerencs, Győr, Balaton
Though the most special Hungarian sweets product might be Túró Rudi, there are several other in the repertoire. Two great manufactures contributed significantly to the success of Hungarian desserts: Győri and Szerencsi, both named after the settlement where they were founded.
Győri Keksz has given the market many of the best Hungarian sweets, including the Albert biscuit, the Balaton szelet, the Vanilla rings and the Pilóta biscuit.
According to HVG.hu, the manufactory’s history began in 1880 when magnate Bach Hermann founded it. The manufactory was sold to Lajos Koestlin who brought his biscuit-making machinery from his former factory in Austria. The production of the biscuits, crackers and gingerbread began in 1900. The business skyrocketed when World War I broke out, and the manufactory provided the army with easily portable but nutritious biscuits.
One of Győri Keksz’s first brands was the Albert biscuit, which got its name from Prince Albert of England.
It has been produced for more than a century based on a British recipe. After the war, the number of employees decreased from more than a thousand to 500 and the factory changed its profile: it began to produce chocolate and candies after 1922.
This process paused for a couple of years when the Wehrmacht occupied Hungary, and the manufactory switched back to producing only biscuits for the soldiers. By 1945, the unit ran out of materials and the production was forced to be halted.
The factory was made a state property in 1947. It was one of the leading sweets manufacturers during the socialist era under the name Győri Keksz és Ostyagyár (Győri Biscuit and Waffle Factory) and was modernised multiple times. It was extended in 1990 with a candy production sector.
The building was purchased by a British corporation United Biscuits, which added a chips production unit to the factory. It was the same Győri Keksz which is still in operation today.
Besides Győr, there is another centre of sweets in Hungary: Szerencs. The production of cacao and chocolate began in 1921 in the factory in Eastern Hungary.
The first product of the manufactory was the cooking chocolate packed with the iconic golden foil. The company’s development launched when Frigyes Liechti was announced as the new director of the factory in the mid-1920s. He imported modern machinery and professional workers from Germany to improve the manufactory.
In the late 1920s, the company created its two most significant products: Boci chocolate in 1927 and Szerencsi cacao — with its iconic package with the white cat — in 1928.
Szerencsi extended its profile in the ‘30s with several types of sweets: candies, caramel, pralines and other desserts.
The company did not rely much on imported goods, as they produced milk in their own dairies and made their own boxes. In 1944, the factory was in great danger as the machinery was to be taken away and the building to be blown up. Luckily, Liechti successfully hindered these. The manufactory was operating under the name Szerencsi Csokoládégyár (Szerencsi Chocolate Factory) after it became state property.
A new workshop was added to the factory in the 1970s, and it employed 2,400 workers. Several new products were added to the portfolio, including the chocolate Easter rabbits, Santa Clauses and the szaloncukor.
The company was finally purchased by the Swiss division of Nestlé in 1991 and it has been its property since then.
It is worth mentioning one of the most popular sweets in Hungary that is related to both companies mentioned above: Balaton szelet. Szerencsi first produced this chocolate bar with waffles at the end of the 1950s in Diósgyőr. The name itself is based on detailed market research. Just as in the case of Duna kavics (Danube stone) Balaton szelet also received the name of a geographical site, namely Lake Balaton. — “szelet” means “bar” in Hungarian.
The production of the chocolate was moved to Győr in 1968. It had a double package of aluminium foil and paper back then. By the 1980s, Balaton szelet’s quality was developed, and its popularity made it the most sold sweets of Hungary. This was the time when its typical yellow wrapping was introduced.
From the 1990s, it was available with both sour chocolate (red) and milk chocolate (blue) coating. After the millennium, the factory in Székesfehérvár where Balaton szelet was produced was purchased twice: by French corporation Danone in 2001 and the American Kraft in 2006.
Balaton also ended up in the hands of Nestlé just as the former products of Szerencsi.
The variety of flavours is quite wide now from nut through coconut to rum. There is also a cake-based chocolate bar. Though it is still considered one of the most popular Hungarian food products, it is now produced in Romania.
Source: HVG.hu, Szerencsi Csokoládé.hu, Ilovebalaton.hu, Daily News Hungary