Joseph Fry – Inventor of “Chocolate for Eating”

Chocolate has become an unaffordable part of our lives. It became not only a treat but our “friend” in good and bad times. Chocolate has been part of our lives for as long as we can remember. However, at first, chocolate was only consumed as a beverage.

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We do not know for sure when it was created or who was the author of this amazing invention. The inventor of chocolate, as we know it today, is not officially known. However, we can assume that it was Joseph Fry. He is credited with being the first person to create “chocolate for eating.” He was the one who mixed cocoa powder, sugar, and cocoa. As a result, they received edible chocolate.

Joseph Fry - Inventor of “Chocolate for Eating”

Early Years

Joseph Fry was born in 1728 in Birmingham, England. His parents were John Fry and Mary Storrs. John was a member of the famous Society of Friends. Joseph got his education in England and had medical knowledge.

He was the first in his family to stay and live in Bristol. Joseph Fry was an apprentice to Dr. Henry Portsmouth. He mainly practiced medical herbs and plants, and also trained in compounding drugs. He took part in different kinds of scientific research and undertakings. 

Joseph Fry married Anna Portsmouth, who was the daughter of Henry and Rachel Portsmouth. She was born in Basingstoke, Hampshire. She helped Joseph run businesses and stood by his side all the time. They had two children: Edmund Fry and Joseph Storrs Fry

He was a good physician and even opened an apothecary store in 1748, located in Bristol. He had a strong belief that cocoa was very beneficial for health. Back then, the chocolate bar was still not invented, and people only consumed drinking chocolate. After much research, Joseph Fry managed to get the recipes for cocoa and drinking chocolate. Back then, cocoa was also used to cover the taste of unpleasant medicines. 

First Steps in the Business – Type-Foundry

In 1764, his attention was drawn to type-founding. It was all caused by the success of John Baskerville, who was a famous painter and type designer. Type-founding includes the manufacturing of metal and wood typefaces that were used for hand typing. Joseph Fry became a partner of William Pine, where he founded a type-foundry in Bristol. William Pine was the first one who printed the Bristol Gazette. His business was pretty big and successful. 

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Joseph Fry joined him, and they formed a type-foundry. Soon after this, he moved to London and took Isaac Moore & Co. with him. He was also a very active publisher, taking part in the publication of books. Authors such as Virgil and Milton are included.

In 1774, Pine printed the bible in pearl type. The bible was considered to be the smallest one that has ever been printed. In 1776, the printing firm was renamed J Fry & Co. Soon after that, they issued several reprints of bibles. 

Natural Talent for Business

Joseph Fry undoubtedly had a talent for business. Therefore, he was part of several business ventures. For example, the manufacture of china and soap was one of the very important businesses. 

Joseph Fry was also partnered with Alderman William Fripp. They had a soap-boiler business. Their company was called Fry, Fripp & Co. The partnership lasted up to the time of Fry’s death. 

It is noteworthy that Joseph Fry was also partnered with his son, and they did chemical work at Battersea. He acquired the Adolph Lafont Chocolate Company in 1863. By the year 1896, it had a revenue of one million pounds. 

Joseph Fry Steps into Chocolate Production

Chocolate has a very long history that goes back to 4000 years. The roots go back to ancient Mesoamerica. The first cacao plants were found there. According to the sources, the Mayans and Aztecs were the ones that actively used cacao plants in their everyday lives. They were the first people who turned the cacao plant into chocolate. However, they used to drink it and mainly consumed it for medical purposes. 

Did you know that chocolate is considered an English snack? As a matter of fact, chocolate was brought to England in the 17th century. Since then, it has remained popular for more than 200 years. The peak of popularity was reached in the 18th century. 

Charles Churchman owned a chocolate company in Bristol. There, he produced chocolate and even received a patent from King George to produce cocoa. Back then, the cocoa beans were ground by hand. After grinding, they were given the shape of spheres or discs and were the basis for drinking chocolate. But how is this all connected to Joseph Fry?

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Well, in 1769, Fry bought the Bristol chocolate company and started to expand it. Back then, the business was mainly manufacturing chocolate tablets. The tablets were then put in the water or milk and gave it a good chocolaty flavor. He changed its name and called the business J.S. Fry & Sons Ltd. He was a very good innovator. He managed to use his skills to increase his business and even led to an invention that changed the lives of billions of people.

The Very First Chocolate Bar in the World

People praised the chocolate as being a drink from God. It was believed so until the late 18th century. People still consume chocolate beverages. Furthermore, it was only available to royalty and those of higher social standing. Until one day, Joseph Fry came up with an amazing idea. 

Cocoa butter was considered to be a waste. However, he managed to turn the “waste product” into an amazing discovery. In 1847, he managed to create the chocolate that was supposed to be eaten. Cocoa butter was added to the cocoa instead of water. It gave the mixture a doughy consistency. Then the chocolate paste was poured into the molds, and after cooling down, he received the edible chocolate. At first, the chocolate bars had a bittersweet taste. However, it made a change, and people just fell in love with it. 

This successful invention caused the price of cocoa butter to rise. Edible chocolate was only available to the elite class, so only wealthy people could enjoy it. Fry’s eventually invented the chocolate-covered cream sticks in 1853. Those cream sticks became the very first chocolate confectionery that was manufactured on a factory scale.

In 1766, Fry’s chocolate factory started to produce its first bar – a chocolate cream bar. As already mentioned above, in 1853, Joseph Fry manufactured the first industrialized chocolate, called “Cream Stick.” The name was changed in 1866, and it was renamed Cream Bar. The candy is known to be the oldest industrialized chocolate bar brand in the world. The chocolate had a plain fondant filling and was covered in plain chocolate cream.

J. S. Fry & Sons, Ltd.

The family-owned business, which was founded in the 18th century, went under several names and ownership changes. The very first filled chocolate bars were created by Fry & Sons, followed by Fry’s Turkish Delight, created in 1914. So, no doubt, they are considered vintage candy.

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Joseph Storrs Fry followed his father’s path. He was the first to introduce the cocoa grinding method. Watt’s steam engine was used. In 1789, he purchased that machine and started using it to grind cocoa beans. He also received a patent for the idea in 1795. With that method, by 1822, their company became one of the biggest commercialized chocolate manufacturers at the time. By the year 1835, they already had 16 employees in their factory. 

Fry & Sons was one of the largest British confectioneries. It is a strong competitor to famous candy brands like Cadbury and Rowntree. It is worth noting that all three of the most famous candy company founders were Quakers.

Death of Joseph Fry

In 1787, after a few days of illness, Joseph Fry passed away. His wife, Anna, actively led her husband’s businesses. She was associated with the type-founding business as well as chocolate making. After his death, the company was renamed and was called Anna Fry & Sons. However, in a couple of years, their son, Joseph Storrs Fry, took over the company and named it J.S. Fry & Sons. In 1803, she passed away at the age of 83. 

The company started to gain fame and popularity after Storrs Fry took over. It soon became one of the most competitive chocolatiers in Britain. It became a family business that lasted for generations. In the following decades, they introduced more than 220 new products. The new products included the very first chocolate Easter egg and Fry’s Turkish Delights.

After the death of Joseph Storrs Fry II, the company merged with Cadbury’s in 1919. The new brand name was “British Cocoa and Chocolate Company,” run by Egbert Cadbury. In 2011, the original Fry’s factory location was closed and the production was transferred to the new factory, located in Poland. 

Bottom Line

It is impossible to look at Joseph Fry’s biography and not be amazed by his talent and hardworking nature. It is hard to believe that he was involved in so many different kinds of business ventures. It turns out that Fry was undoubtedly a talented entrepreneur, businessman, and confectionery maker. 

He was the first one who invented and started manufacturing industrialized chocolate bars. With his invention, he made a change and passed his merit to future generations.

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