Lindt, Rodolphe (1855–1909),
improved the smoothness and melting quality of Swiss chocolate by devising a revolutionary method called “conching,” whereby extra cocoa butter is kneaded into the chocolate mixture during the manufacturing process. The Lindt brand, over time, has attained almost iconic status: “Whenever I am driving from Switzerland to Austria … a few miles south of the city of Zurich [near the Lindt & Sprüngli factory in Kilchberg], I slow down, lower the car window … and inhale deeply and happily, because the air is always delightfully charged with the fragrance of chocolate.” So wrote Joseph Wechsberg in the 19 October 1957 issue of The New Yorker magazine.
Rodolphe Lindt was born in Bern, Switzerland, into the family of a pharmacist politician. After training as an apothecary, he founded his own chocolate factory in Bern in 1879. At that time, chocolate was essentially just a mixture of cocoa solids and sugar, which tasted somewhat coarse and dry. To improve the texture, Lindt added extra cocoa butter to the mixture and invented a “conche” machine, with a long, heated stone trough, curved at each end and named for its resemblance to a conch shell. The machine was fitted with a roller to work the chocolate mass back and forth at a temperature of 131° to 185°F (55° to 85°C). Stone conches are still used today, in addition to modern rotary conches that knead the mass intensively. Conching may take from several hours to a week, depending on the quality desired. It improves the finished product’s flavor and enables it to melt easily on the tongue.
In 1899 Lindt joined forces with Rudolf Sprüngli, who had built a chocolate manufacturing plant in Kilchberg, outside of Zurich. The facility is still used as one of the company’s European production sites.