It’s hard to believe what this ended up with. It started at home with chocolate… | Orionm company, ISW analysis

Orion is not only a constellation, but also a legendary confectionery brand associated with generations of Czechs and Slovaks from a young age. Confectioner, industrialist and businessman in the food industry, František Maršner and his wife Albína founded the company Orion in 1896 and devoted their whole lives to chocolate. In fact, the company owes its “sweet success” to the passion of Albína Maršner, who produced sweets with an oriental taste, confirming the French saying that everything is behind a woman – Cherchez la femme.

It was she who transmitted her passion to her husband František, who already in 1891 expanded the production with other products, including halva and rahat. After five years, home manufacturing proved no longer sufficient to meet the growing expectations of consumers, the spouses decided to build a new factory in 1896. At that time, the company was called by a rather complicated name and unattractive from the point of view of current marketing: A. Maršner Oriental Confectionery Factory, the main factory of Královské Vinohrady, branch in Prague.

A year later, in 1897, František Maršner made his chocolates with a Lehmann machine. The company also carried out the interior design and furnishings for the entire plant.

In 1902 the brand Maršnerova reformní čokoláda was registered. This chocolate was presented as very beneficial for human health. In addition to taste, the content of calcium, iron, theobromine was mentioned, but also, interestingly, sugar, which was then recommended as beneficial for children, adolescents and people in convalescence. The nutritional value of 85 g of chocolate at this time was compared with the nutritional value of 100-250 g of meat or 4 eggs. Doctors from Prague and Vienna have confirmed in writing the beneficial effects of chocolate.

The company produced not only chocolate, but also well-known small chocolate candies resembling lentils. Yes, this is a Lentilky product that has been in production since 1907. In the Czech Republic they were produced continuously for 114 years, until 2021 when their production moved to Hamburg, Germany.

The main reason for the relocation of production from the Czech Republic to Germany, according to a spokesperson for Nestlé Česko, owner of Orion since 2004, was: “The harmonization of the recipe with our Smarties brand, which we decided on the basis of the results of preferential consumer tests. In a test where we gave people the opportunity to try both variations, the original and the new product, we found that they both tasted the same and were equally acceptable. »

The benefits of the new product were to be the reduced sugar content, while increasing the milk and chocolate content. Another reason for the relocation of the company to Germany is the desire of Nestlé Česko to reduce the maintenance costs of production technologies and better utilize the production capacity of the Hamburg plant. The overriding fact was that only the German plant had the appropriate technology for the production of paper packaging, which would help implement Nestlé’s commitments to reduce plastic waste without additional investment in line upgrades. of production.

The lenses were also packed in paper tubes in the Czech Republic, but in the words of spokesman Robert Kičin: “Some of them contained plastic parts” and additionally “In our Czech factory, unlike the Germany, we don’t have the technology that would allow us to replace them with papers.”

The question is whether it was only genuine concern for the environment that decided to relocate production to Germany, but that is another topic for discussion.

Let’s go back to the origins of the Orion company: as early as 1903 it was processing 10% of cocoa bean imports throughout Austria-Hungary, and in the following years it grew so rapidly that the number of employees rose to 800.

The year 1912 saw a deterioration in the financial situation due to the increase in the price of cocoa beans by 40% and high sugar prices, which led to the resignation of the current director, František Maršner. Its place was taken by Milan Čapek, who decided to modernize the production. First, he traveled to London, Bristol, Paris, Halle and Dresden to learn about the latest trends and modern techniques in chocolate production. From the start, he aimed to double production and improve the quality of chocolate. He insisted on the purchase of modern machines which were to improve the softness of the chocolate.

Orion took on its current name in 1914, when construction of a new factory was completed. The outbreak of the First World War inhibited the development of the company. In 1915, cocoa beans became five times more expensive, and a year later they could no longer be bought. A significant development in production took place only in 1921, when the price of sugar fell by half and the prices of cocoa beans fell to the lowest value in 10 years. Falling prices, extraordinary demand and new machinery in the factory workshops resulted in record production growth, almost doubling it from the previous year.

The star, which today is the symbol of the company, appeared on candy wrappers in 1921. At that time, Orion employed a young painter Zdenek Rykr, who had to take care of the visual aspect. Its star has been shining on all products for more than 100 years.

One of the most popular and oldest (since 1923) confectionery produced in Orion is the Kofila chocolate bar, which is known in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 1944, the production of another legend began – the Margot bar. From the very beginning, the company focused on development and tried to keep pace with modern technologies, which resulted in the purchase of the Minsk 22 computer in 1966. Orion was the first food company in Czechoslovakia to make such an investment.

In 1975, the production of Orion’s flagship product, Studentská pečeť chocolate, also well known in Poland, began.

The year 1980 brought another very popular chocolate snack on our southern border called Deli.

Studentská pečeť chocolate experienced its renaissance in 2004, when a new version, in the form of white chocolate, hit the shelves. Two years later, the range was extended to cherry chocolate.

Most of the Orion brand products are made in the Zora factory in the city of Olomouc, which currently employs around 750 people, and in addition to its products, the company tries to use mainly sugar and milk from Czech Republic and Slovakia, to support local agriculture and confectionery. .

It is worse with cocoa which, as you know, cannot be produced in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. This is why Nestlé has developed a “Cocoa Plan” which, in addition to the cocoa supply, aims to improve the lives of cocoa workers and their families, with a focus on combating child labor. , promoting reforestation and improving the quality of cocoa beans.

The rich history of the Orion company is presented, among others, in the Museum of Chocolate and Marzipan in the city of Tábor. Martin Barčík ISW

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