Exhibition in the Cellar Gallery: Sweet Stuff


Tallinn confectionery industry is over two centuries old. Actually, a guild of sugar bakers i.e. bakers of cakes were baking sweet things and making chocolate, marmalade and marzipan by hand here already at the beginning of the 18th century. Marzipan making was known in Tallinn, an old Hanseatic town, already in the Middle Ages and it was sold at the Town Council Chemist’s for pains of unrequited love and also as something beneficial for cerebral activity.

Lorenz Cawiezel, a sugar baker who had trained in Switzerland bought a house in Tallinn Pikk Street and established a confectionary and a shop there in 1806. The house stood at the place where the Café Maiasmokk is located today.
In 1864 Georg Stude obtained the estate and a little later extended his enterprise to the neighbouring estate. The new chocolate and marzipan confectionary became known far and wide, even the tsar’s court in St Petersburg sent for these sweets. The handmade chocolate confections made at Stude’s were really popular in Tallinn.

The Golden Age of Estonian confectioners was the period of independent Republic of Estonia (1918−40).

Various enterprises were then producing sweets in Tallinn and all over the country. The local confectionery industry developed rapidly in the mid-1920s, was a bit inhibited in the years of the economic crisis (1929−33) and picked quickly up again beginning from 1934/35.
The customs policies favoured the local industry – protective customs duty hindered the import of sweets but the raw material for confectionery had low tariffs. In addition to that, when the producer exported his confectionery his raw material import tariffs were almost totally compensated.

About ten confectionaries were active in Tallinn in the 1920s and 1930s. The Kawe, Ginovker, Brandmann and Klausson were known best among them but the smaller businesses like the G.Stude, Riola, Efekt, Endla, Eelis, Soliid and some others were worthy rivals to the big ones.

The confectionary Kawe was established by two brothers Karl and Kolla Wellner of Sangaste descent who had owned the chocolate factory Renomee in St Petersburg before the events of 1917. They launched their Tallinn business at 62, Müürivahe Street first as chocolate makers, later adding caramel, marmalade and candy to their assortment. As the brothers had got lots of experience already from their Petersburgian business, they produced high quality sweets that were demanded both at home and foreign markets. They began to export their production in 1925.
The competitive enterprise was extended and modernised continuously – new buildings were erected, equipment renewed, new shops opened in Tallinn, Tartu and other Estonian towns. As export was increasing in importance and quantity all the time, trade agencies were opened in London, New York, Stockholm, Riga, Paris, Montreal, Casablanca and Cape Town. The Kawe sweets were especially popular in Sweden, England and the USA. In the late 1930s the Kawe employed nearly 500 people and its production was 43% of the whole Estonian confectionery produce.

The Ginovkers’ family business called Orjol started to work in Tallinn at 6, Laulupeo Street already in 1906. Initially a small workshop with only a couple of workers it evolved into a considerable business in the early 1920s. They also began to make biscuits and cookies. Since 1929 sweets were produced already at the Chocolate and Biscuit Confectionary Ginovker & Ko. By the early 1930s Ginovker had become the main biscuit producer in Estonia with an extensive assortment. The best known sweets were toffees and caramel candy Vähjad (Crawfish) and Barbarissi-segu (Barberry-mix). Among the so-called jar-candy were popular candy filled with liqueur, peppermint candy and monpansjee (this was the local name for fruit drops). Biscuits were tea-, milk-, cocoa- and chocolate- ones. The Ginovkers’ production was exported to Europe, South-Asia, Middle East and elsewhere. 250 people were employed at the enterprise.

August Brandmann’s Confectionary was established at 4, Väike-Tartu Road in 1901. The business that started with only four workers employed 149 people at the end of 1939. Brandmann’s Confectionary was the first enterprise in Estonia to produce cocoa powder and -butter.

Rudolf Klausson’s Confectionary was established in 1920 and some years later it worked at 1, Toom-Vaestekooli Street. In 1930 the assortment included over 30 kinds of fruit drops and lozenges, chocolate and biscuits. In 1927 coffee making was launched. In 1927 the Klausson’s Confectionary was awarded the grand prix of the Tallinn fair – the gold medal.

Robert Weinreich founded the Riola (initially called Chocolate Confectionary Gloria) in 1922. When the business went bankrupt in 1927, AS Robert Holst & Ko obtained it. The peak period of the Riola was in 1937/38 when the business bought a large building at 150, Pärnu Road. The factory had modern equipment and employed 124 people. Riola produced fruit drops, lozenges, caramel, dragée and chocolate in bars and sweets. A big part of the produce (especially caramel) went for export to the USA, South America, Canada, Africa, India, Palestine and several European countries.

When competition increased advertising and design acquired more and more importance. The shops became really attractive with their beautifully designed chocolate bars and boxes in variegated shapes and sizes, the many-coloured jars in spiral rows and single jars of sweet-smelling caramel. The atmosphere in these shops was quite special.

The firms’ representative shops were modern with glittering showcases and glass shelves. In 1936 the Kawe opened a new shop in the building of the House-Owners Bank in Vabaduse (Independence) Square. Meta Kelgo, a beauty and the winner of the 1929 beauty contest was the shop assistant there. The interior of the luxurious Stude shop that has retained its initial looks was emphasised with the distinguished design of the chocolate boxes and attractive marzipan figurines.

Product design was considered important. The design of chocolate boxes and -bars, as well as advertising, give us a good idea of the past fashions, tastes and changing styles. We see them beginning from the eclectic and Jugend (locally used for Art Nouveau) but especially about the decorative Art Deco that suited that-time urban mode of life so well.
People of all ages were fond of sweets.

Thus the market and various buyers determined a rather wide scope of topics for the design. Little kids were offered fairy-tale characters, a bit older children in their turn popular film stars like Shirley Temple or contemporary news items like the Canadian quintuplets. Together with the never-fading national romantic heroes the modern Art Deco man and woman were represented.

The topics were well planned like for example the Brandmann series Vilsandi Birds or People’s Candy. There were humorous series like the Ermos Lazybones or Brandmann’s Max and Moorits, Society and European Peoples, where the Russians were signified with the ethnographic emblem the five-pointed star and the Germans with the swastika. World events were reflected – Brandmann, for example, made a chocolate bar dedicated to the 1940 Helsinki Olympic Games but the games did not take place due to the war.
The sweets had names like Princess, Ballerina, Mermaid, Cabaret, Boxing, Lazybones, Sultan, Haiti, Hummingbird, Max and Moorits, Youth, Kiss-Kiss, Netti, Maie, Gita, Eve, Crawfish etc.
In 1940 all the businesses were nationalised and merged. Five enterprises – the Efekt, Eelis, Endla, Soliid and Ermos – were merged with the Kawe; the Riola, Stude and Brandmann were merged into a new confectionery company Karamell.