This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ballotin. I am sure that every Belgian chocolate connoisseur has opened one – or many – of these ballotin boxes in their life. In fact, since its creation in 1915, the ballotin has always been around, carefully filled with chocolates in a countless number of shops or voraciously enjoyed by thousands of chocolate lovers around the globe. This box is elegant yet understated in its appearance, and it showcases the content while successfully protecting it.
The beginning of the last century saw two major inventions that changed the way people enjoyed chocolate:
In 1912 Jean Neuhaus developed a technique that made possible, for the first time, to create chocolates with a soft filling. This first invention was called the “praline”. These chocolates continued to be sold wrapped in paper, a traditional method that however had two major drawbacks: it was not able to display the chocolates in an elegant way and even worse it offered very little protection, often damaging or compromising the look of the pralines.
As chocolates were becoming more and more sophisticated, with attractive designs and complex fillings, the Belgian chocolate kitchens were crying out for a box designed specifically to suit their needs. A gift box that would be beautiful and elegant but also practical in their ability to protect the chocolates from being damaged on the way home.
In 1915 their cries were answered, Louise Agostini, wife of Jean Neuhaus Jr, designed the first ballotin (from ballot, French term for “small package of goods”), a box in which the chocolates could be packed safely. It was also an aesthetically marvellous design, simple but elegant, easy to fill and close with its flaps elegantly secured with a ribbon. To the delight of the other chocolate houses of the time, Jean Neuhaus decided not to patent this invention, and that is why nowadays all the top tier Belgian chocolate manufacturers sell their chocolates in this timeless gift box.
One hundred years on, the Master Belgian chocolatiers use the ballotin more than ever, in fact this box can be considered the signature of the finest Belgian chocolatiers. While there have been a few minor changes in design over the years to allow for more efficient manufacturing processes the simple aesthetic beauty of this gift box remains the same making it one of the most recognizable items in the world of luxury foods.