With Rijekas Elefant, life is chocolate

I'm walking through the Old Town these days and what catches my eye? Inscription Confectionery Elephant. And the proud owner of the new Rijeka place for gourmets, especially those prone to chocolate snacks, addresses me with a smile from the door. Bome and I reciprocate, how could I not…

Do you like chocolate, dear reader? Or at least cocoa? If the answer is no, I suggest we part at this point without many questionnaires. Neither I understand you, nor me you. Life is something much better than situations where misunderstanding reigns, something more pleasant, more relaxed, sometimes even sweeter. Life is chocolate? Yes, whenever the opportunity arises.

Chocolate has been around in our city for a long time. When it first appeared in it and who first started producing it in Rijeka is a question that we will leave to some future researchers of the city's sweet vices. Given the many years of branching trade ties of Rijeka entrepreneurs with all over the world, from which they could also procure cocoa and process it in their manufactories, it must have been quite early. However, there is no doubt, the turning point of this kind occurred with the founding of the large Rijeka cocoa and chocolate factory, which was recorded on the city's economic map in 1896. Rijeka's cocoa and chocolate factory is nothing less than the first plant for industrial production of this type of product in Croatia .

The plant was located in a large three-story building erected along the road that at the time was called Via Serpentina. It is a location along today's Zvonimirova Street, more precisely near the intersection of Zvonimirova and Vinka Benca Streets, which would be approximately opposite the entrance to the current large shopping center on the sea side of Zvonimirova Street, in the area of ​​Sveti Mikula (San Nicolò).

If we take a look at the archival papers on the economic life of Rijeka at the end of the 19th century, we are greeted by information that the building appeared in the wake of the branched business interests of the Hungarian General Credit Bank in the Kvarner area. Arturo Steinacker was the director of the Factory, and it was managed by Emilio Erlich, both important people of the Bank in Rijeka. Cocoa and Chocolate Factory shared the address of its business headquarters with some other companies that started working thanks to the Bank. This was the address of Via Albergo Vechio 2, where the headquarters of the Bank's Rijeka office were located.

Various types of products arrived on the shelves of the Via Serpentina plant: chocolate bars, chocolate candies, cocoa powder, cakes, slices and similar sweet snacks. To make it easier for customers to remember its products, the marketing mages of the Factory have designed two brands. These were the Slon brand and the Jadran brand.

The chocolates thus reached the hands of consumers under the name Rijeka chocolate Slon. On the chocolate wrappers was a printed illustration with an elephant motif, sometimes an elephant with three elephants, which certainly should have told customers that they were getting a product of a truly special, overseas, exotic origin. Whoever wanted cocoa powder, to use it in their home to prepare a delicious drink or delicious cakes, could buy a round box in stores with the name Rijeka Cocoa Elephant or Rijeka Cocoa Adriatic printed on it.

Interestingly, the visual motif with which it tried to make its products marketable, the elephant motif, Tvornica shared with the products of the Rijeka Rice Hatchery and Starch Starch Factory, another investment of the Hungarian General Credit Bank in Rijeka. The connection of two types of products that evoked the same animal motif in mind? From the local point of view, both cocoa and rice originated from distant African-Asian sources.

Some other Chocolate Factory products also ended up on store shelves under special names. This is confirmed by the examples of Rijeka cakes and Adria slices.

Building on its own marketing preferences, the management of the Factory has, as expected, invested heavily in advertising. Colored posters were commissioned, on which a suggestive scene could often be seen: women and children enjoying chocolate snacks. It is not difficult to understand why women and children - the notion of gender roles (read: gender stereotypes) is at work at the time, according to which sweets are not considered a suitable snack for men. Advertising postcards with imaginative, somewhat exotic motifs were also ordered. They depict forest dwarfs preparing a cocoa drink on the fire, desert robbers lurking in a caravan with a load of cocoa, angels bringing large boxes of Rijeka cocoa into a girl's dream.

Going through these postcards, I can't help but think: good luck to marketers, yesterday and today, they know how to get into girls' dreams, moreover guide them, and even charge…

Changing owners over time, the Factory also changed its name. From 1919 to 1944, she worked as the Gerbaud Chocolate Factory.

At the location near Zvonimirova Street, there are almost no traces of the work of the sweetest industrial building in Rijeka from the end of the 19th and in the first half of the 20th century. He was doomed by the end of World War II, when the entire area was heavily bombed in Allied air strikes on the city’s western industrial zone. In the second half of the 1960s, a number of residential buildings were erected on the site where the building was located, which helped solve the housing problems of the then generation of Rijeka workers, who emerged during the socialist era and do not remember the Rijeka Chocolate Factory. Its members were given unlimited use of apartments in these buildings, which we can only envy today, so it occurred to me to conclude that they should not have gotten chocolate with those apartments.

But I won't, it's not appropriate. Let the chocolate bite encourage positive thoughts. It’s not some special willpower, you don’t need to bother about it, it comes naturally.

The owner of the newly opened Slon confectionery, the same one who proudly smiles at me from the entrance, says that he is counting on his own production of chocolate and chocolate snacks. Uh, with that fact, dear štioče, my fondness for imported wildlife is growing even more rapidly.

Did I tell the imported animal world? Welcome home, Rijeka Elephant.

Velid Đekić

copyright 2020

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