Elit Çikolata

1924

elit
Beginning with the Mexican natives who uncovered the delicious secret of the cocoa bean and turning into a passion that contemporary men and women cannot forgo, chocolate has a history spanning thousands of years. In modern times, it was first European and then Ottoman imperial kitchens that converted chocolate into an elite treat, which protected its status until the nineteenth century. That was when technology was invented to transform chocolate from a hot beverage into solid bars, and to combine it with milk. Among the growing number of chocolate producers, some manufactured a more refined product than others.

Both the fame of chocolate and the passion for it caught up in the Ottoman Empire during the 1900s. Indeed, by the first quarter of the twentieth century, chocolate was being both imported into and exported from Turkey. Among those enchanted by chocolate in those days was a certain Değirmencioğlu Todori (Todori, son of the Miller). His brand Ménage was registered with the Ministry of Commerce on 1 September 1923. The packages of the chocolate samples submitted to the Ministry had the French inscription “Fabrique de Chocolat Fondée en 1923,” from which we know that the factory was founded that year. The trademark registration gave the home and work address of “Todori Efendi, of Turkish citizenship,” as located in the “neighborhood of Taşçılar at Balık Pazarı (Fish Market).” This information indicates that Todori Efendi’s Ménage was the first trademark of the first Turkish chocolate factory established in Turkey.

The brand Elite was first used in 1924. A news item that appeared in the paper Cumhuriyet in 1931 stated that a grocery in the town of Alpullu, in Kırklareli province, was using Elite chocolates in a promotion campaign; this suggests that the brand’s fame had quickly spread beyond the boundaries of İstanbul.

A Trademark Certificate dated 1932 stated that “Elite Çikolata ve Şekerleme Fabrikası Mamulatı” (Elite Chocolate and Confectionary Factory Products) were manufactured at No. 76–78, Fıçıcı Street, off İpçiler Avenue. The firm’s products were listed as confectionary, fruit-flavored sweets, candy, toffee, and chocolate.

An advertisement in Cumhuriyet published on 23 April 1931 declared: “Elite chocolates are the most famous chocolates. Demand them everywhere you go.” Its sweet competitors were such well-established firms as Lion, Melba, Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir, Cemilzade, and Hafız Mustafa.

An invoice dated 1934 from Elite featured the image of a woman carrying several boxes of Elite chocolates, testifying to the importance given by the firm to public relations. Thus, when the name Elite was misread phonetically as élité by the public, the management decided during the second half of the 1930s to bring their brand closer to the people by dropping the final letter “e” and registering this new name Elit.

Starting in the 1930s, Elit chocolate packages contained pictures of celebrities, another aspect of the firm’s public relations and marketing practices. Many collectors today treasure these cards, which took Elit’s relationship with the consumer beyond the love of chocolate. The cards continued to be offered in Elit products until the 1960s, and featured international beauty queens like Keriman Halis (Miss Universe 1932), as well as movie stars like Charlie Chaplin, Linda Dernell, and Janet Blair. The cards were numbered, and those who completed the collection not only became the proud owners of a nice collection but were also eligible to win awards.

In addition to the celebrity cards, Elit used various other forms of advertising such as window posters and images displayed in stores that sold their products. As time progressed, packages became more attractive. Products were sold in hexagonal, square, and rectangular boxes, both small and large. Elit’s cocoa powder, as indispensible to pastry shops today as it was then, featured a picture of an exotic beauty serving cocoa; those and other tin boxes in various sizes and dimensions, as well as glass jars, buckets, and sachets, indicated the breadth of Elit’s product line. In addition to the umbrella-shaped chocolates treasured by generations, the “Meşhur Beyoğlu Çikolatası” (famous Beyoğlu chocolates), coconut and cocoa bonbons, and other confectionery, Elit was also well known back then for its chewing gum, throat lozenges, and jams, though they are no longer among the firm’s products.

Many prestigious stores have offered Elit products as gifts to their own customers. The Elit corporate archives indicate that invoices were sent to such distant towns as Bayburt (in northeastern Turkey) as early as the 1930s, testifying to the power and pervasiveness of the brand. In 1958, the owners and workers of the factory contributed 172 TL to the campaign to support the construction of the Dardanelles Monument, one of many social projects in which Elit participated.

The family took the last name Değirmencioğlu upon the promulgation of the Surnames Act in 1934. When Todori Efendi died, his wife Teoğnosiya (Theognosia) took over, with the help of her brother Yorgi Elefteropulos. That the paper Milliyet published a news story in 1952 about a raise given by Elit to its workers, most of whom were women, indicates how significant and well-known the firm had become. This was also the time when Elit gained a fine reputation for its chocolate-covered dragées as well as its industrial products. Behind them was Hristo Nikolaidi, known as Hristo Usta (Master Hristo). Having started his professional career as an apprentice at the Parizien pastry shop in Beyoğlu, he then began to work in the chocolate business, first at the Lion-Melba factory and then, during the 1950s, at Elit. He pioneered many innovations at the firm and stayed with it until his death in 2005.

From Todori Efendi to the 1970s, the importance of Elit for the confectionery business was well summed up by Luka Zigoris, founder of İnci Profiterol, a pastry house whose profiteroles were legendary: “When I began to use Elit products, I became İnci Profiterol. And I never changed that.”

Teoğnosiya Değirmencioğlu died in 1972, and Yani Amaslidis took over the reins. He was the son of Yorgi Amaslidis, the founder of another well-established firm by the name of Lion chocolates. Lion had amerged with Melba, becoming Lion Melba, and the partners had decided as a matter of principle that their children would not work at the firm. Yani Bey had thus become a partner at Elit where he was able to put into practice what he had learned about the chocolate business from his family, as well as further his knowledge with new experiences. It is worth noting, incidentally, that Lion Melba later became inactive and that Elit purchased the brand in 2011 in order to keep its legacy alive.

Elit’s current principal partner and Chairman of the Board is C. Tanıl Küçük, who became a shareholder in 1980. In 1984, he and his father Celal Bey acquired all the outstanding stock and turned Elit into a family enterprise. The company was re-incorporated as Elit Çikolata ve Şekerleme Sanayi Anonim Şirketi in 1985. Over the decades, Tanıl Bey’s wife Sedef Hanım and daughter B. Gözde Hanım also joined the firm’s management.

Under Tanıl Küçük’s leadership, Elit never compromised either the quality of raw materials or the principles of production. With a greater variety of retail and industrial products, it has placed new emphasis on foreign trade, regularly participating in the Köln ISM fair —one of the most important in the industry— and steadily increasing its volume of exports. The firm has also participated in important fairs in many countries as the UAE, the United States, and Brazil.

Elit has weathered several economic storms since the 1990s. It has successfully maintained its standing among Turkey’s Second Top 500 industrial concerns, as determined by the İstanbul Chamber of Industry, since 2009.

From traditional to modern, Elit is poised to achieve a century of production. With facilities at Kasımpaşa and Esenyurt totaling some 30,000 square meters of covered space and a workforce of about 500 people, it retains its leadership within Turkey as well as exporting to sixty countries. Since 1924, it has continued to develop its mastery of chocolate and confectionery and maintained its tradition of quality, which it intends to carry into the future with undiminished passion and enthusiasm.

Contact

Namık Kemal Mah. Doğan Araslı Cad. 130. Sk. No:21 Esenyurt - 34513 İstanbul
P: +90 0212 444 0 924 PBXF: 0212 596 08 08
www.elitcikolata.com
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