Perugina è la Hershey d’Italia. Perugina is the Hershey of Italy.
When I first found out that Perugia was home to the Perugina Chocolate Factory, I thought it was funny that I would be moving from one chocolate-town (Hershey; well, Annville…but close enough!) to another. I immediately decided that I had to visit Perugina, just to compare.
I was just going to go with 4 friends, but when we got to the bus station, we ran into ten other Umbra students who were also going to the factory; the more the merrier! This tour is almost nothing like Hershey’s. First of all, it has a more elegant and professional atmosphere in comparison to the kid-friendly vibe at Chocolate World. Your tour starts in a theater that tells you about how the chocolate is made and a brief history of the company. After the movie, you get a more in-depth look at the history and some of it’s marketing ploys in The Museum, where a tour guide walks you through multiple wall displays and outlines the Perugina story for you.
Baci chocolates came on the Italian market in 1922, and initially were named Cazzotto, which literally means ‘punch-up’ which came from their irregular, squat shape. It was Giovanni Buitoni who re-christened the chocolate Bacio. The famous entrepreneur felt it much better to make customers ask for a kiss instead of a punch at the store. Around each Baci is wrapped a love note, making it the “chocolate for lovers”. Every day of operation, more than one and a half million Baci chocolates are made here at Perugina which is only a fraction of the 120 tons of chocolate that flows through the pipes and vats each day. (Deborah Mele 2012)
One marketing strategy the company has is to create one rather large piece of chocolate to display at the world-famous Eurochocolate festival, held in Perugia in October annually. In 2003, their chocolate went down in history. The Guinness World Record plaque in the museum read, “The world’s largest individual chocolate was a BaciOne weighing 5,980kg (13,183 lb)and was made by Nestlé (Italy) and displayed at the Perugina factory, San Sisto, Italy on 26 October 2003,” next to which there was a replica of the creation and it’s original sentiment from inside. Another strategy was the company’s support in 2009 when a man named Giovanni started an online campaign for help in his quest to get a Valentine’s Day kiss from his neighbor, Gaia (watch the story here).
After the museum, you are taken to a room that has only a counter covered in fresh chocolates to sample. Any kind of chocolate you could imagine was there: chocolate truffles, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, 70% chocolate versus 50% chocolate, chocolate with hazelnuts, cookies made with different kinds of chocolate – everything. My strategy was to grab one of everything, and step away from the crowd to enjoy them. That’s when I realized that there is, in fact, such a thing as too much chocolate (but anyone who knows me understands that I wouldn’t let a little thing like that stop me from trying to put what I could into my bag to bring back, #freestuff).
After the sampling, we were taken on a walk above the factory on an enclosed catwalk to watch the production process. We weren’t allowed to take pictures here, but it was still cool to see. There was one area where they had massive pods filled to the brim with Baci chocolates, and another section where they were making Easter eggs as big as footballs. But they better make them now because chocolate is only produced from June to February, and the factory is closed from March to May for maintenance and producing only chocolate to be exported.
It was a really interesting experience to get a new perspective on the chocolate industry, and while I enjoyed touring the Perugina factory, I can’t deny the fact that it made me miss being back at LVC and being able to jump in the car with my friends to spend a weekend afternoon in Chocolate World.
Wishing you all a happy Valentine’s Day with lots of love,