Dello Mano customers often ask why we wrap all our brownies in foil. The reason for this choice is bound up in the romance I associate with foil-wrapped chocolate. Foil comes off more slowly than modern plastic packaging, and it’s easier to reseal, encouraging more mindful consumption. Its lustrous sheen hints at precious metals, suggesting that chocolate should be held in as high regard as silver or gold. The crinkle of the first tear sounds sweet as Pavlovian bells to those who remember it from childhood. Those too young to remember foil-wrapped chocolate may think of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — that famous scene of Charlie tantalisingly pulling away his chocolate bar’s silver foil to reveal the golden ticket within. That romance is what we lost when the food industry moved to flow wrapping.
To watch the flow-wrapping process in motion is to be truly astounded by the power of modern manufacturing. The naked products speed along a conveyor belt towards a snakelike strip of plastic, long enough to wrap many thousands of chocolates. A separate machine seals and cuts the plastic into separate packages. Through this precisely-engineered process, thousands of chocolate bars can be wrapped without a soul in sight. It is the last step in a process that involves minimal human involvement from beginning to end; the chocolates were mixed, poured, and moulded with similarly efficient marvels of machinery. There’s little wonder that mass-produced chocolate so often tastes so soulless.
By the time I entered the food industry in the 1980s, flow wrapping was already beginning to dominate the industry. However, a few companies still used foil to grant certain products a sense of luxury and old-fashioned quality. One of those companies was Cadbury, which tends to hold on to traditions longer than their competitors; perhaps they remain influenced by the themes of heritage, hard work that characterised their Quaker beginnings. In those days, Cadbury produced a line called Cadbury Favourites, a box of assorted, miniature chocolates each hand-wrapped in patterned foil. Though I was by that time well into adulthood, I felt like a child every time I opened the box to see the bright, colourful foil packages within. (Cadbury still sells their Favourites line, but the tiny chocolates are now — of course — flow-wrapped.)
During my time working with Cadbury, I had the chance to visit a small factory in Tasmania where a tight-knit group of women had been turning out Favourites and other chocolates for decades. Their years of dedication allowed them to develop near-superhuman efficiency. As they worked, their hands moved so fast that they seemed to have far more than two, as if they were multi-armed goddesses of chocolate. Their teamwork and fierce loyalty were even more impressive than their efficiency. Every worker on the conveyor belt knew that she couldn’t slack — if she did, the bars would pile up at her station and hold the whole line back. The familial bond among these women fascinated me; they brought a deep sense of humanity to the chocolate box.
When the time came for us to determine how our own Dello Mano products would be packaged, I remembered the humanity of the Cadbury women, as well as the magic tied up in all the foil-wrapped chocolates of my youth. However, we didn’t have the Cadbury women — in the early days, the Dello Mano permanent staff comprised little more than our four-person family, two of whom were little girls. In order to hand-wrap every brownie we sold, we would need far more massive people-power. Besides, as much as I liked the idea of foil packages, there was no denying that our classic brownies looked beautiful au naturel. We decided to wrap only the centre brownie in each box of nine with gold foil and a tiny ribbon.
This centre brownie would serve as a bit of an engineering fix; the ribbon would help to loosen the first piece from the tightly-packed box. As time progressed, however, we learned that the foil-wrapped brownie was much more than a convenient piece of leverage for our customers. Rather than pulling out the gold brownie first, they would leave it for last, as if it were as precious as its colour suggested. The romance of foil-wrapped chocolate meant more to our customers than a slightly easier-to-open package; in fact, we received frequent requests to wrap all of the brownies in foil. We began hand-wrapping all of our brownies as soon as we had enough woman-manpower to do so.
Today, we continue to wrap each and every Dello Mano brownie that leaves our kitchens. Every jewel-toned hue corresponds with one of our delicious flavours, from the jewel-toned purple that wraps our Ginger brownies to the scintillating silver enveloping our Espresso Walnut. And, of course, as always our original Classic Luxury Brownie comes wrapped in gold foil, because our painstakingly-developed browine recipe is as precious to us as gold. As soon as you try your first bite, we think you’ll feel the same.
Got a story to tell us about your Dello Mano Brownie experience – just send us a note on our Facebook page – look forward to hearing from you.
Dello Mano led the Australian Brownie Revolution. You can find our brownies online http://www.dellomano.com.au or at either one of our Brisbane Stores – Tattersalls Arcade or New Farm. We have tasters every day and look forward to seeing you there.