Guy Urbain: Still seeking out new frontiers
Intersuc, European Candy Kettle Club founder remains inspiration to all
A truly remarkable thing happened to me on the way to the European Candy Kettle Club (ECKC) award in Helsinki — I met the founder of the organization, Guy Urbain. Yes, this is the same famed Parisian confectioner who, after meeting Don Gussow in Chicago during a National Confectioners Association convention in 1971, took to heart the idea of creating a European Candy Kettle award.
Urbain, who’s devoted his entire life to promoting the confectionery arts and the people involved with them, created the ECKC with the help of Albert Meiners, a sales representative for Silesia, in 1973. Given that Meiners spoke English well, Urbain thought it best that he take on the role of president and Urbain would handle the secretary’s duties.
But mind you, it was Urbain who sat down and worte organization’s bylaws. In fact, he’s the one who suggested that the new group called itself a club rather than a committee, given that the word club was more “welcoming,” Urbain explains.
Following in the same vein as Candy Industry’s Kettle Committee, the ECKC’s membership consisted of suppliers to the confectionery industry. The first person to receive the European copper kettle was Michele Ferrero.
The award was presented at Intersuc, the International Chocolate, Confectionery, Biscuit, Pastry Products exhibition held in Paris, and Don Gussow was present at the event. Oh yes, it was Urbain who actually created Intersuc, although it was known as the Salon du Confiserie then. The name changed in 1960, Urbain says.
During the next 10 years at the ECKC, Urbain was able to see the organization grow in stature, handing out the famed copper kettle to the likes of Claus Oberwelland from August Stock; Sir Donald Barron from Rowntree Mackintosh; Rudolf Sprungli of Lindt & Sprungli; Adrain Cadbury of Cadbury Ltd.; Hans Riegel of Haribo; and Peter Fazer of Karl Fazer.
So it was particularly poignant that for the ECKC’s 40th anniversary, Urbain was able to attend the ceremonies honoring Majlen Fazer, senior specialist, product quality for cocoa and chocolate, and the daughter of the 1982 ECKC award winner, Peter Fazer. His presence at this year’s awards came about a result of a meeting with Francois Adele, managing director of Dumoulin at the ProSweets show in Cologne two years ago.
Adele, a former past president of ECKC, immediately recognized the connection Urbain had to the Club and warmly received the founder. Although Urbain couldn’t attend last year’s reception in Istanbul, he made a point of being in Helsinki this year.
Naturally, during the reception, it was a special moment for not only Urbain, but for Majlen Fazer, the committee members and all guests attending to see both together on stage.
Prior to the actual ceremony, I had a chance to sit down with Urbain and conduct a short interview with this amazing man, who by the way, also founded Chocolate & Confiserie magazine, the French confectionery publication. During our interview, he wanted to broaden the acceptance of an international world cocoa and chocolate day on October 1.
As Urbain explained, in 2009 he had travelled to the Internal Cocoa Organization’s headquarters in London to discuss the idea of having an international chocolate day. The ICCO already had an international cocoa day, which had been created in partnership with the Cocoa Producers Alliance.
Under the auspices of the Academie Francaise du Chocolat et de la Confiserie — yes, Urbain had a hand in forming that organization as well — he combined the two and christened October 1 as World Cocoa and Chocolate Day.
The goal, as the ICCO website explanation goes, “is for everyone to express their appreciation for every player in the cocoa-chocolate chain — from the cocoa farmers in tropical countries to the chocolatiers and confectioners who sustain the demand for chocolate.”
Urbain who’s a one-man proselytizer for confectionery, pulled out a poster promoting the event. More than 15,000 have been printed up to distribute amongst France’s confectioners and chocolatiers. Moreover, the idea has been embraced by other countries, including Switzerland, Ivory Coast and Vietnam, to name a few.
What I love about Urbain’s concept is that it allows any national confectionery organization to do anything on that day, be it a conference, a chocolate promotion or a media blitz.
Now I realize that we alreadyhave certain days designated National Chocolate Day in the United States. According to the NCA’s candy holidays calendar,, there’s an International Chocolate Day on Sept. 13, National Chocolate Day on Sept. 28, National Cocoa Day on Dec. 12., and consecutive National Chocolate Days on Dec. 28 and 29.
I am thinking it might make sense to join forces with the ICCO and Urbain and choose Oct. as World Cocoa and Chocolate Day, reinforcing our appreciation for everyone in the cocoa-chocolate chain, from farmers in the field to the chocolatiers in their workplaces.
Because, as Urbain says, “Chocolate is magic. There are so many possibilities with this wonderful ingredient.”
Let me hear your thoughts on this.