The history of chocolate fish
A long time ago…. in a galaxy far, far away called the land of the long white cloud... there were no chocolate fish. This was about to change.
No one knows the complete story of the chocolate fish, however like most traditions, it came out of the melting pot from ideas of many people. It is not known when this confectionary treat transitioned to a reward of a job well done or the forfeit for a bet.
All Kiwis' understand the expression ‘that person deserves a chocolate fish.’ The recipient of a chocolate fish is in no doubt of the sincerity of the thanks they received.
We can start with Richard Hudson who arrived in Dunedin in 1868 and started a bakehouse. In 1884 he established the first chocolate manufacturing plant in the southern hemisphere (sorry Australians you can’t claim this one). In the early 1930s Hudsons merged with Cadburys.
The first use of a chocolate fish for a reward for ‘a job well done’ may have been in the Evening Post of the 26 September 1933 reporting 20 dancers who were rewarded with large chocolate fish.
In 1973 the Victoria University Tramping Clubs newsletter the reward of a chocolate fish for anyone who could sing all the way to the hut.
The chocolate fish was entrenching itself into the haloed halls of Kiwiana.
In the 1980s, political party McGillicuddy Serious party wanted a chocolate fish in every New Zealander's pocket (or hand bag) by putting forward a policy to establish the chocolate fish as legal tender.
John Bracewell, of cricketing fame, shone an international spot light on New Zealander’s humble chocolate fish when he listed his occupation as a ‘chocolate fish boner.’ A profession, I suspect, the international media had not come across before.
At the turn of this century Margaret Sikes, University of Otago manager of post graduate office used her own money to purchase chocolate fish as a ‘gift of significance’ to students when they submitted their PhD thesis. This tradition was continued by Dr Charles Justin who upgraded the marshmallow fish to a solid chocolate hand-made Belgium chocolate fish.
Although there have been many ‘species’ of chocolate fish for sale in NZ, the market has been dominated by Cadbury’s marshmallow fish with a thin shell of wavy chocolate to mimic scales (this is achieved by an air blast on the chocolate as it starts to set).
The Chocolate Fish Company founded in 2016, have taken up the baton with their solid chocolate Giant Kokopu (New Zealand’s largest native freshwater fish and one of the five species who’s young make up whitebait). The chocolate is made in New Zealand from Fair Trade and organic sourced raw ingredients combined with New Zealand milk. All printing and packaging is made in New Zealand. Each fish is presented on a cardboard tray which when opened tells a story of one of many inspirational New Zealanders. In addition, the purchase of a chocolate fish contributes funding to clean up New Zealand waterways.
Additional note –
Chocolate fish spawns Kiwi icon: Charles Diver of Regina Confectionary used the left-over pineapple marshmallow from the pineapple chocolate fish production to make small flat chocolate covered lumps of marshmallow. However, it was not until after his death in 1994 that Pascall Pineapple Lumps entered the modern world of confectionary.