The History of Warsaw Chocolate Factory


Did you ever Wonder why when you cross Praga District in some areas you can smell intensive sweet scent of chocolate? The answer is simple! Because there is a big, famous chocolate factory located there!

Wedel is the oldest brand of chocolate in Poland. Karol Wedel moved to Poland from Berlin and opened his own business in the city of Warsaw in 1851 which started as serving hot drinking chocolate in the small shop located at Miodowa Street near Old Town in Warsaw.

After being trained by his father and getting important skills in the confectionery art in Paris for two years – Karol’s son Emil took control of the Wedel company in 1865.

Emil’s first move after receiving the company as a wedding gift was moving the factory to a building at Szpitalna Street in Warsaw, where a branded Wedel shop (oldest in Poland) and a café, where you can try drinking chocolate or small pralines, is located to this day in the same building.

Wedel’s chocolate was very popular so naturally a lot of fake ones began to be produced. To differentiate his original Wedel products from the market, Emil decided to add his own handwritten signature to each chocolate product leaving the factory to the market.

During all the years of the company existence Emil’s signature became the identification of the good brand and embedded into Wedel’s history so much that it successfully operates to this day – only rebranded a little to look more modern in a present day.

Emil, similarly as his own father before has also educated his son – Jan so that in the future he could take over the family business.

Emil and Jan Wedel managed the company together at Szpitalna Street from 1912 until Jan took over the company in 1923 as a result of death of both of his parents. In 1931, Jan Wedel moved the factory to Zamoyski Street in Warsaw in Praga district where he built a new factory in less populated area of the city.

Construction of the brand new production plant caused many controversies among the citizens of the city of Warsaw. But for the company the changes were crucial — they have imported the most modern machinery for the factory especially for hard chocolates and the first equipment this kind in Poland for wrapping caramel sweets in shiny papers.

The factory still operates at the same location at Zamoyski Street in Warsaw today.

Jan Wedel was very progressive and he added a lot of novelties in his factories and in the logistics processes: he bought cars with the inscription ”E.Wedel” and a visualization of chocolate bar. He started innovative promotional campaign by purchasing RWD–13 airplane which promoted the Wedel sweets while flying over the Polish coast.

What’s more Jan Wedel started employing women to work in the factory of chocolate and increased the general employment in the factory five times enlarging the production lines efficiency which opened Wedel to new clients. He also established very good welfare conditions such as dentist, pre-school and vacation trips for the workers and their families. He also rewarded the most loyal employees with housing loans without interest.

Jan Wedel, inspired by his visit in France, decided to start the production of marshmallows covered in the original Wedel milk chocolate.

This was a very innovative product with a unique taste not available in Poland at all, which turned out to be a great success – still today it is the most popular polish sweet recognized around the world.

Ptasie Mleczko® has been awarded several times for its special taste and quality. There are about 20 different flavours available now from classics such as vanilla or chocolate to more crazy variations like mango sorbet or strawberry milkshake.

The factory operated during the World War II and was told to manufacture sweets only for the Germans. But Jan Wedel was a patriot and secretly formed educational courses and offered meals for the local community. Even though the Wedel family had some German roots, Jan Wedel refused to cooperate with Germans. This caused him and his company being persecuted by the Nazis.

After defeat of Warsaw Jan Wedel was arrested and taken to the camp in Pruszków and in September 1944 the valuable factory’s possessions were stolen by the Soviet army. The war destroyed whole Poland, whole Warsaw and along with this the Wedel company. During Warsaw Uprising all factory facilities were destroyed.

After the end of war, Jan Wedel rebuilt the company but shortly after this the communist government nationalized the company. Wedel manufacturing plant was renamed as ’22 Lipca’ (22 July) after the Communist ‘Independence Day’ date . But the Wedel brand was so known and so strong that even the communist party chose to keep the Wedel brand name, with products holding the same logo as before war after almost 10 years of not being widely spread in Poland and could have been forgotten. The company came back to private hands in 1989 after the end of communism in Poland. In 1991 American corporation PepsiCo Foods and Beverages bought it and at that time sales were approximately $50–$60 million a year. In 1995 sales have already exceeded $200 million with bigger export sales. About 10% of all manufactured products are exported, mostly to the UK, US and Canada. In 1998 the Warsaw factory employed 1,100 workers.

It turned out for PepsiCo that the investment was not fully in line with their development strategy of the PepsiCo concern, which decided to divide and sell the factories.

In 1999 more changes happened to Wedel: the factory plant of sweets, PepsiCo’s factory in Warsaw was sold to the Finnish Leaf while the chocolate part of the company was bought by a British corporation – Cadbury Schweppes (for US$76.5 million). The cookies manufacturing plant in Płońsk north of Warsaw changed the owner to the French Danone.

In 2007 the Praga sweets factory was renovated and gained new laboratories and modern office space, as well as a brand new production line for Wedel’s best selling product Ptasie Mleczko®.

In 2010 Wedel was sold to another American company – Kraft Foods Inc but the European Comission has realized the corporation will hold too much of chocolate market share in one hand and ordered Kraft Foods to sell Wedel. They did so and they sold Wedel to Lotte Group, a South Korean-Japanese big corporation which is the owner of Wedel still today.

The most popular products:

Ptasie Mleczko – chocolate covered marshmallow

Mieszanka Wedlowska – assorted chocolate covered candy

Torcik Wedlowski – a large, circular, chocolate covered wafer with hand-made decorations.

Pawełek – chocolate bar with a flavored filling that contains a small amount of alcohol

Original chocolate shop and cafeteria in Warsaw

There is a magical shop in Warsaw where time passes slowly and where you can breathe the past. The famous and unique Chocolate Lounge was opened by the Wedel owner over 120 years ago. In this 19th-century historical building with a stylish interior you can breathe in the atmosphere of Warsaw before war. It’s even more impressive thanks to the perfect, sweet aroma of chocolate.

The shop’s offer includes classic drinking chocolate (bitter, white, milk) which you can order with different additions such as alcohol, fruit, ice-cream and lots of other sweets which you can try or buy them and take them home – delicious pralines,  cakes, coffee and ice cream desserts.

Address: Szpitalna 8

Monday – Friday: 08:00 – 22:00

Saturday: 09:00 – 22:00

Sunday: 09:00-21:00

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