Produced since 1903, this vanilla pudding in a can has been a Swiss favourite for over a century.
It's named for the tiny hamlet where the first factory was built, Stalden, which today is a part of the larger community of Konolfingen and is where the Berneralpen Milchgesellschaft (Bernese Alps Milk Society) was founded in 1896.
And who founded that company? None other than Caesar Ritz, master hotelier who came up with the phrase: "the customer is never wrong".
Puttin' on the Ritz
But what led Ritz to invest in a society of milk producers in the Emmental?
Let's start with the history of Ritz himself. He was born in 1850 and grew up extremely poor in the canton of Wallis, the last of thirteen children. He moved to Paris and worked as a waiter at the famous Parisian restaurant Voisin from 1869 to 1872 serving luminaries like George Sand, Sarah Bernhardt, and Alexandre Dumas. Notably, he lived and worked through the famous Siege of Paris.
An aside about the Siege of Paris
So, the entry for the Siege of Paris (September 1870—January 1871) on Wikipedia deserves a long read, but here are some of the highlights—Prussian troops surrounded the city, cut off all access to the outside world (including food, and mail—which could only be done with pigeons or balloons) and tried to get the French to surrender. They did not, even after 23 nights of bombing, which led to the revolutionary Delescluze to remark "the Frenchmen of 1870 are the sons of those Gauls for whom battles were holidays."
Nonetheless the people needed to eat, and they famously became creative in their meat consumption, preparing dogs, cats, and rats in typical French fashion. Some examples from actual restaurant menus of the time:
- Brochettes de foie de chien à la maître d'hôtel.
- Emincé de rable de chat. Sauce mayonnaise.
- Epaules et filets de chien braisés. Sauce aux tomates.
- Civet de chat aux champignons.
- Côtelettes de chien aux petits pois.
- Salamis de rats. Sauce Robert.
It wasn't just pets and sewer dwellers that made it to the table, but chef Alexandre Étienne Choron's notorious Christmas menu at Voisin included animals from the Paris zoo like kangaroo, wolf, bear, antelope, and elephant. Ritz himself probably served consomme d'Elephant to guests on 25 December 1870.
From rags to the Ritz
From waiter, Ritz worked his way up to maître d'hôtel, and eventually hotel manager and owner. He worked all over France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany, serving the wealthiest people of the time, and many royals as well.
In the 1890s, he teamed up with the famous French chef Auguste Escoffier at the London Ritz, introducing French Haute Cuisine to the British.
Escoffier, Ritz, and other partners knew that for sustained success, they needed to have milk that kept longer for use in their hotels. This led to Ritz backing the Berneralpen Milchgesellschaft in a region famed for milk producers, the Emmental. The factory eventually made canned condensed milk, unsweetened and available for use in hotels. They also made canned, sweetened Stalden Creme, full of milk and non-perishable.
After the first world war, the company became Ursina AG and would go on to found UHT milk. In 1971, Nestle bought them out, and in 1974 opened a huge research centre in Konolfingen dedicated to milk products, including baby formula and other forms of preserved milk. Today, though now owned by Nestle, Stalden Creme continues to be produced in Konolfingen and sold throughout Switzerland.