You might’ve never heard of the name Mozartkugel, but if you know a thing or two about chocolate, there’s a high chance you know about Mozart chocolate, even if you’ve never had one yourself.
These small round chocolate candies decorated with the image of one of the world’s most famous classical composers have become some of the most recognizable sweets worldwide. It’s practically a default souvenir choice for those visiting Austria or Germany: if you don’t know what to bring home to your loved ones (or you don’t have a lot of place in your luggage), you bring back Mozart chocolate.
But did you know that Mozart chocolate isn’t a specific singular candy but comes in many varieties? It was likely supposed to be, and its inventor certainly intended it to be. And yet, these days, there are over a dozen companies that manufacture the iconic candy, each giving it its own unique spin.
Let’s break down how it happened.
What is a Mozartkugel?
Mozartkugel (ger. for “Mozart ball”) is a small round candy with a crunchy chocolate shell and a smooth center.
Its soft, chewy filling is made with pistachio paste, classic marzipan, and soft nutty nougat, usually covered with either a thick layer of dark chocolate or a double layer of chocolate, one milk and one dark.
While most confectionery companies manufacturing Mozart chocolate balls utilize the original ingredients in the recipe, the ratio and even placement of each component drastically differ. The original recipe combined the pistachio paste with marzipan, then wrapped the marzipan center with a thick layer of nougat, and finally, the dark chocolate shell. This combination resulted in a three-layered candy with a more prominent nougat flavor.
Some manufacturers follow this three-layer combination, but most have opted to separate the pistachio layer from marzipan. Often, in such cases, it’s either the pistachio paste placed at the center, with nougat and marzipan surrounding it in separate layers or the nougat is placed in the center, while the pistachio paste and marzipan are layered around it, forming one two-colored layer.
Why Was it Named Mozartkugel?
One would think it had to be directly linked to the Maestro himself. Maybe the chocolate treat was created as a gift to him or at least to honor him.
But alas, Mozart chocolate balls were created about a century after the composer’s death and bore little connection to him aside from sharing a birthplace.
There are two theories why the creator of the original Mozartkugel, Salzburg-based master confectioner Paul Fürst, decided to name his new invention after the Maestro.
The first is more sentimental: it was 1890, the 100th anniversary of Mozart’s death was coming up, and Paul Fürst decided to represent™ for city pride, creating something special to commemorate the date.
The second is a bit more prosaic: the height of Paul Fürst’s career came at a time when naming things after Mozart was a tried-and-tested trend.
It went something like this:
- For a few decades after Mozart’s death, his name was barely mentioned;
- In the middle of the 19th century, Salzburg remembered that it had been the hometown of one of the most talented musicians in history and decided to take back the pride that came with it;
- In 1842 Mozart’s statue was erected to much fanfare and kicked off the trend of naming things after the composer. Salzburg-based entrepreneurs quickly discovered that local pride sold well to both locals and visitors.
Paul Fürst, determined to catch the attention of the broader audience with his new experimental chocolate candy, named it Mozart-Bonbon, following this trend. Not that we can blame him, considering it paid off well enough from the get-go.
How Mozart Chocolate Took the Confectionery World By Storm:
Mozart-Bonbon didn’t lack in local fame after Fürst invented it, but it was barely known outside Salzburg, not to mention Austrian borders.
That changed in 1905, when Fürst took his candy to Paris, introducing it at a World’s Trade Fair. Mozartkugel won the gold medal at the fair, and suddenly the demand for it skyrocketed.
It’s unlikely that anyone, including Paul Fürst, expected such a win because he certainly didn’t leave for the fair with his bases sufficiently covered. Despite being the inventor of Mozart chocolate balls and having sold them for over a decade at that point, he still hadn’t registered the patent.
Other Salzburg-based confectioners, having caught the sniff of their local product winning the gold medal in Paris, started making their own version of the candy, and there was nothing Paul Fürst could do about it. Well, almost nothing.
The Uproar Over the Name: Who Has the Right to Make Mozartkugel?
Paul Fürst was certainly not happy about having to share the profits of his hard work with others. He did initiate the court process, trying to secure the trademark for Mozartkugel, but the further the case went, the more complicated it became.
First, it seemed more manageable, with only local Sazlburg-based confectionery shops concerned. But the more famous Mozartkugel became, the more companies popped up, first outside Salzburg, then outside Austria, putting their spin on the candy (with Fürst unable to prevent it, as he still hadn’t gotten that pesky trademark).
What was first a case against Salzburg-based imitators soon became a case against another country.
See, Austrian entrepreneurs were more than happy to profit from Paul Fürst’s invention. But while they somewhat tolerated each other, they were rather unhappy about sharing those profits with non-Austrian manufacturers.
Not that there are any mentions about how, say, Mirabell and Hofbauer felt about having to compete with each other for Mozarkugel market share. But it’s not like either of them had more of a claim on the candy than the other. Neither had invented it and came onto the scene well after Paul Fürst. What they found they could make the ruckus about was whether non-Austrian Mozartkugel was Mozartkugel at all.
It must be mentioned that I am greatly condensing the Mozartkugel Courtroom Drama (now that’s a show I’d gladly watch!) here. There was an entire Soap Opera’s worth of events unfolding over the course of several decades:
- Paul Fürst started his legal fight to acquire the rights to be the sole manufacturer of Mozartkugel candy in the early 1900s. He failed, but it wasn’t a two-day fight!;
- Mirabell, the Austria-based confectionery company, started its fight against German confectionery Reber over Austria being the only country that should be allowed to make Mozartkugel in the late 1970s. Entire governments got involved, and even their initial agreement didn’t hold. Reber was really determined;
- The final agreement over how each manufacturing company is allowed to label their Mozartkugel wasn’t finalized until 1996. That’s right, it’s not just Mozartkugel, there are entire mottos behind the candy, and some are better protected than others.
Let’s circle back.
- So Paul Fürst had to give up his fight for the Mozart chocolate candy as a lost cause. Mozartkugel’s recipe was more or less in the public domain, and even if others couldn’t make exact copies, they knew what ingredients to use. First, it was local Salzburg cake shops that made candy similar to Fürst, by hand, including a company called Rajsigl-Süßwarenfabrik that set up the manual production line for Mozart balls in the 1920s. After WWII, in 1948, Rajsigl-Süßwarenfabrik was broken up, and one of its branches, transformed into the now-famous Mirabell, took over the Mozartkugel production. In the 1960s, the company switched from manual to the industrial production method.
- They were undoubtedly the market leaders when it came to sheer numbers (Fürst Mozartkugel was still being produced by hand), but unexpectedly a competitor emerged. And to add insult to injury, the competitor wasn’t even Austrian. It was a German company called Reber.
Not gonna happen, Mirabell declared; Mozartkugel is an Austrian candy. And took Reber to court, stating that it wasn’t the fact that another company was making Mozart chocolate that bothered them. It was the fact that the other company was - gasp! - German.
- In 1981, the Austrian and German governments finally had to put their feet down. The fight over candy was getting out of hand. So the government representatives got together, and it went something like this:
- Austria: Look, this is our thing. Make the candy; just don’t label it Mozartkugel, will you?
- Germany: Fine. Hereby, only Austrian producers can manufacture and export the candy under the name of Mozartkugel. But we’re still going to make it, ok?
- Reber: Now, wait a minute. I promised people Mozartkugel, and I’m delivering them Mozartkugel. BELGIUM, COME HERE!
- When I say Reber was determined to maintain the authenticity of its chocolates, I mean Reber went all the way to EC-Commisioner in Brussels. The EC-Commissioner, remembering the old wisdom about good compromise being the one no one walked away fully satisfied with, did allow Reber (or, rather, non-Austrian companies) to label their candy as Mozart-Kugel, with a hyphen in-between.
- With one fire finally dowsed, another sprang up. Paul Fürst’s descendants decided that if their Mozartkugel couldn’t be the only one, then at least it deserved to be known as the original. Another courtroom drama went down this time between Fürst and Nestle, which wanted to brand their chocolate as “Original Austria Mozartkugeln.” Fürst came out victorious! In 1996, it was decided that Fürst candies would use the tagline “Original Salzburger Mozartkugeln.” Mirabell had to settle for “Echte Salzburger Mozartkugeln” (ger. “real Salzburg Mozart balls”), while Reber went with “Echte Reber Mozartkugeln” (ger. “real Reber Mozart balls”).
- Interestingly enough, Mirabell got one big win out of it all, and that’s the exclusive shape. It’s the only industrial producer allowed to make Mozartkugel that’s fully round. Other industrial producers must keep at least one side of the candy flat, which is why most Mozart candies are dome-shaped.
Who Makes the Best Mozartkugel: Most Famous Names Fighting for the Claim
The main competition is between the Fürst, Mirabell, and Reber. Fürst is the one that is well-respected for sticking to the handcrafted method and the original recipe, while Mirabell and Reber are the largest commercial producers.
It might sting a little, but Reber Mozart chocolate is currently undoubtedly the market leader. Reber puts out over 180 million candies every year, which is about half a million candies every single day.
To compare, Mirabell’s Grödig-based factory produces about 57 million Mozart chocolate candies annually, which is less than a third of Reber’s output. It is, however, undoubtedly the market leader among Austrian-based confectionery companies manufacturing Mozartkugel.
So, Is Reber Mozart Chocolate Authentic Mozartkugel?
The stinging must still be there for Austrian, and especially Salzburg-based confectionery companies, but yes. Courts have spoken, so Reber Mozart chocolate candies are undoubtedly as authentic as Fürst, Mirabell, Hofbauer, etc.
Not only that, but it’s one of the, if not the most famous German chocolate candy around. Many people who aren’t well-versed in Mozartkugel history aren’t aware that it’s originally from Austria, not Germany.
Mozart-Adjacent Chocolate Candies:
The Mozart chocolate brand has become so famous that companies have started using similar packaging for other, similar types of candy.
The most famous among them is, without a doubt, Reber’s Constanze Mozartkugel. Named after Mozart’s wife, it utilizes milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate for the candy coating.
Another rather famous example is Sissi-Kugeln from Hofbauer. Named after Empress Elisabeth of Austria, its recipe resembles Mozartkugeln but swaps pistachio for apricots.
Explore Yummy Bazaar’s Chocolate Collection for More:
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Image sources: all official images taken from the official Reber, Mirabell, and Fürst webstes.