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|Headquarters||Lehmja, Rae Parish, Estonia|
AS Kalev (2006–2012 Kalev Chocolate Factory AS) is an Estonian confectionery company. The company can trace its origins back two hundred years, it was founded in 1806, and is now a part of the industrial conglomerate Orkla Group. Since 2003, it has been based in Põrguvälja near Jüri, Rae Parish, Harju County.
The birth of the Estonian confectionery industry dates back to 1806 when a pastry cook, Lorenz Caviezel, opened a confectionery business in Tallinn at Pikk Street, where the Café Maiasmokk (Sweet Tooth) is now located.
In 1864, the business, which had changed hands many times, came into the possession of Georg Johann Stude. After ten years of operation, Stude decided to expand the business: he bought a neighbouring house and in place of these two houses constructed a new and more solid building, which is still there.
Out of Stude’s production, marzipan figures and hand-made chocolate candies were in especially high demand. Stude’s sweets were also known outside Estonia. Thus, for example, the court of the Russian tsar was a regular customer at the turn of the 20th century.
Recipes and working methods originating from Stude’s confectionery are still held in great esteem in today’s Kalev – to this day the marzipan figures and hand-made candies that were well-known even in the 19th century are exclusively hand-made.
Beginning of the 20th century
At the beginning of the 20th century there were other pioneers of the confectionery industry in Tallinn that could be considered as the predecessors of Kalev. Perhaps one of the most renowned was Kawe confectionery, founded in 1921 by brothers Karl and Kolla Wellner at Müürivahe Street 62. Kawe's products, the greatest confectionery in Estonia, were well known in Estonia and abroad, and the company exported a significant share of its output to destinations such as the United States of America, England, Tunisia, Morocco, France, India and China.
Of other big sweet producers of the time, the factories of Ginovker, Brandmann and Klausson should also be mentioned. At the end of the 1930s, Kawe and these three confectioneries employed 75% of all Estonian confectionery workers. Competing with big factories were a number of smaller enterprises: Riola, Endla, Eelis, Efekt and others.
The change in policy in 1940 brought along big changes for the confectionery industry. This was the time of nationalisation and company mergers. In 1940, the Riola factory was joined with the Brandmann business and the enterprise was renamed the Karamell Sweet Factory. Later on, Karamell was joined by the marzipan and chocolate candy unit of Georg Stude’s business. Cakes and tarts continued to be made at the Pikk Street building, still known as the Café Maiasmokk.
Soon after that, Kawe merged with the sweet factories of Efekt, Eelis, Endla, Soliid and the Ermos syrup factory situated in Kloodi manor house near Rakvere. The merged enterprise continued to operate under the name Kawe until 1948. On 1 April 1948, the company was renamed Kalev Confectionery Factory. The name was changed for ideological reasons: someone had complained to a minister that the name “Kawe” had once been formed of the former owners’ initials. This, however, was perceived as inappropriate for a Soviet enterprise. Hence, a name competition was quickly held. There were two name propositions: “Punane Kompu” (Red Candy) and “Kalev”. A majority of only one vote determined that the new name would be “Kalev”.
In 1957, a new confectionery operation named Uus Kalev (New Kalev) was opened at Pärnu Road 139, which merged with Karamell a year later. In 1962, New Kalev and Kalev merged into what is now operating as the Kalev confectionery factory.
Throughout the Soviet period, Kalev produced sweets at full capacity for Estonia as well as almost the whole of the former Soviet Union, also supplying the “uncrowned rulers” of the Kremlin. Kalev’s sweets also found recognition outside the borders of the Soviet Union, bringing home prizes from several international fairs and exhibitions.
Kalev is also known to have produced the first Soviet chewing gum in 1968. Although it was directly banned for propagandizing the capitalist way of life. Eventually the production was restarted in 1979 and even though other factories opened in other parts of Soviet union Kalev captured more than half of the Soviet market.
In 1991, the state enterprise of Kalev was founded on the basis of the Kalev confectionery factory. In 1995, the privatisation of the state enterprise became possible and a public limited company was founded.
As well as manufacturing confectionery, and retailing through cafés and candy shops, the group now also has interests in flour and bakery products, milk products and real estate development and management. The group earns stable profits and now employs about 800 people.
Previously, AS Kalev was one of the few Estonian food industry enterprises based mainly on Estonian capital.
Currently, in addition to selling pre-made marzipan, customized painted marzipan can be ordered in the Kalev Marzipan Room (martsipanituba) in Tallinn on Sundays.
The address in Tallinn's Old Town is: Maiasmoka maja, Pikk tn 16, Tallinn.
- Text based on Heino Gustavson’s manuscript “AS Kalev. Eelaeg, sünd ja elu” (AS Kalev. History, Foundation and Existence), Tallinn, 1999.
- Official website (in English, Estonian and Russian)