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Liquorice Giant Klene

Liquorice confections (drop) are among the most popular treats in the Netherlands. One historic Dutch brand, Klene, is especially known for its 'drop'. Johannes Coenradus Klene, born in Amsterdam in 1841 or 1842, began working as a confectioner in an attic in Rotterdam in 1876. He initially focused on hard candies such as peppermints and later expanded into chocolates, gum drops, meringues, pastilles, cookies and of course liquorice.

In 1915 the firm established a factory on Looiersgracht in Amsterdam and began to turn out Frujettas, the world’s first candy rolls. During World War II, Klene was prevented from exporting its goods, and raw materials and packaging became scarce. In the face of these challenges, Klene turned to the processing of coffee and tea substitute products, sugar and various raw goods for other firms. Like so many other Dutch companies and businesses, after struggling through the war years Klene recovered nimbly and quickly. Klene resumed production, distribution and exporting in 1946. Dutch restrictions on sugar products eased in 1948, and Klene reinstituted the manufacture of liquorice confections in 1949.

Liquorice continued to be the central theme of Klene’s products, and in the mid-1970s three-quarters of the company’s output consisted of liquorice. In 1986 Klene relocated the factory to an industrial estate in Hoorn. It was a major change, as Klene had been based in Amsterdam for more than seventy years.

In 1999, Dutch competitor Van Melle bought out Klene as well as the Swiss brand Wybert. Wybert’s diamond shaped liquorice had been a bestseller in the Netherlands for decades, and the brand was already so well-established that the Dutch often use the name Wybert as a term to describe such a shape.

In 2001 Perfetti of Italy merged with Van Melle, thus creating the Perfetti van Melle Group. This enormous Italo-Dutch merger is the world’s third largest confectionery manufacturer, with branches in 35 countries and distribution in approximately 160 countries. One of the conglomerate’s most recognizable brands is Mentos, which was first launched by Van Melle in 1932.

For more extensive coverage of Klene, read issue 52 of Dutch the magazine.

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Original article by: Eric Bryan