Grieg Suites, sweet to the ear and to the taste
Thomas Kraft’s Novelty Food creates a chocolate tribute to the composer and culture of Norway
The Norwegian American
Food doesn’t usually come with instructions on how best to enjoy it. There may be restaurant menus that suggest beer or wine that are best paired with a dish, but chocolate?
Meet Grieg Suites, a chocolate confection with the purposeful double meaning, the creation of Oslo’s Novelty Food and CEO Thomas Kraft as a tribute to Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), Norway’s most famous composer. Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite Morning Mood” should be on cue.
“I unfortunately do not play myself, but listening to the music and enjoying the chocolate is the closest I come,” said Kraft in a Skype call from Oslo. “It’s what we like to try to create. We want you to enjoy our symphony of chocolate and feel the music. We wanted the music of Grieg to accompany every piece of chocolate. Morning music was a mood we wanted to achieve to give a feeling of a taste and sound of Norway when eating the chocolate. First, we tried putting small speakers in the box, but we could not find good enough speakers at a low enough cost to make the product workable. The best way and time to have the chocolate is while the sun is coming over Hardanger.”
The evening breeze off Lake Michigan, and inside the Hilton Palmer House Hotel, had to do for the U.S. launch on Sept. 19, before Riccardo Muti conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Norwegian pianist and Bergen resident Leif Ove Andsnes played Grieg’s “Concerto in A minor” at Orchestra Hall. Andsnes (see accompanying lead story) has been described by the Wall Street Journal as “one of the most gifted musicians of his generation,” and by The New York Times as “a pianist of magisterial elegance, power, and insight.” Andsnes is the recipient of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, the prestigious Peer Gynt Prize, an honorary doctorate from New York’s Juilliard School and the Bergen Conservatory, and was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in 2013. Sounds like a perfect pairing with Grieg’s Suites chocolate. Kraft made a presentation. Surely, Andsnes didn’t eat the treats before or while he played.
“We’ll have the chocolate and apple juice from Norway,” Kraft said before leaving for Chicago. “The chocolate goes well with sparkling wine, coffee and apple juice. People won’t only be full of sweets. People don’t understand the concept right away. Then, they taste it, say ‘wow.’”
A Grieg enthusiast, Kraft wanted to create a tribute to the composer and Norwegian culture and heritage through the food, while staying true to Grieg’s life. Kraft had worked for almost 20 years in the food business in wine, cheese, fast food, and as an importer. “When I worked as an importer, we had Mozart Liquor,” said Kraft. “I had an idea 16 years ago to see if we could make a Grieg liquor. I also had the idea of a chocolate and wanted to develop that. We had neither the muscle nor the capacity to create the product. The idea lay dormant.”
It wouldn’t go away, though, and Novelty Food, with the slogan, “Taste Matters,” opened in November 2017. “We were inspired by Grieg,” said Kraft. “Before we started the project, we didn’t understand how big and important he was around the world.”
Do we know if Grieg was biting into chocolate as he pondered over compositions in the cabin at Troldhaugen in Bergen?
“We looked a lot into this and would have loved to find a nice story of him eating chocolate,” said Kraft. “Everything we read about chocolate, we could not find anything about Grieg and chocolate. We know he spent summers in his composing hut in Hardanger. There are a lot of apple orchards there. Hardanger apples have a great balance and the feel of Norwegian nature, as does his composing. When we looked at flavor, we wanted to have a taste of Norway with a reference to him. We want it to be a tribute to the fans of Grieg. This is why we worked closely with the Edvard Grieg Museum, Troldhaugen, and the Grieg Society in development. We’ve received only positive feedback. Orchestras, composers, have honored us with feedback.”
Grieg traveled all over Europe and went to the famous Leipzig Music Conservatory for education and exposure to different music. “We tried to do somewhat the same,” said Kraft. “We looked for the best ingredients in Europe.”
The result: Belgian dark chocolate and Lübeck marzipan, enriched with apple juice from Hardanger on a layer of Viennese hazelnut nougat. “The choice of ingredients is influenced by our heritage,” said Kraft. “Marzipan is a classic confectionery ingredient, which has long traditions in Norway. With its eclectic combination of marzipan with apple juice and hazelnut nougat, Grieg Suites is rich and innovative, creating clear references to the national romance that Edvard Grieg represents.
“Originally, the project name was Grieg Thaler. The name comes from old money in Norway (riksdaler),” said Kraft. “We changed the name to Grieg Suites after looking at his own transcript of notes. He used the word “suite.” Suite is universal in all languages, so works in all languages. It has a fantastic double meaning.”
The chocolate itself is not too sweet, but what really sets it apart is the marzipan that contains the Hardanger apple cider. It gives it somewhat of a tangy taste, which is quite unique. “The Grieg Suites candy feels light and refreshing to the palette,” said Lori Ann Reinhall, who was on site for the event in Chicago.
The chocolate’s unveiling was on June 15, 2018, as part of the 175th anniversary celebration of Grieg’s birth. All his compositions, from Opus 1-74, were played in chronological order, called Minute by Minute, broadcast by NRK over 30 hours from Troldhaugen, Grieghallen and Store Studio by over 600 musicians. “The chocolate was served at three main venues in Oslo and Bergen,” said Kraft. “There were three different orchestras: Bergen Philharmonic, TV orchestra and various artists and pianists. It was an amazing event. The longest TV broadcast ever.”
The chocolate can now be found on Viking Cruises and embassies throughout Europe. It comes packaged in four varieties. Each box or wrapping has Grieg’s signature over a copy of the music with a picture of the candy.
The Masterpiece contains 13 pieces because “Morning Mood” is the 13th of 26 movements. A copy of Grieg’s handwritten manuscript of the suite and a short bio of Grieg is included, while the imagery on the tray is also a sheet of music.
The Orchestra contains 93 pieces, because “Morning Mood” was written for an orchestra with two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings. Each member of the orchestra can have one piece of chocolate from The Orchestra box.
The Pianist has seven pieces in honor of Grieg’s first sonata, “Piano Sonata in E minor Opus 7,” written in 1865 and dedicated to Danish composer Niels Wilhelm Gade, an inspiration to Grieg.
Finally, there is The Soloist with three pieces, recognizing “Poetic Tone Pictures, Opus 3,” written at age 20 in Copenhagen, his first piece showing a connection to Norwegian folk music and the sound of Norway for which Grieg would become famous.
In May, Grieg Suites was thrilled to win the Super Gold Medal in the mono praline category at a competition sponsored by the Austrian Chocolate Association, toppling Austria’s famous Mozartkugel. “We enjoyed beating them on their home court conducted by their own association,” smiled Kraft. “We put the product together in Austria. They are the best manufacturer of these pralines with two fillings of marzipan and nougat. We create the recipes together on the line and do small tests. The product is still in development as we hope to increase shelf life in the future. Grieg Suites is manufactured in Austria, because it is a more niche product, easier to import.”
In 2018, they won the Best Mono Praline in the International Confectionery Competition.
They have found it can be a good tedium breaker at trade fairs. “We try to create a classical break,” Kraft said. “It’s good to sit down, have a break. We went to the world’s biggest trade fair in Cologne, Germany, in October. We brought in a Steinway piano and Norwegian pianist. For 10 minutes, we presented a concert to take the stress away from the trade fair and served the chocolate.”
Kraft says they want to target the gifting market in the United States, both the B2B segment and in premium retailers and hospitality. They have an American importer, Rise Distribution.
“We would like Grieg Suites to be the No. 1 premium chocolate product for people who love classical music,” said Kraft. “If someone wants to give a gift that represents Norwegian culture, they can give Grieg Suites for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and national holidays.”
In the future, we will be running an article about VGAN, Novelty Food’s vegan chocolate.
This article originally appeared in the October 4, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE.