Local Business Spotlight – Biermann Marzipan
The History of Marzipan
The Egyptians, as early as 1800 B.C., are reported to have made marzipan from crushed almonds and honey; yet the mixing of the two very likely goes back to man’s beginning. According to legend, marzipan was so valued
in the early Nile River villages, that it was used for trade as coins called Marchpans.” Thus it spread throughout the human world. It was prized by the Emperors of Rome and became an important part of Italy’s culinary heritage.
The Crusaders carried it back to their homeland and during the Dark Ages it was made by nuns in France. During the Renaissance, the Kings of France cherished this delicacy; baking it into small cookies called “Massepains.”
The Spanish Armada brought it back from the East while the Conquistadors carried it on to South America. In Elizabethan England it was popular amount the elite and dubbed “Saint Marks Pain.” On to India with the Moguls, the Swiss covered it in chocolate; the Danish fashioned pink pigs for good luck and the Germans used it to decorate their Christmas trees.
Marzipan is an important Christmas tradition in most countries; the most charming is the Danish Marzipan Party. Invited guests are given prepared marzipan to shape and decorate, then a prize goes to the best sculpture. The guests may take their works home and hang them on the tree till Christmas. This international confection was brought to America by travelers who have visited Europe or those who are close to their European heritage. Many have enjoyed marzipan throughout man’s history, and it is now available to you from the creative hands of “Culinary Artists.”
The Keller Family’s Role in Marzipan
The Keller family has been in the candy business for over 20 years. In that time we have seen many changes in what is one of the few remaining cottage industries in the United States. These changes have resulted in considerable growth for many companies and the demise of others. Many of these companies are family owned and operated, from M&M Mars down to the mom and pop stores we frequent on the main streets of America. Here is a brief history of the Keller’s involvement and contribution to this cottage industry.
My father, Ralph Keller, worked for a major tobacco company for 25 years and had achieved the rank of Vice President of marketing decided that a change was in order. Looking to create a company for his wife, Rita, and himself, Ralph having quite a sweet tooth, looked into the candy industry for options. After considerable research, in 1979 he came across a small marzipan company located in Paterson, NJ called Crescent Confections.
Ralph brought his experience in manufacturing cheese in his youth and the many years of sales and marketing in the cigarette industry, as well as Rita’s many years of bookkeeping experience to the table. Their knowledge of marzipan was very limited, but they found the pleasure that this wonderful product brought to the faces of people and the great history of marzipan to be extremely rewarding. This was our beginning.
In January, 1984, Charles Zehden, a small Brooklyn, NY manufacturer of marzipan approached the Kellers with an opportunity to purchase Swissart Candy. Mr. Zehden, a German transplant who had a passion for marzipan considered the Kellers to be the ideal candidate to carry on his lifetime work after his retirement. This merger brought the knowledge of Mr. Zehden and the drive of the Kellers together. The merger required a larger facility and subsequent move to our current location in Wyckoff, NJ.
In April of 1994 Biermann Marzipan Company, our largest competitor came to the Kellers with a similar offer. Biermann Marzipan established in 1934 is the oldest marzipan manufacturer in the United States. This gave the Kellers a third line with upscale and award winning packaging as well as additional manufacturing capabilities.
Ralph Keller passed away on October 5th 1997, leaving behind an established and respected business. Rita remains as head of the company and matriarch to the Keller family. Rita and Ralph’s children, Cindy Forrey with outside office experience and myself, Royce Keller with a degree in business management, oversee daily operation and continue the family tradition. My son Hunter is our number one fan of marzipan, so the future looks bright for a third generation.Â Royce Keller – Proprietor
Satisfy your sweet tooth with MarzipanCandies.com