Our tale is deeply intertwined with that of a family, which over three generations has worked with dedication, love and never-ending passion to make the life of millions across the globe sweeter every day.
This timeline shows how a small local bakery became a large and innovative company, without ever losing its soul.
The story begins with Francesco Antonio Balocco, born in Narzole on 23 November 1903 to Antonio Balocco (1862–1928) and Domenica Dogliani (1869 – 1921). His father was a talented shop keeper, the owner of a sweet shop and grocery located on the village's main street, where he sold tobacco, spices, sweets and a range of foods. He was also a wine producer and an event planner, organising gala evenings, weddings and christenings. Francesco Antonio was the eighth of 12 siblings.
In 1914, at the age of 11, Francesco Antonio began an apprenticeship as a pastry chef in Bra at the Converso patisserie. This was one of the most renowned regions for confectionery at the time: during the Belle Époque, Converso pastry chefs even conquered the Waldorf Astoria in New York with their art. In the following years, Francesco Antonio moved to Turin, where he continued his apprenticeship at Pasticceria Giordano on Piazza Carlo Felice, then at Pasticceria Fréjus on Piazza Statuto and finally at the iconic Confetteria De Coster.
In 1923, Francesco Antonio Balocco opened his first patisserie with his brother Alfredo, who was one year his elder, on Via Marconi in Fossano. In 1927 the two brothers decided to go their separate ways. Alfredo left Fossano to move to Ventimiglia, while Francesco Antonio bought a patisserie in Fossano, near Piazza Castello. Thanks to his long apprenticeship, Francesco Antonio was more than up to the task, and won increasing numbers of loyal customers. As a result of the shop’s popularity, Balocco decided to expand the business, employing eight assistants and two saleswomen. Fresh and dry pastries, cream cakes, pastilles and spirits were produced every day on the premises. In January 1930 Francesco Antonio married Lucia Cussino, and nine months later, on 10 October, Aldo Balocco was born. Sadly, Lucia died from complications linked to Aldo's birth on 18 October 1930, at the age of just 23. In 1933 Francesco Antonio opened his second patisserie, taking over the business of a family from Turin. This new venue was considered to be the most beautiful patisserie in Fossano, at the end of the central Via Roma. It was furnished with Empire style furniture, and was a charming spot with a stylish and modern design.
During World War II both patisseries were destroyed by the Blackshirt militia in September 1943.
Francesco Antonio and Aldo Balocco had to escape to the Langhe hills, where they found shelter in a farmhouse in Santa Lucia (the name Lucia crops up a lot in the Balocco family history!), near the farms owned by the son to be President of Italy Luigi Einaudi. Immediately after the war, Francesco Antonio moved back to Fossano, while Aldo returned to Cuneo to complete his studies. Soon, both the workshop and the two patisseries on Via Roma and Piazza Castello were able to re-open. Eight assistants and four saleswomen (two for each premises) were hired to revamp the business. Business was particularly good at the weekends, and so Balocco decided to produce biscuits for the wholesale market, in order to optimise his workforce. In 1949, Aldo suggested expanding the business by moving production to a 5,000 m2 site on Via San Bernardo in Fossano. This new factory had 30 employees.
In the mid 1950s the first ovens with trolleys were installed to produce panettone. However, in order to create and sell larger quantities of panettone, a longer shelf life was needed. Balocco tested the use of sourdough and coating the panettone with hazelnuts, grains of sugar and toasted almonds, a recipe which would become Mandorlato Balocco, a bestseller for years to come. This new Balocco product went down so well the company decided to expand its wholesale distribution beyond Piedmont, extending its network to include Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Veneto.
At the beginning of the 1960s the company started building a sales network, and in 1964 they bought a 70,000 m2 plot of land on Via Santa Lucia (Fossano), where in 1967 they started building the new factory. In 1969 production was moved from Via San Bernardo to Via Santa Lucia, where the company is located today.
Mandorlato was so well received that Aldo Balocco decided to invest in advertising, as a growth strategy and to make the company better know nationwide. The first TV advert was broadcast on 1 December 1975 on Carosello, the only advertising programme in Italy at the time. Every day at 8.30 pm Carosello brought joy and excitement to all the children who were allowed to watch it before going to bed. Carosello, however, was mostly a comedy sketch show, and the advert part had to be clearly separated, with the product only presented at the end.
Aldo Balocco decided to hire the most popular showgirls of the time, the Kessler twins, to promote his Mandorlato. Success was just around the corner, and very soon Mandorlato entered every Italian family home, with its advertising seen in shop windows and on buses in all the major cities.
Mandorlato soon became iconic. Part of the reason for its success was a popular advertising campaign featuring the American dancer, singer, actress and showgirl Heather Parisi. She was one of the most popular personalities on Italian television in the 1980s, the star of the Saturday night variety show 'Fantastico', which had the highest ratings ever recorded in TV history.
The theme tune 'Cicale' became a hit in 1981-1982, spending several weeks at number one in the Italian charts and receiving the Gold Record. 'Cicale' was then used for the new Mandorlato TV advert, starring Heather Parisi. The jingle was so popular millions of Italians would find themselves humming it for years to come.
Balocco continued to grow exponentially: in 1987 the company's production area reached 32,000 m2, its turnover exceeded the equivalent of 14 million euros, and it had 135 employees.
Thanks to its unabated success, the company was soon courted by a large American multinational company, which was hunting for popular brands to access the Italian market. The offers made were undeniably attractive, but Aldo Balocco decided to resist, sensing that his two children were ready to enter the family business.
In 1990, Alessandra and Alberto, the third generation of Balocco leaders, entered the company, while in 1994 Francesco Antonio Balocco, the founder, passed away at the age of 91.
This generational handover undoubtedly helped make Balocco's business model one of the most successful as in Italy. Its strength lies in its strong family-oriented vision and its ability to innovate and compete in an increasingly globalised market. At Balocco the handover was seamless, with father and children working side by side every day for the success of the company.
In 2003 the production area was expanded to 44,000 m2. With the launch of its frollini breakfast biscuits, Balocco started to deseasonalise the product range. The advertising format changed too: in 2006, a new character was created to tell the tales of Balocco. 'Il Signor Balocco' takes viewers to a bygone factory with a magical atmosphere, showing the caring touch and dedication the Balocco family had and will always have for what they do. 'Il Signor Balocco' turned out to be a very shrewd move: sales volume, turnover and market share continued to increase. On 2 June 2010, the President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano appointed Aldo Balocco 'Cavaliere del Lavoro' (Knight of Labour), in recognition of the fact that his company is a source of pride and a point of reference for the local economy. In addition to the TV advert campaigns, since 2010 Balocco has also been involved in sport sponsorship: its name was blazoned on the shirts of Juventus FC for the 2010/11 and 2011/12 TIM Serie A Championships, and it has sponsored the Giro d'Italia Pink Jersey since 2013.