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The history of hagelslag

There’s a typical Dutch sandwich topping that can only to be found in the Netherlands, Belgium and some of the former Dutch colonies – hagelslag, those deliciously sweet sprinkles that are available in a large choice of tempting colours and flavours. And, hagelslag is not only a hit with Dutch children; it’s extremely popular with grown-ups too. Indeed, Dutch large and small seemingly cannot survive without a daily helping of hagelslag and many won’t even contemplate leaving the country without a box of their preferred variety crammed into their suitcase! But what exactly is hagelslag and what makes it so quintessentially Dutch?

From sprinkles to chocolate sprinkles and orange sprinkles

According to Amsterdam City Archives, the very first hagelslag originated in 1919, after the director of the Venco liquorice factory came up with idea of producing brittle white aniseed flavoured sprinkles during a particularly inclement spell of autumn weather. He named the product ‘hagelslag’ (or ‘hail storm’ in English) and began delivering it to bakeries and grocery stores up and down the country, where it literally flew off the shelves. Meanwhile Venz came under stiff competition from De Ruijter, who began manufacturing their aniseed sprinkles and fruit sprinkles in 1928.Dutch hagelslag
Just a few years later, the very first chocolate sprinkles were created, after the Venz chocolate factory received a deluge of letters from a five-year-old boy, repeatedly requesting a special chocolate topping for his bread. Venz introduced the resultant chocolate sprinkles in 1936 as chocoladehagel, since the name ‘hagelslag’ had already been patented by Venco.

In 1938 De Ruijter also expanded their hagelslag product range to include geboortemuisjes (literally ‘birth mice’). Their first birth mice were originally called ‘Oranje muisjes’ and presented in a large tin to Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard to celebrate the arrival of their baby daughter, Princess Beatrix. Photographs and films captured the proud royal parents enjoying beschuit (rusk-like biscuits) topped generously with Oranje muisjes and a brand new Dutch tradition was born.

The evolution of hagelslag

After the Second World War, the popularity of hagelslag burgeoned, thanks partly to increasing Dutch prosperity. To keep pace with the ever-growing demand, hagelslag manufacturers, such as Venz and De Ruijter, developed a large number of exciting hagelslag products, including chocoladevlokken (chocolate flakes), blauw en witte muisjes (blue and white mice), bosvruchtenhagel (forest fruit flavoured sprinkles), schuddebuikjes (biscuit sprinkles), rimboehagel (jungle sprinkles), extra pure hagel (sprinkles made from extra dark chocolate), XXL hagel (extra large chocolate sprinkles) and sprinkles containing less sugar. Today, the average Dutch supermarket now boasts in excess of 20 different types of hagelslag to cater for each and every Dutch taste and preference.

Hagelslag abroad

Hagelslag is a typical Dutch product, meaning that authentic sprinkles are only available in the Netherlands, Belgium and a number of former Dutch colonies, such as Suriname, the Dutch Antilles and Indonesia. Fortunately, Dutch emigrants and expats can still obtain all of their favourite Dutch chocolate sprinkles abroad via Holland at Home – a leading online Dutch supermarket, which ships more than 30 different hagelslag products worldwide.

Hagelslag facts

  • In Belgium chocolate sprinkles are often called ‘muizenstrontjes’ (mouse droppings).
  • Only chocolate sprinkles containing at least 32% cocoa may be called ‘chocoladehagelslag’. Hagelslag containing less cocoa is often referred to as ‘cacaofantasie’ or fantasy cocoa.
  • The majority of chocolate sprinkles currently for sale in the Netherlands are “UTZ Certified”, which means that the cocoa used to prepare them has been produced in a sustainable manner.

Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?

8 comments on “The history of hagelslag

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  5. Karen

    is the term hagelslag really patented by venco? i have seen AH, Venz and Céréal using hagelslag on their boxes..

  6. barrypiatoff

    Reblogged this on The Second Time Around and commented:
    I’ve never tried Hagelslag. Though the Dutch are right about mayonnaise on french fries. Thanks to Hollander Travel Esther for this.

  7. Reblogged this on Holland Traveler .Me.

  8. starproms

    I’ve always loved these delicious sprinkles and now my grandson is enjoying them too!

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