The History of Leonidas
In 1910, Leonidas Kestekides, a Greek-Cypriot confectioner in the US, travelled to Belgium for the first time to show his confectionery goods in the World Fair, and achieved great success with his products of outstanding quality.
The young Greek Leonidas Kestekides, as a confectioner in the US since the early 1900s, attended the 1910 World Fair in Brussels and the 1913 World Fair in Ghent as a member of the Greek delegation from the United States. He was awarded the bronze and gold medal respectively, for his chocolate confectionery and his patisserie.
Winning great professional recognition and fallen in love with a beautiful young lady from Brussels (whom he later married), Leonidas decided to settle in Belgium permanently. He opened tea-rooms in Brussels, Ghent and Blankenberge.
1935: In his ‘laboratoire’ on Marché Aux Grains, Basile Kestekides, who succeeded the founder, created a whole range of new chocolates, including the well-known ‘Manon’ of Leonidas.
The founder’s nephew Basile Kestekides took up the torch and incorporated the logo of an effigy of the King of Sparta – Leonidas I, in honour of his uncle. The master-confectioner sold his freshly made chocolates from the open-window of his shop in Boulevard Anspach. The goods were displayed in the shop window so that pedestrians can see them. This revolutionary concept, later known as the ‘guillotine-window’ shop became an immediate success. Since then, Leonidas chocolates have enjoyed a steadily growing reputation.
The founder’s dream, perpetuated by his successors, was to make these Belgian chocolates available to everyone in the world without lowering their standards.
The Leonidas ‘Manon’ perfectly illustrates this will to popularize the products: the innovatory idea was to replace the traditional fondant sugar coating with white chocolate; and the walnut with a grilled hazelnut. Very soon the Leonidas Manon with white chocolate and a grilled hazelnut became the kingpin of the Leonidas range.
In 1970, Leonidas became a limited company. The small confectioner’s workshop has come a long way!
Alexandros Kestekidis came to Belgium in 1940. He and Basile worked together and developed different flavours using praliné and chocolate. Alexandros took a keen interest in the company’s business and in the flavours of the pralines until the end of his chairmanship in 1998.
The family-run company refines and creates its recipes for the clients that by now has expanded far beyond the Belgian border. Leonidas’ expansion is seamless as the company remains vigilant and continues to guarantee the freshness in the products sold to its customers.
In 1983 and 1993, Leonidas opened two new factories to satisfy the demand from its loyal and ever-increasing clientele. In 2000, Leonidas bought the company that produces the «Deva» brand products in Slovakia.
At the dawn of the 21st century, Leonidas chocolates are on sale in 50 different countries in the world through a network of some 1,300 sales outlets. And the adventure continues …
Today, the name Leonidas stands for the quintessential Belgian chocolate to the Belgians certainly, but also to chocolate gourmets and gourmands all over the world, who are enjoying the Leonidas chocolates across the five continents.
Leonidas chocolates are on sale in 1,300 sales outlets, from Paris to Rome, from Sydney to Tokyo, from Brussels to New York…
Indeed, Leonidas chocolates are sold everywhere; whichever country you travel to, whichever city you find yourself in, you will find a shop carrying the Leonidas emblem. The world’s leading newspapers and lifestyle magazines also have featured articles on Leonidas chocolates.
Leonidas wins hands down!
In response to the question "What is your favourite chocolate?", most consumers said: Leonidas, the fresh Belgian chocolate. This was the outcome of the well-publicised “National Brands competition 2004” organised by the LDV advertising agency, and its partners. The basis for the competition was very simple: a list of the leading brands in each sector, from cars to washing powder was drawn up. A panel of consumers (25,252 as it happens) were then asked to express their likes and dislikes, choosing their preferred brand in each category. In the “Chocolates” category, there was only one winner - Leonidas. 51.7% of consumers consider Leonidas to be and remain the most popular chocolate in Belgium. The National Brands Competition is organised every year over the Internet, attracting an even younger section of consumers, who clearly love Leonidas chocolates as much their parents do. For the first competition held in 2003, Leonidas won the "Chocolates" category in the National Brands Competition hands down.
In November 2013, Leonidas was proud to be granted as a Royal Warrant holder of the Court of Belgium by King Philippe and Queen Mathilde. Leonidas will continue to be the purveyor of pure pleasure, striving to deliver you the delicious fresh chocolate from Belgium.