Meet the Maker: Darling Sweet’s Toffee from South Africa

Hentie van der Merwe and Frits van Ryneveld, the duo behind Darling Sweet in the Holiday Box: Michelin Edition, create traditional candies with new and unique flavor combinations. Here, we spoke with Hentie and learned about the origins of the company and what goes into making their delicious toffee.

© Darling Sweet
© Darling Sweet

Your toffee is so delicious! How did Darling Sweet begin?

Darling Sweet came into existence when Hentie van der Merwe and Frits van Ryneveld met in September 2013 and decided to start a toffee factory in Darling, South Africa – Hentie, with his passion for art and food, and Frits with his love for quality and design. Frits, who had been living in Darling for some years, was the first to come up with the idea. For him, it was obvious that Darling ought to produce the most delectable old fashioned, handcrafted toffees – seeing as one of its main ingredients, butter, is historically linked to the small town with its picturesque surroundings. The idea didn’t take long to inspire Hentie (an artist, lecturer and trained chef) to start journeying into the centuries-old art of toffee making, tracking down long-forgotten toffee recipes, and experimenting in the kitchen late into the night, all while teaching art students about art and photography during the day.

From the start, their idea was to produce a range of high-quality toffees that were handcrafted using traditional methods and with no artificial colorants, flavorings, or preservatives added. Thus, ‘clean label’ products were key, as well as to produce a range of toffee flavors that were unique to Darling and its surrounds, using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible.

We hear you’re very involved with your town of Darling, South Africa. Can you share a bit more?

Today,  Darling Sweet employs 18 full-time and 11 part-time members of staff, and we produce products in a facility in the stately Edwardian building on Long Street, which once housed Darling’s General Dealer business. Since Darling Sweets took occupation of this architectural landmark in January this year, it has also become one of the town’s top tourist destinations. The product range has expanded exponentially since the start of the company, and we currently have two product lines: toffees and toffee spreads.

Darling Sweet firmly believes in being involved in and supporting the Darling community, and this we do mainly (but not only) through our support of The Darling Trust: a charitable trust set up by Pieter Dirk Uys that assists the Darling community by empowering individuals to help themselves, mainly through participation in the sectors of education, skills development, and health. Apart from raising awareness of this trust through our marketing activities, we also contribute financially by donating part of the proceeds of the sales of our Tannie Evita’s Classic Toffee to The Darling Trust.

What are three words that best describe your brand?

Quality, hand-crafted, and preservative free

© Darling Sweet
© Darling Sweet

What is the overall goal or mission of Darling Sweet?

Darling Sweet’s goal is twofold: to establish the Darling Sweet as a brand of premier toffee from South Africa and globally, and secondly, to keep creating more jobs in the local Darling community, where the rate of unemployment is extremely high.

And finally, to touch upon your partnership with Try The World, can you tell use how you make the toffee that’s featured in the Holiday Box: Michelin Edition?

The process by which we make our famous Honey & Salt toffees is based on the traditional handcrafted method for toffee-making.  We start by boiling together, in cast-iron pots, the four basic toffee ingredients: butter, sugar, glucose syrup, and condensed milk. Then we flavour it with raw veldflower honey from the Cape Coastal region. Once the mixture has reached the right temperature, it gets poured into stainless steel pans that were lightly sprinkled with fleur de sel (sea salt). These natural sea salt crystals are hand-harvested along South Africa’s West Coast. Once the mixture is poured into the pan, another layer of fleur de sel gets sprinkled on top. The mixture is then left to cool and set to a certain point, before it is cut into little blocks and then left overnight to set completely. The next day the toffees are individually wrapped by hand using biodegradable film and then packaged. We hope you enjoy!