Halva is a sweet treat that Poles like and cherish, but its classic form is has somewhat been forgotten. Older consumers associate halva with a delicatessen product, both an exotic and a typically Polish delicacy, bringing back the memories of childhood and pleasant moments. Nowadays, halva is experiencing a revival, reaching younger consumers thanks to its new formats. What do we currently value the most in halva and what wouldn't we like to change in it?
Halva is primarily associated with our childhood and the unforgettable taste and texture, which cannot be replaced by any other sweet snack. Individuals who declare frequent consumption of this sesame-based snack appreciate its unique nature and buy it even a few times per month. Consumer tests show that the respondents’ choice of halva is primarily determined by the price, taste and quality .
What influences the taste and quality of halva that are so important to its fans? In the first place... the right raw material, its proportions, and even the production process itself – and to a very large extent. Even small modifications in production may completely change the taste of the product and affect its final quality. Even though halva is made of various ingredients worldwide (e.g. poppy seeds, nuts, and even carrots), the most popular halva in Poland is made of sesame seeds and has a vanilla flavour. And it is the Polish version that is considered to be the best and most delicious.
Why is it so important to knead halva manually? First of all, it helps to retain the fibrous texture of halva, which not only makes the product more consistent and prevents it from crumbling too much, but also significantly influences the senses that also create our experiences with the taste and quality of halva. This process is kept secret in the production plant, as each halva kneader presents his/her individual style, created on the basis of expertise and earlier experiences. The art of manual kneading is difficult to develop without adequate practice. Therefore, halva produced by two different companies with identical ingredients and recipe may be totally different from each other just because of this aspect. While today the trend for completely or partially “hand-made” products is obvious and we eagerly choose such products looking for a better quality vs automated production, a few decades ago it was not so clear. It was as early as in 1979 that the Polish halva maker Kazimierz Bartoszewicz from the “Optima” plant in Łódź (today: “Unitop”) argued in “DziennikPopularny” that:
„The fact that halva needs to be kneaded manually is not due to lack of mechanisation. Mechanically kneaded halva is no longer halva. – mechanical kneading of dough cuts the fibres” .
Hand-made halva is often labelled as such on its packaging – it is therefore worth paying attention to it. What is it all about? The mass from tahini and the other ingredients necessary for the production process is paddled (i.e. stirred using special oar-like ladle) and this task in our production plant is the responsibility of experienced specialists. This is the key to retaining the right texture of the final product, and the process of manual paddling leads to the formation of characteristic caramel fibres where the tiny particles of the sesame pulp accumulate. It may be said that the taste and quality of halva also depend, to a large extent, on the people who knead it, and especially on their attitude and experience. Do “the other ingredients” also influence the taste and quality of halva? Yes, but to a lesser degree. For instance, the fluffy texture of halva is guaranteed by the protein that aerates the product. For this purpose, specialists use chicken egg white, common soapwort root or, to achieve the best effects - a combination of these two ingredients in adequate proportions (as is done, for example, by Unitop).
Manual kneading of halva is preceded by boiling the halva mass produced from tahini and the other ingredients. Next, the mass can be formed into appropriate blocks. Is this halva then ready to eat? Not yet – to achieve its full taste and quality, it needs another 12 hours or so to cool down. Only then can it be packed and sent to stores.
While the expectations concerning taste and quality have remained unchanged over the years, and the value of halva is strengthened by the traditional nature of production, there are different consumer expectations as to the format of the snack itself and the opportunities to consume it. Consumers associate halva with their childhood, reminisce about the time spend together with their families, as well as the shared “enjoyment” and relishing of this luxurious and unique delicacy. At that time, it was common for consumers to eat larger formats of halva which could be cut up and shared among more people. What kind of halva is bought by Poles today? The mini version is now becoming more popular, which can be consumed “at one go”.
Why such a change? This is surely determined by contemporary expectations of snacks. We want to buy and consume them in a quick and convenient manner, paying increasing attention to the size of the portion and searching for smaller snacks. This is often the case outdoors, on the way to work or school, or during breaks once we get there, and during outdoor activities. When we search for halva, we are also interested in new, more comfortable formats to be consumed “on the go” and pay more attention to the size of the product bought. The mini-halva is perfect for that. The smallest of the formats also helps solve the problem of storing leftovers, which may simply crumble even more once put into a bag or backpack. The mini format can always be kept close at hand and consumed whenever we feel like it, without worrying about getting our hands dirty. A significant role is also played by the contemporary visual communication of products. Younger individuals are attracted to the interesting graphic design of the packaging and promotional materials available in stores. As a result, halva is no longer just an exotic delicacy for special occasions, but more often an ideal everyday treat that we can take with us for a trip or offer somebody with a cup of coffee.
To sum up, despite the passage of years, the nature of our favourite halva remains intact - it should be adequately crumbly and fibrous thanks to manual kneading, as well as guarantee full taste and top quality. We also want it to be produced from natural ingredients, which nowadays means the absence of palm oil that is a highly processed product. Without losing sight of the traditional taste, we adjust the size of the portion to consumers’ expectations – we care about comfort and convenience. Studies indicate that a 50 g halva bar is too big for women due to its filling nature . Our market offer regularly addresses consumers’ expectations and our mini halva can already be found in stores in three flavours, namely vanilla, cocoa and vanilla-cocoa (e.g. Unitop). One package contains a 20 g portion of such halva, and it is sold by the piece or by weight. So, as a halva fan, do you already have a hand-made mini halva in your bag? It will surely give you a good dose of sweetness whenever you need it!
 Halva and sesame snaps. Omnibus report, Havas Media, 21 July 2020
 Dziennik Popularny, No. 283 (9459), Łódź, 18 December 1979
 Halva. A report from the quality survey concerning category exploration for the Unitop brand, Bricoler, 23 July 2018
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