On the right bank of the Garonne river, mid-way between Pont Chaban-Delmas and Pont d’Aquitaine, the 70-strong workforce of an industrial...

Jock: the Bordeaux family business whose “crème” is a Bordeaux family favourite

On the right bank of the Garonne river, mid-way between Pont Chaban-Delmas and Pont d’Aquitaine, the 70-strong workforce of an industrial plant is hard at work around the clock manufacturing products under the brand name Jock. The name is familiar to the citizens of Bordeaux and beyond, and the company is responsible for what is, for many, one of the most evocative foodstuffs of their childhood: “la crème Jock”.

The delicacy was created by biscuit-maker Raymond Boulesque in 1938 on Rue Bergeret in the central Bordeaux Capucins district. His aim had been to invent an inexpensive cereal-based foodstuff for children at a time when sugar was both hard to come by and costly. The end-product proved just as popular with adults, who enjoyed the crème as a dessert in its own right.
Rue Bergeret and Raymond Boulesque. And his dog. (Right-hand picture from display in Jock factory shop.)
After the Second World War, Boulesque made a first attempt at diversifying into other products, developing a hot chocolate breakfast treat which was given the name Mars. He had been unaware of the identically-named chocolate bar which had been developed and produced in the UK since 1932. The Bordeaux version of Mars was soon dropped although the no doubt closely-related “Crème tradition au chocolat” is still available today and referred to on the company’s website as the “younger sister” of Boulesque’s original invention.

The venture went from strength to strength though and in 1955, under the leadership of the founder’s son Marius Boulesque, the Jock workforce moved to new premises on Rue de Bethmann, to the south-west of the city. That period, and the following phase, with a third-generation member of the family at the helm, Jean-Pierre Ballanger, was the start of the golden age of la crème Jock, which is still nostalgically associated by countless people with their childhood.

Jock staff at the Rue de Bethmann premises (picture from display in Jock factory shop),
and the scene at n°130 Rue de Bethmann today.
In 1999, Jock moved to the new purpose-built facility on Quai de Brazza where they can still be found today, and the current managers are Jean-Pierre and Jean-Philippe Ballanger, the great-grandsons of Raymond Boulesque. The diversification strategy which began all those years ago is paying dividends; the original crème now accounts for less than 5% of the company’s sales while its most bankable products include instant cake batter (their brownie recipe is a hit in the US) and other readymade dessert mixtures (some of which are marketed under the PrePat'33/PréPât brand). The company also manufactures countless products incognito. These are then sold under the brand names of chain stores such as Leclerc, Super U and Carrefour (output extends to icing sugar and yeast). Jock now aim to launch at least three new products every year and continue boosting revenues, which recently recorded a five-fold jump over an eleven-year period, hitting the €30m mark in 2012.


Since 2012, the full range of Jock products has been available for purchase in a quaint factory shop located on the ground floor of the facility and open during factory hours. The shop also stocks vintage branded souvenirs and cooking utensils, as well as prominent reminders of the company’s partnership deal with local Top 14 rugby team, Union Bordeaux-Bègles (their logo features on the outfits the players wear when warming up and the club's official rugby balls).

Recently visiting the shop, there was obviously no way I was going to leave empty-handed, and I ended up buying two packs of the original crème Jock, and readymade mixtures to home-bake  my very own lemon cake, cannelés and gâteau basque, all in the name of Invisible Bordeaux research, of course. So you will be pleased to know that so far I have carried out a number of kitchen-based experiments with the various Jock products (all apart from the gâteau basque mixture), the results of which were as follows:

First up was the crème Jock itself, and it soon transpired that it had been a good move to purchase two packs as I misread the slightly ambiguous instructions and ended up emptying the first pack, thus putting ten times too much powder into my pan of milk. The result proved inedible although I was able to use it to plaster over some unsightly holes in the bedroom of one of my children.

The second time round I paid far more attention to the recipe (confusingly, the recommended quantities are detailed in a separate box on the pack to the cooking instructions themselves) and opted for “crème anglaise” texture. Indeed, one of the beauties of crème Jock is that differing thicknesses genuinely do result in totally different desserts (such as crème dessert and crème pâtissière).

This take on crème anglaise, which was slightly less sweet than other products on the market, did prove successful and was used for a dessert made up of Rice Krispies hardened with, ironically, melted down Mars bars. It was rather delicious. What is more, after a further 24 hours in the fridge, the crème had hardened and was enjoyed the following day as a standalone dessert.

My second failed experiment involved the Jock cannelés. Cooking cannelés is a fine art and on that day I ran out of time. The recommended baking time was between 40 and 45 minutes and well beyond that deadline the cannelés were still not cooked on the inside, or golden brown on the outside. Perhaps this was down to the silicon baking moulds I was using (which should not have been issue). Whatever, I grew impatient and we ended up consuming the half-baked cannelés, all photographic evidence of which has been destroyed.

To end on a positive note though, my attempt at cooking the readymade lemon cake mixture was a resounding success. With the benefit of hindsight, the most difficult part of the whole process was opening the packet… then resisting the temptation to eat the raw mixture inside. Other than greasing the tin, no additional ingredients are required and once in the oven the cake bakes and rises within 30 minutes. The resulting cake was an absolute delight and, it might be noted, remarkably easy to slice.

If I’m to further develop my nascent love affair with Jock produce, I still have quite a bit of catching up to do though. A quick web search will result in a whole host of more creative recipe ideas posted by enthusiasts, the best source being the blog run by Jock themselves!
> Find them on the Invisible Bordeaux map: factory and shop, Quai de Brazza; previous locations on Rue Bergeret and Rue de Bethmann. 
> Official Jock website: www.jock.fr 
> Online shop including recipe blog: www.boutique-jock.fr
> Ce dossier est également disponible en français !
Finally, this great 1984 TV advert features Girondins football legend Alain Giresse:


Click here if video doesn't display properly on your device.

Although today's ads look more like this:


Click here if video doesn't display properly on your device.
 
Big thanks to Guillaume and Erik who suggested this subject!

4 comments:

  1. So why have I never heard of Jock? And what is the connection to Scotland?

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    1. Not sure how far the Jock influence extends. It's definitely a firm favourite in south-western France, but we'll have to monitor shop shelves throughout the country to work out where exactly the supplies run out. As for the name, wasn't able to find any information about that, although I'll put the question to them during the factory tour I may attend during the upcoming Journées du Patrimoine...

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  2. What a beautiful blog!
    I just fell in love with Bordeaux (as you can see here: http://lasagnolove.blogspot.de/2013/09/ma-vie-en-france.html) and send greetings from Germany!

    Love,
    Bambi

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    Replies
    1. Excellent, thanks for the message, it looks like you had a great time in Bordeaux!

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