Dr Bayard

The history of the most famous Portuguese medicinal sweets

WORDS Sílvia Carvalho d’Almeida

Dr Bayard is a family business started by Álvaro Matias, a Portuguese man who was born in a small village in the north of the country. At the age of 16, he went to Lisbon in search of a better life, similar to my own great grandparents. 

Life was not easy in the midst of the Second World War, and to support his family, he had more than one job. One day, he would meet the man who would transform his life, a French refugee named Dr Bayard. This name later became famous in Portugal and abroad, especially amongst the Portuguese community. 

Álvaro Matias was a good man, and seeing the afflictions of his friend, he gave him and his wife shelter and food. When Dr Bayard was able to return home, Álvaro paid for train tickets. This allowed the couple to make the journey back to France. To show his gratitude, the man, who was supposedly a doctor, offered Sr Matias a recipe for cough syrup. 

Álvaro had the entrepreneurial idea to transform this syrup into cough sweets. He experimented with the exact amount of ingredients with his wife in the kitchen in order to get the caramel consistency in the centre of the sweet. 

I was able to speak to his grandson, Daniel Matias, who is now in charge of the company’s external communications. Daniel told me his grandfather was a very entrepreneurial man and sometimes a workaholic. He had come from nothing and had married his grandmother, who came from a more wealthy family, and in order to give her and his children the comfort he thought they deserved, he worked incessantly. 

Daniel remembers a story that runs in the family, which exemplifies this: when invited to go on holiday with friends to Spain, he didn’t relax but instead decided to go on an expedition of the county to source the finest machines for his factory. The factory, which started in his own kitchen, soon expanded to proper premises. It was very close to his house so he could spend all his time ensuring everything went well with the production. 

Álvaro passed away on 12 November 2007. Daniel remembers his grandfather with great joy since he would spend much time with him when he was a child. He used to live with his parents on the second floor of the factory building. Mr Matias, who lived in the same street, would always give him candies before he went to school, which he would share with his friends, and no doubt made him very popular. He perceives his grandfather as a very “determined, focused and persistent” person. Also, he describes him as very “dedicated to his family, and persevering.” 

By the time Álvaro got older, Daniel’s father had assumed command of the business, and his two sons followed in his footsteps. The only person in the family who actually doesn’t work in the business is his aunt, who became a doctor, even though she has her share in the company. Daniel, who once dreamed of making his career as a musician, soon understood this was what he should do, to help maintain the memory of his grandfather by helping to preserve his legacy.

Curiously, nobody knows where Dr Bayard maybe now or the whereabouts of his descendants, if he had any. Álvaro Matias tried to reach him several times, but apparently, Bayard is a common name in France, and he disappeared without a trace.

Dr Bayard’s sweets are sold across Portugal and to foreign markets through online stores dedicated to the sale of Portuguese products. It is one of the most well known and cherished Portuguese brands, and there is no child in the country who hasn’t already tasted it, especially if they had a grandmother like mine. 

After writing this article, I went and bought some of Dr Bayard’s sweets and let myself indulge in the memories they evoke as I acknowledged that love can come in the shape of a sweet. 

Álvaro was 16 years old when he left his village Vale da Mula to go to Lisbon and start a job in a grocery store
Álvaro became friends with a french refugee that escaped his country during WWII, Dr Bayard.
When Dr Bayard was able to return to his country he shared a treasure with his friend, a secret recipe for cough sweets.
Years later Álvaro, with the help of his family, started producing medicinal sweets at home.
The medicinal sweets were such a success a factory was opened in Amadora to produce more sweets.
They started to deliver all over the country to grocery stores, coffee shops and, because they were medicinal, to pharmacies.

With demand growing the factory was now making 1 milion sweets a day, always following the same original recipe.
José António Matias, Álvaro’s son, takes over from the company’s administration and gives continuity to the family business.
The Matias family



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