The Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors has shaped the success story of Lindt & Sprüngli for three decades – a story of clear objectives, passion and strong values.
When you took over the management of Lindt & Sprüngli in 1993, you were initially faced with a challenging situation, in terms of both business and finances. What prompted you to take up this challenge?
The decisive factors were the growth opportunities I saw for the small Swiss chocolate manufacturer that was Lindt & Sprüngli back then. I was attracted by the idea of unlocking this potential of well over 100 years of expertise in the manufacture of premium chocolate products at an international level and of developing the long-established company into a global player on this basis. With a long-term vision, a comprehensible strategy and viable plans, a new team worked on our goals. The management team quickly developed a passion for our products and our uncompromising commitment to quality. We quickly came to a common understanding that we wanted to become the global leader in the premium quality chocolate market through innovative ability and creativity.
With this global expansion, you ushered in a new era at Lindt & Sprüngli. And successfully: Sales in your “Trentes Glorieuses” has increased sixfold, and both market capitalization and the distribution of profits have multiplied. What were the key factors along the way?
It all started with the clear objective of establishing Lindt as a global brand for premium chocolate products and becoming the market leader in every major market. Back then, our core markets outside Switzerland were Germany and France. At the heart of our strategy, our intention was to cover the whole of Europe while continuously gaining market share. Having previously worked for an American company, it was clear to me that we had to expand directly into the world’s largest chocolate market, the USA, in order to achieve a leading position there. We purposefully drove growth by acquiring premium brands. I am particularly proud of the fact that we were able to add two long-established US companies to our Group – Ghirardelli in 1998 and Russell Stover in 2014.
Lindt & Sprüngli – No. 1 worldwide
Market Capitalization 2022
CHF 22.67 bn.
CHF 660 mn. in the year 1993
Global Sales 2022
CHF 4.97 bn.
CHF 891 mn. in the year 1993
Registered shares 2022
CHF 102,800 *
CHF 3,460 in the year 1993
* March 1, 1993 | March 1, 2023
Why was this so important to you?
The acquisitions and expansion in the USA are among the most important milestones in our company’s history. They are reflected in sales of more than CHF 2 billion in North America in 2022, making us the number 1 premium chocolate product company in the US market. At the same time, we founded subsidiaries in other important markets such as China, Japan, and South Africa, as well as a joint venture in Brazil. Here, we built up the market for establishing our own subsidiaries through exclusive distribution companies.
Successful brands build on the strengths of a Group. Lindt enchants the world with chocolate. How have you kept that promise alive over so many years?
Lindt & Sprüngli has stood for quality, expertise, innovation and passion since the company’s beginnings. Lindt’s unique image as a premium brand is based on these four values, which we convey through two exclusive brand ambassadors. Since his first appearance a quarter of a century ago, our Lindt Master Chocolatier has become a genuine trademark of Swiss quality and passionate craftsmanship. I am particularly pleased that we were able to appoint a global brand ambassador in 2009 in the person of world-class tennis player Roger Federer. He stands for the same values as we do and carries our name out all over the world. A truly perfect double. We have more than 500 chocolate shops around the world, where we enable visitors to personally experience what sets us apart. We celebrated our 175th anniversary in 2020. That year the opening of the “Lindt Home of Chocolate” – a unique combination of a museum and a center of excellence was a true milestone. With our unique Lindt Chocolate Competence Foundation, we promote innovation as well and talent and further anchor Swiss chocolate expertise.
What role do the values play in your management?
They play a major role. When I became CEO, we agreed on a common set of values that we recorded in the Lindt & Sprüngli Credo, which are still valid today. Constant values are the corner stone of an appreciative corporate culture. After all, success is always the result of perfect interaction along the entire value chain.
Sales development of the Lindt & Sprüngli markets
CHF 2.30 bn.
CHF 825 mn. in the year 1993
North America 2022
CHF 2.03 bn.
CHF 36 mn. in the year 1993
Rest of the World 2022
CHF 650 mn.
CHF 30 mn. in the year 1993
You have been at the helm of Lindt & Sprüngli for 30 years. Where does this extraordinary loyalty to the company come from?
I always saw myself less as a top manager than as an entrepreneur. As such, I pursue long-term strategic goals and a clear vision in the interests of sustainable corporate governance. The continuity is in accordance with this and is as much a part of me as it is to my management team, and can be found throughout the ranks of our more than 14,000 employees.
At the same time, innovation is one of Lindt & Sprüngli’s strengths. How do you keep up the quest for the new?
It is important to always remain curious and open to new things in order to actively shape change. For me, the exchange with employees, partners and customers is just as inspiring as the interpersonal encounters and new impressions I experience on my international travels.
“We have succeeded in saving an important branch of Swiss industry and establishing our leading position worldwide: High-quality Swiss chocolate from Lindt & Sprüngli”
Trends are moving towards a healthy diet and strong climate awareness. How does chocolate fit in with that?
We consistently focus on the needs of consumers, but always bearing our consistent promise of quality in mind. Some examples of this are our vegan chocolate bars and “Excellence Cacao Pure”, whose sweetness is derived exclusively from the natural cocoa fruit. As a chocolate manufacturer that covers the value chain from bean to bar, environmental protection has long been important to us. This year, we are publishing for the first time scientifically-based objectives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, on the way to achieving a net zero goal.
Let’s take a look at the future. Where is Lindt & Sprüngli heading?
My wish is that Lindt & Sprüngli can continue to shape its future independently and autonomously while remaining a guarantor of above-average corporate performance. We achieve this by upholding our quality standards as an innovative manufacturer of premium chocolate products, thus making ourselves attractive to employees and shareholders alike.
Continuity Excellence Quality