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Chocolate Company Heidi Closes its Production in Lucerne

Chocolate Company Heidi in Lucerne will close at the end of the year. However, there is a follow-up solution from within the industry: Aeschbach Chocolatier from Root will take over some of the machinery and staff from January 1, 2023.

Chocolate Company Heidi is closing its production site

A piece of chocolate history comes to an end in Lucerne. Chocolate Company Heidi is closing its production site on Täschmattstrasse at the end of this year. “We deeply regret this step,” says Managing Director Philippe Scherer upon request.

He attributes the closure to the increasingly deteriorating economic conditions that have distressed Heidi. He is referring to energy-intensive production, significant price increases in almost all areas, and the high export quota, which has led to massive exchange rate losses due to the historically low Euro exchange rate.

Scherer emphasizes that the company is not going bankrupt. “This is an orderly closure of operational activities in Switzerland.” The corporation will remain intact, and the Heidi brand will remain there. This remaining corporation will be merged with the Heidi Chocolat Group AG based in Zug, which maintains production sites in several European countries.

The Julius Meinl family from Austria has owned the company and has been primarily active in the coffee business since 2013. “The well-known organic chocolate brand Heidi from Switzerland will no longer exist,” says Scherer. However, Heidi chocolate will continue to be produced in the remaining Heidi locations’ European production facilities.

For the operational business in Lucerne, Scherer found a follow-up solution with the competition: Aeschbach Chocolatier AG, headquartered in Root and celebrating its 50th anniversary, will take over a part of the machinery and staff from January 1, 2023. “We are taking over all wrapping machines and about ten employees, which will increase our workforce in Root to around 120 people,” says Managing Director Markus Aeschbach.

Wrapping machines are needed to package the chocolate in various bar sizes with personalized paper wrappers. Like Aeschbach, Chocolate Company Heidi also processes chocolate from other manufacturers.

Aeschbach is now essentially taking over the business with personalized promotional chocolate. “This integration poses a significant challenge for us. However, it further strengthens our leading position in the promotional chocolate segment. We are now uniquely positioned in this sector,” says Aeschbach.

For Aeschbach, this is not the first “company rescue.” Two years ago, the Root-based company acquired machines from the troubled Bernese chocolate factory Gysi.

Aeschbach’s Managing Director says they also suffer from the current price increases. “However, unlike Heidi, we have a small export share, so currency issues affect us less.” In terms of energy, they are also excellently positioned in Root. Since the beginning of 2022, the entire company has been certified as climate-neutral.

The chocolate processing in the Root factory is completely free of fossil fuels. The photovoltaic system on the flat roof covers up to 25 percent of the electricity needed for production, and further expansion is planned for next year.

The predecessor company, Schönenberger, was founded in 1977

Heidi’s managing director, Philippe Scherer, is relieved to have found a partner in Central Switzerland with Aeschbach Chocolatier and is willing to continue some of the former business areas. Most recently, Heidi employed around 30 people in Lucerne. Scherer says that the remaining 20 individuals have found new employers in recent weeks, with very few exceptions.

Heidi Chocolaterie Suisse SA was known as Chocolat Schönenberger AG until two years ago. Two years before that, the Zug-based chocolate manufacturer Heidi Chocolat acquired the Lucerne branded and promotional chocolate Schönenberger manufacturer. This allowed the then-owner of Schönenberger, Hans Rudin, to implement a succession solution for his company, which was then present in Lucerne with 60 employees.

Schönenberger was originally founded in Frenkendorf in the canton of Basel-Land in 1977. In 2003, the company merged with E. Sigrist AG from Rothenburg, followed by a move to Lucerne.

Original article: Luzerne Zeitung

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