International Confectionery sits down with CEO of Swiss chocolatier company, Läderach, Johannes Läderach, to chat about family legacy, expansion and creating trends in an innovative market
Can you tell us the background of Läderach and its legacy?
Läderach chocolatier suisse is a premium Swiss chocolate company, started in 1962 by my grandfather, chocolatier Rudolf Läderach Jr. Known for inventing and patenting the truffle manufacturing process widely used today, he operated the business for over 30 years before handing the company over to his son, Jürg Läderach. In the following years, my father developed the company and oversaw the acquisition of Merkur Confiserien AG in Switzerland, which had over 40 branches. It was at this time that our signature product FrischSchoggi was born, where every chocolate lover could buy a piece in their desired size, broken off from the large, unique fresh-chocolate platter fresh from the bar.
We started expanding globally in 2010 and opened our own chocolate factory in Bilten in 2012, before I took over as CEO from my father in 2018. My brother Elias became Head of Production & Innovation, and my brother David became Head of Digital & E-Commerce (though now heads up the Germany arm of our business). Since then, Elias has been crowned World Chocolate Master, and we’ve expanded across the globe, now operating in 15 countries and employing over 1,000 people worldwide. We’re the largest chocolate retailer in Switzerland, and are renowned for creating some of the freshest, highest quality and responsibly-sourced artisanal chocolates in the world.
What innovations/flavour combinations have you developed and what trends are you seeing in chocolate?
We’re incredibly proud to have my brother, Elias Läderach, heading up the Product & Innovation department at Läderach. In 2018, he beat 19 international competitors at the World Chocolate Masters in Paris to win the coveted title, and two of his ideas that particularly impressed the jury are now available for everyone to enjoy: the Masters Tablet Caramel, an intense dark chocolate combined with an exotic fruit and caramel filling, and the Masters Bonbon Mandarine, a fresh-cream truffle filling made from milk and dark chocolate, combined with a fruity mandarin coulis on a crunchy base.
When it comes to trends, we aren’t led by them but in fact start them; we’ve seen several companies try to copy our FrischSchoggi concept recently, but of course not to the same level of quality, freshness or range of flavours, let alone made with the same expertise and craftsmanship.
Do you see a rise in popularity for artisan chocolate?
Lockdown has seen a big shift in people moving away from mass-market impulse buys at supermarket counters and instead focus on quality indulgence that they enjoy as an occasion or regular ritual. With dining out off the cards for much of 2020 and 2021, we’ve found that consumers have invested much more in artisan products to enjoy at home. Now they’ve got a taste for it, long may it continue!
How many boutiques are there internationally? What are your plans to expand?
Läderach has more than 100 stores open worldwide, with over 30 more boutiques to open by mid-year through the takeover of leases for 34 Godiva locations in the US.
We open our bricks and mortar stores based on demand from customers and tourists who discover the brand on leisure or work trips and begin to ship it over, and this demand is what prompts decisions to launch into a country; in 2020 we opened an online store in China to meet this demand, for example.
Do you think consumers are exploring new specialty ingredients and looking for luxury chocolate items? Why do you think this is?
Definitely. As people travel more and experience different products and ingredients over time, they begin to finesse their tastes and palates accordingly. As before – with lockdown and restrictions on travel and dining, consumers have spent more time trying different types of their favourite foods and drinks and indulging in more luxury products as a treat. There’s been much more gifting over the past year too, with people keen to show loved ones they’re separated from that they’re thinking of them. What better way to do that than with luxury chocolates?
How has the business coped with lockdown? Has it been positive or negative for the business?
The impact of lockdown has inevitably been huge for us – as it has been for almost every business across the globe, with slower production, a reduction in footfall and a shortage of international tourists. When countries were in lockdown we conducted Virtual Chocolate Tastings with Elias, as well as video Factory Tours to keep customers connected to our brand when they couldn’t physically visit, and improved our online offering to fulfil the huge increase in orders.
Alongside this, we invested heavily into growth despite the pandemic, opening our UK flagship store on Regent Street in the summer as well as our US flagship on 5th Avenue in New York in December. We have also just launched House of Läderach in Switzerland, our new event location with its own café, factory store and tour, live production and a walk-in atelier where you can make your own chocolate.
Is sustainable and transparent sourcing of ingredients important to Läderach?
It’s of the utmost importance at Läderach; we produce 100% of our chocolate in Switzerland and meet farmers and their families on a regular basis, who live in Trinidad, Ecuador, Brazil, Madagascar, Costa Rica and Ghana. Our farmers share our passion of making some of the world’s best chocolate, and by working so closely with them we can take care of each single step and ensure best quality on our ingredients. Each farm we source our cocoa from is aided, trained and supported in environmental protection, social justice and economic viability through close cooperation with the local Rainforest Alliance organisations, which helps to achieve higher incomes from cocoa cultivation, conserve the environment and protect it from exploitation.
We are committed to the chocolate families in our sourcing countries, and set ourselves objectives that guarantee first-class cocoa quality and optimise cocoa cultivation in terms of increasing yield per unit area, environmental protection and job security. It’s also important to us that we support the generation of additional income for cocoa-producing families, and raise awareness to protect children from abusive work practices. To ensure all our objectives are implemented, we visit the cultivation areas at least once a year.
As a business and as a family, at Läderach we are just as interested in a fair price as we are in the wellbeing of cocoa farmers.
What do you see for the future of the business?
Despite the pandemic, 2020 and 2021 have already seen phenomenal growth for our business, and we’re excited to continue to grow our customer base and share our exquisite chocolate with as many people as we can! The remainder of 2021 will see us take over 34 Godiva sites in the United States, and we hope to double our visitor numbers in our House of Läderach in Bilten (CH) in the next five years globally.
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Editor, International Confectionery
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