by Matt Allen, swissinfo.ch
Universally loved and recession proof, chocolate continues to be a sweet prospect for both manufacturers and consumers. But while sales growth is expected to continue on an upward path, the industry also faces fresh challenges.
New consumers have different tastes while established markets are riddled with health concerns and a fad for individualised products, according to a report from management consultants KPMG.
“Many companies are battling to stay on top of a rapidly shifting marketplace,” the report reads. “The requirement to offer local, highly tailored and increasingly diverse products represents a serious threat to market share.”
Chocolate’s association with Switzerland is a well-worn cliché, but not without good reason as the Swiss eat more per person each year (11.9 kilograms) than residents of any other country.
While the art of chocolate making may initially have been learned in Italy, milk chocolate was invented in Switzerland.
Switzerland is also home to the largest global chocolate maker, Barry Callebaut, which produces a huge range of recipes that manufacturers combine with other ingredients to turn into finished products.
Swiss entrepreneurs learned the art of chocolate making by travelling to Italy in the 19th century.
Jean-François Cailler opened a chocolate factory in Corsier, near Vevey in canton Vaud, in 1819. The company flourished for a century before merging with food giant Nestlé in 1929.
Other Swiss chocolatiers followed suit, with Philippe Suchard setting up his business in 1826 and Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann establishing the first chocolate factory in the German-speaking part of Switzerland (Zurich) in 1845.
Rodolphe Lindt started another of Switzerland’s most famous brands in Bern in 1879. Lindt invented the first melting (or fondant) chocolate product. He later sold his factory and recipes to Rudolf Sprüngli.
Theodor Tobler created one of the most famous Swiss chocolate products in 1908 – the triangular shaped Toblerone, made with honey and nougat.
Henri Nestlé’s baby food company moved into chocolate in 1904 and now produces some of the bestselling chocolate products, such as KitKat.
Along the way, Swiss chocolatiers have added their own valuable innovations. In 1875 Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate while working at Cailler.
According to the Swiss Chocolate Association (chocosuisse), Switzerland produced 176,332 tonnes of chocolate last year (more or less the same as 2010).
Some 60.4% was exported, while Switzerland imported 34% of its chocolate last year.
Sales dipped 3.1% to SFr1.7 billion ($1.7 billion), mainly thanks to the effects of the strong franc.
Swiss people consume more chocolate per person (11.9 kg) than residents of any other country.