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chocolate money

Where is Swiss chocolate most popular?

By Jo Fahy, Filipa Cordeiro and Thomas Stephens

Switzerland has a longstanding reputation for making exquisite chocolate, but which countries buy the most from the Swiss?

According to the latest foreign trade figures from the Swiss Customs Administration, Switzerland exports the most chocolate to Germany. By weight, that was a delicious 21,381,465kg in 2015 or 19% of all Swiss chocolate exports.

In total, 115,432,431kg of Swiss chocolate were exported in 2015. Below you can see where to – in terms of weight (kg) and export sales (CHF).

The Association of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers analysed the latest numbers and said that at CHF845 million ($866 million), overall Swiss chocolate export sales were up by 2.5% on the year before. The UK was the second-biggest buyer of Swiss chocolate (12.1%), then France (9.4%) and Canada (7.7%). 

Belgium, another country famous for producing its own chocolate, was one of the nations where the biggest growth in Swiss chocolate exports was seen, along with the Netherlands. Outside the EU, Australia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Japan were also big growth markets.

In emerging markets like China and Russia, there was a fall in sales compared with the year before.

Swiss ingenuity

How did Switzerland come to have such a stellar reputation for chocolate when it doesn’t even produce its own cocoa beans?

Economist Ha-Joon Chang, who teaches at the University of Cambridge and recently wrote about the Swiss chocolate industry for the Financial Times, told swissinfo.ch that the Swiss had developed this “incredibly strong industry really out of nowhere”.

“Latin American countries like Venezuela or Ecuador boast that they have the best cocoa beans in the world, but how come when people hear the word chocolate, they think of Switzerland?” he said.

“First of all it’s a tribute to [Swiss] ingenuity and dedication to being perfect! But the interesting thing about Swiss chocolate is that people think that’s all Switzerland produces – OK, some luxury watches and maybe Swiss army knives – but they think the country lives off banking and services.” 

In fact, though, on a per capita basis Switzerland is the most industrialised country in the world, producing more industrial output than anyone else. The reason is that Switzerland specialises in so-called call producer goods – industrial, chemical, machinery, precision equipment – that people don’t see in their everyday lives. 

“The story of Switzerland is how you can by developing technologies to use machines better, to use chemicals better. You can actually create an incredible amount of prosperity in an environment that is very poorly endowed with natural resources,” Chang said.

Swiss chocolate is still popular abroad, but at home the story is a little different. In fact, sales in Switzerland dropped by 5.9% in 2015. Per capita, the Swiss ate a mere 11.1kg in 2015, compared with 11.7kg the year before.

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