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Profit rises at Swiss baker Hiestand

Croissants are an important part of Hiestand's output

(Keystone Archive)

Swiss gourmet baker Hiestand - one of the world's leading manufacturers of frozen and convenience bakery products - has reported a big jump in profit last year.

Hiestand said its net profit in 2002 was up 140 per cent at SFr11.6 million ($8.5 million).

Turnover was also up four per cent at SFr301.5 million.

The canton Aargau-based company, which is best known in Switzerland for its croissants, has established a name for itself internationally with its frozen, ready-to-bake range of products.

In a press release on Thursday, Hiestand said it had managed to return to the same level of profitability as in 2000 despite difficult international market conditions.

Hiestand's philosophy centres on a commitment to produce "natural" food from the best raw materials.

In Switzerland the company uses only cereal grown under independent supervision and in an environmentally friendly way for its croissants, bread and bread rolls.

Free-range eggs and Swiss butter are other key ingredients in Hiestand products.

Recipe for success

The company says that the fact that its ready-to-cook products are frozen immediately after being made and are designed to be cooked quickly just before consumption offers unbeatable freshness - something which consumers appreciate.

"The bread sold in shops is as fresh, if not more fresh, as that sold in bakeries, given that our bread products can be baked at any time of the day or night," said Hiestand spokesman Michael Schai.

For some Swiss bakers Hiestand's concept of oven-ready products poses a threat to their existence.

"This development damages the baking trade," Gérard Michellod, the president of the West Switzerland association of bakers and confiseries, told swissinfo.

Michellod said consumers increasingly associated "fresh" with "oven fresh"- meaning direct from the oven - and wanted to be able to enjoy warm bread at any time of day, something bakeries cannot offer.

Swiss market leader

In Switzerland the company was able to build on its leading position in 2002 and increase sales by 17 per cent to SFr139 million, thanks to growth particularly in the wholesale and convenience foods divisions.

The company performed less well in its other key market, Germany, where sales at SFr109 million were 2.2 per cent down on the previous year. Hiestand said its bakeries operation was particularly affected.

Another area where the company's performance suffered was Japan, where the knock-on effects of the recession and temporary restrictions on imports of foodstuffs combined to push sales down ten per cent to SFr16.9 million.

Hiestand, which also has subsidiaries in Poland, Austria, Britain, Malaysia and Singapore, said it was facing the future with optimism thanks to improvements to its structure and the introduction of the most up-to-date technology in 2002.

swissinfo with agencies

Hiestand summary

According to legend, the croissant is an Austrian invention and dates back to the 17th century when the country was under Turkish occupation.
The croissant was later introduced to France by Marie Antoinette, the wife of King Louis XVI, and became popular with the aristocracy.
Hiestand is the Swiss market leader in the production of frozen croissants, bread rolls and other types of bread.
In 2002, the company increased profit by 140 per cent to SFr11.6 million ($8.5 million) despite difficult market conditions.
Hiestand employs 1,905 people.

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