Swiss chocolate manufacturer Lindt & Sprüngli reported a healthy growth in profits over last year with much of the improvement due to its stronger performance in the United States.
Net profit in 2000 came in at SFr76.2 million ($44.3 million), an increase of 9.3 per cent over the previous year. Sales increased by 6.7 per cent to SFr1.537 billion, much above the market average.
Ernst Tanner, chief executive of the chocolate group told swissinfo that its North American operation, which includes Lindt & Sprüngli USA and Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, had pulled in double-digit sales growth last year.
"Our two companies in North America contributed over $200 million towards total sales," Tanner explained. "Also our major markets in Europe out performed and our start-up companies in Canada, Australia and Poland grew by more than 25 per cent.
The company, which is based in Kilchberg just outside Zurich, is planning a massive expansion programme for its US business.
"We're rapidly expanding our Lindt store concept," Tanner said. "At present we have 55 stores, we will add 15 this year and thereafter 25 more stores per year until 2005 when we will have some 150 stores across the United States."
The company, which has a 155-year history, is a leading player in the luxury chocolate market both in Switzerland and abroad. And with that privileged position comes the responsibility to be aware of changing tastes in this exclusive market.
"Tastes are gradually moving towards more dark chocolate as people prefer the dark taste and a stronger cocoa flavour," explained Tanner.
However, milk chocolate lovers need not worry that they'll be overlooked. Ernst Tanner assured swissinfo that the company "will continue to develop all products as the majority of chocolate lovers still love milk chocolate" leaving those who favour white and dark still in the minority.
Despite more and more of Lindt & Sprüngli's business taking place abroad, with only 8.4 per cent of sales here in Switzerland, the companies Swiss roots remain strong.
"Swissness is very important as I think it's a guarantee of quality, freshness and reliability," said Tanner. "It guarantees that we use natural ingredients only, and the fact that we are Swiss based is an asset that Lindt owns and nobody else has."
by Tom O'Brien