Zurich unveils its chocolate fountain

Roger Federer, the tennis champ who is the brand’s 'ambassador’, helped Swiss chocolatier Lindt and Sprüngli to unveil a nine metre high chocolate fountain on Thursday.

Zurich unveils its chocolate fountain
Roger Federer and Ernst Tanner in front of the new chocolate fountain.Photo by AFP

Shaped like a pastry whisk at the end of which springs an immense jet of chocolate, this gigantic fountain sits at the center of the company’s new complex in Kilchberg, on the shores of Lake Zurich, where the Swiss chocolate maker hopes to welcome some 350,000 visitors each year. 

“It's an attraction that no one will ever forget after visiting the center”, Chairman of the Board Ernst Tanner told the media on the sidelines of the opening.

He did not mention, however, whether visitors will be able to sample the chocolate spewing from the fountain.

Tanner stressed that the goal was to create “something unique” — to present the brand, known simply as ‘Lindt’ in Switzerland and across the world, in all its facets, “from the bean to the chocolate bar”.

READ MORE: Swiss town coated in chocolate snow after factory glitch 

Lindt & Sprüngli’s sales, like those of other chocolate makers, plummeted during the coronavirus lockdown. 

The company, which manufactures the famous chocolate Easter rabbits, suffered the consequences of the closure of its stores during the Easter holidays, duty-free shops in airports, as well as the drop in demand for its catering services.

In the first half of 2020, its sales fell 12.7 percent compared to the first half of last year.

However, Tanner remains optimistic.

“Lindt has gone through all the wars in Europe, all the economic and financial crises and will also go through this pandemic”, he said of the company that was started in 1845 as a small confectionery shop in the Marktgasse in Zurich's Old Town.

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Swiss chocolate consumption falls to 40-year low in pandemic

The desire for comfort food during the pandemic has failed to boost the fortunes of Swiss chocolate.

Swiss chocolate consumption falls to 40-year low in pandemic

Swiss chocolate makers were perhaps expecting a sweet spot as people turned to comfort food during the pandemic but are instead facing devastating 2020 figures showing consumption in Switzerland melting to a 40-year-low.

Chocosuisse, the national federation of Swiss chocolate makers, painted a bleak picture this week of the impact that the Covid-19 crisis had taken on the industry, with plunging production, exports and even consumption.

And Lindt and Sprungli, one of the wealthy Alpine nation’s most famous chocolate makers, published its annual results Tuesday detailing a nearly 11-percent drop in its 2020 revenues, to 4 billion Swiss francs ($4.4 billion, 3.6 billion euros).

Amid lockdowns and a pandemic-fuelled economic crisis last year, it may not be surprising that Swiss chocolate makers overall saw their production fall, shrinking 10 percent compared to 2019, to 180,000 tonnes, according to Chocosuisse.

And exports, which account for nearly 70 percent of Swiss chocolate makers’ revenues, fell by more than that, slumping 11.5 percent in 2020, to 126,000 tonnes.

More surprising perhaps is that the country renowned for its love of high-quality cocoa products, where people gobble up more chocolate per capita than anywhere else in the world, also saw consumption drop.

Lowest since 1982

In fact, annual consumption fell to below the symbolic threshold of 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds) per person, dipping to 9.9 kilos — the lowest level since 1982.

A major contributor to the drop, Chocosuisse chief Urs Furrer told AFP, was the steep decline in foreign tourists, who tend to tip the consumption scales.

The per capita chocolate consumption in a country is calculated by dividing the volumes sold by the number of inhabitants, leading to inflated figures in Switzerland, where chocolate treats are a favourite souvenir.

“It would be impossible to calculate the exact consumption of residents, because in shops, the salespeople do not know if their customer lives in Switzerland or is a tourist,” Furrer said.

But the absence of tourists is not the whole explanation for last year’s decline. In Switzerland as elsewhere, the health crisis and accompanying restrictions including forced teleworking, has had a clear impact on consumption habits.

“Consumption also dropped in areas that are usually crowded with passers-by, like train stations and city centres,” Furrer said, pointing out that chocolate was often an impulse buy by people on the move.

Physical distancing requirements have also taken a toll on social occasions where handing over a box of chocolates might be expected.

“The sale of gift boxes of pralines has also declined,” Furrer said.

At the same time however, the sale of raw products like chocolate masse usually used by chocolatiers, bakeries and patisseries rose last year as more amateurs delved into making their own sweets at home.