Josef Manner & Company AG

A former girlfriend was Austrian and every so often her mother would mail her a care package to our home in San Diego, California. This "care package" always contained an assortment of Manner chocolate wafers. That was my introduction to this manufacturer of chocolate goodies.

Mmm, there's a smell of chocolate in the air as I approach the factory/head office of Josef Manner & Company. I'm about five miles south of Vienna's city center and it's a mixed industrial/residential area. The factory complex takes up two city blocks and looks to have been here for a long, long time. A private street divides the factory into two and I'm sure that at one time it was a public street. Actually, the five and six-story buildings on the site look more like office than factory buildings because of the number of small windows on each floor.

Neither of the two guards at the gated entry speaks English but the gruff one motions me to follow him into a building after I show him the name on my questionnaire, Carl Manner, Chairman-Board of Management. Jeez, it's like entering time warp with the décor and bare bones furnishings definitely vintage 1940's or 1950's. Carl Manner's secretary remembers my letter of introduction sent a month earlier but says no one in management is around to meet with me. Fortunately she corrals the accommodating Sabine Peterlik to take care of the visit. Peterlik's business card reads "Product Management-International Sales".

Privately held and owned by three families, Josef Manner & Company (revenues of 112 million Euros in 2001) was founded in Vienna back in 1890. Peterlik is pretty sure the company has been on this same site since its beginning. Tallying up the factory workers and head office personnel, 390 employees work here.

There're no recreational facilities (no big surprise), smoking is allowed in designated areas, everyone (including management) eats in the company cafeteria, parking is available but employees have to pay, there's parking for bicycles and it's a 50-minute drive to Vienna Airport. Any employee perks? With their paychecks, employees receive vouchers for free candy.

What does Chairman Manner's office look like? Well, he doesn't have his own office but shares an extremely no-frills room with three others. Walking down a hallway you pass a room encased with large windows and inside are four desks lined up one behind the other. This is where senior management (members of the three families that own the company) work. The matching1950's-style desks go well with the sparse and dreary furnishings (no plants, paintings on the walls, personal items). The view out the window? The rest of their factory on the other side of the street. Family members sure can't complain money is being wasted on plush surroundings here.

Peterlik takes me into a locked room overflowing with the company's line of products. Wow, I didn't know Manner made such a wide range of delectable looking candy, cookies and chocolate products. Peterlik says to help myself to whatever I want. Hmm, two problems with that inviting invitation: the temperature has been in the low 90's-meaning the chocolate goodies will melt AND more importantly, I have very little room on my bike. So, it's out of necessity rather than politeness that I decline her repeated attempts to pile treats on my arms. Instead, I make do with several packages of chocolate wafer bars.