It's noontime on a hot summer day as I ride into Lenzburg, a
town of maybe 10,000 inhabitants, twenty-something miles west
of Zurich. All is not well, as I've just had a spoke break on
my rear wheel. It's a tricky business getting spokes fixed since
you first have to find a bike shop and then find someone who
knows what they're doing. Of course it's lunchtime and if I do
find a bike shop it'll be closed since everyplace shuts down
for two hours.
Wobbling along I find Hero's three-story head office located
next to one of their plants. It's a white building with blue
awnings and looks to have been built in the 1960's. Railroad
tracks mark the boundary of the factory's backside.
Seventy percent of Hero's $732 million in revenues comes from
the manufacturing of consumer foods such as jams, fruit deserts,
baby products and fruit juices. The remaining 30% come from baking
aids such as cake mixes.
As I check in with friendly receptionist Monika Fehlmann, I note
the several glass display cases in the lobby filled with samples
of the company's various product lines. I'm handed the phone
to talk to Ms. Corica, secretary to CEO Stefan Heidenreich. Ms.
Corica says they didn't receive my letter of introduction mailed
a month earlier and that the company's public relations people
are located in Zurich. I try explaining how this visit is a one
shot deal for me but the very unhelpful Corica cuts me off before
I finish speaking. Wow, not a very nice way to treat people let
alone a visitor.
Receptionist Fehlmann sees things haven't gone well and offers
me three Hero fruit drinks. I thank her and head outside where
I gulp down one of the cold drinks. Not much later I come down
with stomach cramps. Jeez, I should have known better than to
try one of those mixed fruit drinks on a very hot day. It's kiwi
and a bunch of other fruits mixed together. Oh well, things happen
in threes: 1) broken spoke 2) lousy reception and 3) stomach
To learn the origin of Hero's name I check the company's website.
Gustav Henckell and Gustav Zeiler established the company in
Lenzburg back in 1886. After Zeiler died in 1889 the company
was renamed Henckell and Roth after the two shareholders. Then
it became Hero, taking the first two letters of each name.