Hero AG

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 cramps.

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.