Chocolate Frey AG

Boy, it sure would be great if every visit was like the one at Chocolate Frey, which commands the number one spot in the Swiss chocolate retail trade with a market share of 37%.

Within days of sending my letter of introduction to Managing Director Wolfgang Brokatzy I receive an e-mail reply from CFO Christoph Schmassmann, who lets me know he's my contact person.

Chocolate Frey is part of the Migros Group, Switzerland's biggest retailer with revenues of over $15.7 billion and some 80,000 employees. Chocolate Frey produces more than 34,600 tons of chocolate goodies a year (or 500,000 bars of chocolate a day) and gross turnover exceeds $261 million.

It's just starting to rain as I cycle up to Chocolate Frey's office/factory complex located in an industrial park on the edge Buchs, a suburb of Aargau. Never heard of Aargau? It's about 30 miles west of Zurich. The six-story office building dates from the 1960's but visitors enter via a spiffy new reception area located next door. Within minutes of my checking in with the receptionist, Schmassmann comes bounding into the lobby from across the street. What's across the street? His office which, happens to be located in a gum factory. Yep, the chewing gum factory is part of Chocolate Frey and, it's the only chewing gum factory in Switzerland.

The visit is a lot of fun thanks to the enthusiastic Schmassmann. Approximately 750 people work in the head office/factory. Parking is free and plentiful, there are no onsite recreational facilities, the company cafeteria is partly subsidized and smoking isn't allowed in the workplace–though designated smoking areas are provided. There's no formal dress code, cyclists enjoy covered parking, it's two miles to the nearest freeway and 30 miles to Zurich's airport. Any employee perks? Special prices on the almost 1,500 articles of chocolate and gum produced here.

After donning the customary white smock, hairnet and shoe covers I'm given a tour of the factory. Afterwards we head up to the top floor of the office building for a look in Managing Director Brokatzy's middle office. I like the hardwood floor, note the fresh flowers, one plant (real), a laptop, three crayola drawings from kids and, several chocolate tins. What's the view out his window? The factory.

Schmassmann loads me down with a wide range of Chocolate Frey products including handfuls of its Skai gum. After cycling a few miles I realize I've never seen a gum factory and should have asked for a tour. I end up giving myself a good chewing out.

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