Haco AG

I'm visiting Swiss chocolate and cookie makers so I thought I'd add Haco to the list as it's a manufacturer of food products such as cereal bars, seasonings, desserts, breakfast beverages and coffee. Most of its products are sold to restaurants, corporate cafeterias and private label grocers. It turns out to be a complete waste of time thanks to Peter Speck, the company's dismissive and narrow-minded managing director.

The company's headquarters lies about five miles east of downtown Bern in the small town of Guemligen. The six-story, 1970-ish building connects to a large, block-long factory. The factory butts up to railroad tracks.

I lock my bike in a covered area reserved for employees commuting via bicycle and proceed to the security booth. Anyone wanting to get into the factory or head office has to check-in with the guard. The security guard doesn't speak English but seems to understand when I say I'm from California and point to Managing Director Peter Speck's name on my questionnaire. About five steps from the security guard's booth is the reception area manned by a receptionist. The guard points for me to take a seat in the reception area while he makes a phone call.

A glass display in the small reception room shows off a sampling of the company's products. Visitors can also help themselves to cereal bars in a basket on the counter. Haco manufactures these bars for Migros, Switzerland's largest supermarket chain. I'm very familiar with these bars (Farmer) as I'm a fan of the one containing caramel filling and coated with chocolate.

The guard calls me over to the phone and I find myself talking to Managing Director Speck. I explain what I do and how I sent him a letter of introduction a month earlier. I ask if he knows who ended up with the letter. Speck says he doesn't remember it and goes on to say that neither he nor his staff has time to talk with me. I ask if maybe the person who opens his mail might know about the letter. Speck says he opens his own mail and gets "hundreds of pieces" and if he doesn't recognize who it's from it gets tossed unopened into the trash and with that I'm summarily dismissed off the phone.

Hmmm, let me get this straight. On the back of one of those cereal bars is Haco's address. If a consumer wrote Speck to complain or compliment, the letter would be tossed unopened unless Speck recognized the name on the return address on the outside of the letter? Haco does business in 30 countries. Does that also mean the company has missed out on business opportunities because a potential customer's letter wasn't opened due to Speck never opening letters from people he doesn't know?