Chocolats Halba AG



Wallisellen, population 10,000, lies about 10 miles northeast of Zurich and is home to candy and chocolate maker Chocolats Halba. The five-story building looks more like a warehouse than a head office and that turns out to be partly true as it is part warehouse and part head office. To the right of the building (and out of the picture) stands the factory. Since 1972 Chocolats Halba has been owned by Coop, Switzerland second largest retailer with more than $10 billion in revenues.

Checking in with the receptionist I see where visitors can help themselves to an open box of chocolates as well as wrapped pieces of chocolate. I take a pass on the chocolate because once I start I can't stop. After a few minutes I'm meeting with Karl Zeller, Divisional Manager.

Built in 1984, a total of 320 employees work here and in the factory next door. Employee parking is free and plentiful plus, the company helps pay the fare for those who commute via public transportation (train, bus). Smoking isn't allowed in the workplace, there's covered parking for cyclists, no formal dress code and the employee cafeteria is partly subsidized. It's 10 minutes to Zurich's airport, five minutes to the nearest freeway and 20 minutes to Zurich's city center. Any unusual employee perks? Free candy and chocolate at work.

CEO Felix Ruckstuhl occupies a large middle office filled with all kinds of interesting nik-naks. On one wall hangs a collection of porcelain rolling pins and on a window sill there's a collection of antique chocolate tins. On the other side of his office is a large collection of cut-outs used in baking–you know, tins shaped like an Easter bunny or gingerbread man. Ruckstuhl says he wears two hats–in the morning he runs Chocolats Halba and in the afternoon it's Panofina, Coop's bakery division. The view out his window? Hills, farmland and residential housing.

Before leaving I'm shown a good-sized room containing an impressive display of the company's various product lines. Zeller then makes a quick stop into the warehouse and when he returns I'm presented with a large box of goodies for the road..It looks like my taste buds will be getting a good workout.

Company website: www.halba.ch