Wernli Ltd.

I'm on the main street running through Trimbach, a small town of maybe 5,000 inhabitants, and across the street stands the factory and head office of Wernli. In Switzerland's highly competitive cookie industry, privately-held Wernli controls the largest share of the market.

In the picture that accompanies this story the blue four-story office building with the company's logo was built in 2000. Behind it you can see part of the factory where some four million cookies a day are manufactured. The four-story building to the right (the one behind the woman and stroller) is where confectioner Friedrich Johann Wernli-Studer opened his first confectionary shop back in 1905 (the family lived atop the shop). Next year (2005) Wernli will be celebrating its 100th birthday.

After checking in with the friendly receptionist I wander over to a glass display case filled with a variety of Wernli's cookies (they make 30 different kinds). The waiting area contains three chairs (a red, a blue, a black) and a bowl full of cookie samples atop a glass coffee table.

Withing minutes I'm meeting with CEO Peter Bagler in his second floor corner office. The visit goes well and why wouldn't it since Bagler is a fellow cyclist. About 270 people work here in the factory/head office. Employee parking is plentiful, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace, there are no onsite recreational facilities and, there's an outside terrace for breaks and eating lunch. There's no formal dress code, it's 10 minutes to the nearest freeway and a 45 minute drive to Zurich's Airport. Any employee perks? A substantial discount on company products. There's no company art collection but, they do have a collection of antique cookie tins.

Looking around Bagler's modern yet modestly furnished office I note the computer, plant (real) and arrangement of flowers (real). What's the view out his window? The cookie factory.

As I get ready to leave Bagler starts piling up boxes of cookies for me to take along. Though it's a generous gesture and as much as I like Wernli cookies, I can unfortunately accept only three as space in my saddlebags is practically nil.

Company website: www.wernli.ch