Editor-in-chief Bernie Pacyniak talks with Ulrich Zuenelli about the companyâ??s plans to become a global company

We’re getting giddy in Chicago, temps are expected to soar to over 20° F today. Of course, other parts of the country are now beginning to feel the winter of our discontent. It’s not General Sherman that ravaging Atlanta these days; it’s sleet and ice. I feel your pain, rather, your shiver, honestly.

But it’s not just the great thaw that’s headed our way that’s making me feel giddy; rather, it’s some of the conversations I had in Cologne during ISM that’s making me feel really positive about the future of the confectionery industry. In short, consumers are seeking higher quality, more premium, even better-for-you products.

Now hold on, I know some of you are raising your eyebrows and nodding sarcastically as if to say that’s not really news. We’ve been hearing this for years.

OK, granted, you may have been hearing it for years, but there are signs it’s actually happening.

Editor-in-chief Bernie Pacyniak
Bernie Pacyniak

You know that cliché, can’t see the forest before the trees. Well, the reason it’s a cliché is that it still rings true. Shows like ISM allow us to mingle with confectioners from around the world and take in their perspective on the American market. And, guess what? Many of them are pretty bullish on the global consumer’s search for value and quality. That feeling extends to American candy lovers as well.

Let me give you just one example. I had an opportunity to sit down with Ulrich Zuenelli, chairman of Loacker, the Italian-based wafer and chocolate products manufacturer, at the ISM show several weeks ago. He revealed, with obvious enthusiasm, that the company had just established a U.S. subsidiary in New York City.

In doing so, it’s hired two national sales managers — Darius Rockware and Garey Logan — who will supervise the East and West regions of the country, respectively. The move signals a major commitment by Loacker to the U.S. marketplace.

Christoph Tribus, who’s been doing the groundwork here for the past couple of years, will head up Loacker USA as its president. The subsidiary will establish a warehouse in New Jersey as well as expand the brand’s broker network in the United States.

“It’s a big country with different trade channels and we’re looking to make a smooth transition, taking one bite at a time,” Tribus says. It will also expand its marketing presence, particularly in the area of social media networking, focusing on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

“We have a growing fan base and we want to share news and recipes with them,” he adds.

The company also looks to increasing its trade efforts, from sampling to exhibiting at shows. As Tribus emphasizes, “We’re not going to cut corners; we’re here for the long-term.”

Zuenelli, who’s always recognized the importance and significance of the U.S. market to Loacker, says it simply was time to make the move. Moreover, as he points out, 67 percent, or two-thirds, of the company’s sales come from outside of Italy.

In addition to North America, there’s been double-digit growth for the company in Asia Pacific, European and South American markets.

The “outstanding” surge in global sales has compelled the company to build a third facility, one adjoining its plant in Heinfels, Austria. That represents a €70 million investment.  

Anyone familiar with Loacker products knows the company’s fanatical about quality, insisting on only natural and high-end ingredients. There’s more than enough evidence out there to suggest that U.S. consumers want the same; the Great Recession having sharpened their purchasing skills and selections. Always conscious of value, shoppers today want quality, transparency and great taste in their confections and snacks. In other words, the new value is premium. Loacker is making a move to be in that mix.