BlogConfectionery & Fine Food

Introduction by: Peter Marshall


The one thing that can be said of the travel retail business is that there is real passion on parade at all times. Maestrani is a great example of this and the following interview with Thomas Leitner, CFO and Faozia Math-Ly-Roun, Senior KAM BD Avelines and Travel Retail, tells a fascinating story of a chocolate culture, that endures with its brands today. 

Peter Marshall (PM):  Thomas, can we start by you briefly giving us the background to the business.  What have been the significant milestones in the company’s history?

Thomas Leitner (TL):  Well, last year Maestrani actually celebrated our 170th anniversary!  Being amongst the oldest Swiss chocolate manufacturers, we are proud of our tradition and history.  But the thing we are enjoying the most is that we are successfully operating our family-owned business with strong growth rates. The 100 years celebration of our newly acquired Avelines brand is the latest significant milestone. In a life of 170 years, you are enjoying many highlights as you can imagine. Just let me point out two which are of huge relevance today. In 1987 our company produced the 1st organic chocolate worldwide. Being the pioneer in this field we have kept a leading position in the market and are positively touched that this competence starts to find its place in the Travel Retail market now as well. The second milestone I’d like to mention is the acquisition of our Munz brand. The Munz brand will celebrate its 150-birthday next year. With Maestrani, Munz and Avelines we are taking care of more than 420 years of Swiss chocolate competence.

PM: Faozia, how broad is your portfolio of products currently?

Faozia Math-Ly-Roun (FMLR): Our company’s portfolio with more than 700 sku’s covers all segments from gifting, informal gifting, home self-consumption, on the go consumption, etc.

In 2014 we started to develop and grow our international business by focusing on strengthening our presence in the Travel Retail area. We therefore developed unique Swiss chocolate concepts, exclusively dedicated to the Travel Retail markets.

Today we are offering an attractive assortment that is covering all requirements and additionally our Munz Kids Line, Munz Travel Line, Munz Swiss Organic Line and our Avelines pralines are clearly differentiating from other chocolate offers.

It is our continuous goal to offer new attractive Travel Retail offers – and not at all “more of the same innovation” items.

PM:  Of course, you recently acquired the Avelines brand from Favarger? How much difference has that made to the business?

FMLR: We’ve always had an eye on this very exclusive and high premium strong local brand of Geneva. Geneva, with its renowned international charisma, is an excellent fit with our aim to further strengthen the international development  of our Travel Retail business.

The acquisition of Avelines is a result of many years of close relations and talks over years. What difference does it make to our business? Well, we cover the formal gifting with a premium and exclusive Swiss brand that, with its 100 years of existence, stands for the highest Swiss chocolate competence. But not only that, now after slightly more than one year and after successfully taking over this delicious Swiss chocolate praline brand, we are launching an exclusive Travel Retail offer and will start the worldwide distribution with this rough diamond beauty. With these additional premium gift boxes, we are adding a selection of “adult gifting items” to our already successful and more kids-oriented Munz Kids Line and Munz Travel Line.

PM: Thomas, it seems quite extraordinary how the Swiss themselves are so closely connected to their regional brands of chocolate. Can you help explain?

TL: Well, Switzerland is a small country with a huge chocolate history. Even being a small country, you can find excellent chocolatiers creating great products but with only regional customers in all the areas. From your childhood to your golden age, you are surrounded by thousands of delicious chocolate treat offers  anytime and anywhere – if you live in Switzerland!! This makes the Swiss chocolate landscape very competitive and challenging. We do love this competition for excellent quality, and it is very fruitful for the continuous development of wonderful innovations! It is the best way to keep and further develop the excellence in taste of Swiss chocolates. With Maestrani’s more than 170 years of Swiss chocolate competence, we are proud to serve a growing number of international markets, especially with our unique Travel Retail concepts and offers and, in so doing, get the world’s consumers to buy our excellent tasting Munz and Avelines chocolates. Keeping the regional 100% Swiss manufacturing in our Happiness Factory, surrounded by Swiss nature.

PM: Now, as a company you have positioned yourself as the pioneer of organic chocolate, fully committed to creating sustainable brands. How much of a challenge is that in terms of production and packaging. Can you actually tick all the boxes?

TL: Sustainability is certainly in our DNA. Not only with our organic chocolate offer but in all our Munz and Avelines chocolates. We only have 100% Fairtrade certified cocoa. We have consciously chosen the FLO standard because it proves the best social impact when considering fair cocoa prices to the farmers. Using 100% of FLO fairtrade certified cocoa in all our chocolates and being 100% climate neutral (partly by CO2 compensation) does bring some complexity, of course.100% reusable and recyclable packaging solutions require a strong competence in our buying team. But due to our long-term experience in organic chocolates with its most aware and sensitive consumers, we are always a step ahead and this helps a lot to tick all the boxes. Our Munz Organic Chocoballs are a great example of how to offer a traditional Swiss hero product in a 100% sustainable or, should I say, Swisstainable way. It is our great pleasure to cover the needs of the travel retail industry regarding the growing consumer expectations about sustainability matters in the whole supply chain.

So what have been your key learnings?

FMLR:  The key learning for us is certainly that the time is right to play our role as pioneer in sustainability and organic chocolate offers in the travel retail industry. Airport authorities and shop operators can count on our proven track record. What easier way is there to express taking care about sustainability and consumers health than with our delicious Munz Swiss Organic offers. With our brand ambassadors tasting and promotion offers we are actively in touch with all flight passengers of our customers and do help to strengthen their image considering sustainability efforts.

PM: So, one final question. If there are three things you would like to say to the travel retail industry, what would they be?

FMLR:  Firstly, let your customers enjoy our great & delicious Munz Swiss Organic Chocoballs and tablets!

Second, you can continue to count on Maestrani to introduce dedicated and travel retail exclusive concepts like the Munz Kids Line and the newly launched Munz Travel Line. And, finally, we would like to thank all our industry colleagues for their collaboration and trust. We are here for you, to further develop differentiating confectionery offers  and  we will continue doing it with lots of passion.

PM: A suitable comment to close our interview. Thanks Faozia and Thomas. Let’s just  take a quick look at Maestrani’s short film which brings all the threads together.


Peter Marshall

Founder: Arts
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