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Life is like a box of chocolates … and so is business

Chocolats image

The French Chamber welcomed on Wednesday, July 25, Andre Zimmermann, Representative Director of Lindt & Sprüngli Japan, for a seminar of the Marketing and Retail Committee. On this occasion, Andre Zimmermann shared his experience inside the famous chocolate company, from its entry into the Japanese market to their projects for the future.

Founded in 1845, Lindt & Sprüngli is a Swiss chocolatier and confectionery listed company, leader in the market for premium quality chocolate and offering a large selection of products in more than 120 countries around the world. In Japan, the Lindt wholesale business is represented through a distributor since the mid-eighties. In January 2010, Lindt & Sprüngli Japan was founded to enter the retail business. Following the first Chocolate Café set up in the high-end Ginza district and with the inclusion of outlet park shops, the number of premises nationwide has increased to 37 and counting.

The Japanese market has peculiarities that require distinct measures and preparations. “Adaptation is key” for entering the market successfully. Everything has to be well thought through: from product offering, product placement and positioning, customer target group and much more. The “best before” date is treated uniquely in Japan leading to a lot of wasteful destruction of perfect chocolates. Shops often remove them with less than two months to go on whilst in Switzerland “best before” means “perfect until”. Hence, chocolate is sold until about a week before the expiry date. Given that shipping from the factory in Europe to Japan takes up to six weeks, timing gets crucial.Great attention also goes into packaging. Japanese people are very picky so even a small wrinkle in the chocolate bar wrapping will lead to its removal (and destruction). Great efforts go into quality control and nothing is left unchecked! In regard to quality and service, there is no room for compromise and therefore, the greatest attention is given to products destined for Japan.

For Andre Zimmermann, success in Japan has to be grounded on sincerity, a good network in which people know who you are, strong branding and the capacity to take risks. As a result, Lindt went from a 16 sq. meter shop in Ginza with a mere 3 employees in 2010, to 180 full-time hires dispersed in 37 shops, a production site for fresh goods, a large office and its new own 12,000 sq. meter reefer warehouse. This impressive growth is based on market know-how, a strategy of tapping into the unique desires and rules of the country plus a motivated team. Furthermore, having a fully supporting headquarters is key to make it all happen.

To conclude the seminar, the future of Lindt, its business model and management, the importance of branding and the reasons of owning a warehouse were addressed during the Q&A.

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France Japon Eco N° 157

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