First Zurich, then the World: The Rise of Lindt-Sprüngli

Many may not know this today, but before chocolate was as popular as it is today –by far the world’s favourite confectionary – it was known primarily as a sweet drink. What brought the love of solid chocolate bars to Europe and eventually the world was the work of a Swiss family by the name of Sprüngli-Schwarz.

In 1845, a small pastry shop run by confectioner David Sprungli and his son Rudolf dared to try something new – solid chocolate. A few other chocolatiers had tried their hands at it, but had not enjoyed much success.

The new treat quickly grew popular in Zurich, and after only 2 years the tiny pastry shop had to be left for a new, larger factory which had water on the upper shores of Lake Zurich, which at the time had only 10 people working there.

Beginnings and Endings in 1859

The success of solid chocolate bars continued to rise until in 1859, the father and son opened a second factory in Zurich. David Sprungli passed away in 1862, leaving the business to his son Rudolf, who worked tirelessly to continue the company’s expansion. Luckily, the business at the time was located in an area of Zurich that was booming, filled with banks, hotels as well as the stock market. This helped to propel the Sprungli chocolates to new heights, and by 1870 they already needed more space.

In 1880, in a new factory, with now around 80 employees, Rudolf (who by now had two adult sons of his own) retired from business life, leaving the company to his children. The younger of the two, David Robert, inherited the first two confectioner shops, while the older, Johann Rudolf, inherited the larger chocolate factory. He was a risk taker from an early age, and in that spirit set out to increase the size of the operation and update their chocolate making technology.

However, the Factory that he had inherited was not large enough to accommodate his visions of greater output, and so in 1898 Johan Rudolf Sprungli began building their new, larger location in Kilchberg on the shores of Lake Zurich where the company continues its operations to this day.

Lindt Chocolate Factory

By now you may be wondering where the name of Lindt comes into the equation. When the factory built in Kilchberg was completed, Sprungli partnered with a man name Rodolphe Lindt who had invented a process of chocolate refinement called ‘conching’. Very ahead of its time, Lindt and his conching process helped to further catapult the reputation of the smoothness of Swiss chocolate to a wider audience.

Good Profits in Bad Times

With Lindt-Sprungli rapidly expanding, by 1915 the company began experiencing unexpected boosts in profits, especially in e3xports. In no time at all, they were exporting to 20 countries around the world, which accounted for almost three quarters of their total chocolate production.

Fast forward a couple of decades: Europe is plunged into two World Wars. During these trying times, with economies at rock bottom forcing protectionism on their home countries, the demand for chocolate (unsurprisingly) dropped dramatically. Fortunately for the Lindt-Sprungli brand, the standards by which they produced fine milk chocolate did not drop at all, and this helped them to stay afloat in times of little to no profit.

Rising from the Ashes

Triumphantly, chocolate demand quickly rose after the war years, and not only in Europe. The global demand was now so high that their out-of-date machines had to be replaced and the factory enlarged. By the early 1950s, the company had begun to sign numerous licensing agreements throughout Germany, Italy, and France. It was during this exciting time of rapid expansion that the now revered Lindor chocolate ball was first invented.

In 1972 the conching method pioneered by Rodolphe Lindt was improved upon. The boost in manufacturing this allowed was as significant a boost to the company in the early 1970s as conching was in the 1890s. It allowed faster, more energy efficient outpout of chocolate than the previous ‘long-conch’ method did.

Now a publicly traded company, Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprungli AG has factories in six countries and distribution centers in more than 10. Their artisan chocolates continue to enchant chocoholics around the world, and the master chocolatiers they employ continue to come up with new and exciting flavours to excite our palettes.