Zweifel: 50 years at the top: fifty years ago, the Zweifel family of Canton Zurich unexpectedly entered the crisps business. Half a century later, the eponymous brand is the national market leader. You can't say crisps or chips in Switzerland without thinking of Zweifel, Swiss News investigates how the business developed its crunch.

Author:Mirza, Faryal
Position:BUSINESS - Company overview
 
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The Swiss can't get enough of Zweifel Pomy Chips. In 2007, the company turned 22,000 tonnes of Swiss potatoes into 5,400 tonnes of crisps, which were then bought by 70 per cent of crisp consumers in Switzerland. Revenue during the same period was SFr 176.3 million, an increase of nearly six per cent from the previous year.

"It was all started by the cousin of my father," says Hansheinrich Zweifel, president of the privately held snack food company.

Humble beginnings

When farmer Hans Meier heard that they made crisps out of potatoes in the United States, he asked his wife to fly up a trial batch in their kitchen. Happy with the results, he started selling the snacks to his friends, who were mostly butchers, and to pubs. He enjoyed some success, until his untimely death in 1956.

Meier's cousin and Zweifel's father, who was in the cider business, stepped in to help his bereaved relatives. When it became clear that Meier's son was not interested in the business, Zweifel's father bought it. That was in 1958.

While his father worked on increasing production, Zweifel was studying food science at the Federal School of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. Keen to make his own way in the world, he was sceptical when his father made him an offer to work in the family business.

But, the offer--to help develop a new product in the field of crisps--turned out to be too good to refuse.

Evidently, it is a decision that he doesn't regret because 50 years later Zweifel is still with the family business.

Zweifel realised early on that the best crisps had to be enjoyed flesh. "As a food engineer, I discovered this problem and found a creative answer, which I am proud of: the Fresh Service," he tells Swiss News.

The secret of the Fresh Service success was sending driver-salesmen to customers every fortnight to replace their out-of-date snacks with flesh ones.

"In those days, that was sensational!" Zweifel says, of the revolutionary service which no doubt helped to give the company a competitive advantage.

The Fresh Service is still in action today with 150 driver-salesmen covering the entire country. So, in theory, it should be nigh on impossible to buy a bag of stale Zweifel crisps.

Delighting taste buds

2008 proved a good year for the snack company. At the time this article went to press, Zweifel said it was on target to meet its sales growth goal of around eight per cent, compared to six per cent the previous year.

Zweifel puts this down to...

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