Before Christmas, the schedule of Argenta Sales Manager Axel Dietrich is already packed with appointments for arranging the company’s business over the Easter period. There’s hardly any time left for anything else. “I work for a chocolate maker, after all!”
The company Argenta Schokoladenmanufaktur in Weißenfels has seen a remarkable course of development. Under the management of Axel Dietrich’s parents, Wolfgang und Ursula Dietrich, Argenta has been manufacturing products next to the river Saale in the south of the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt since the year 2004. The brand has been going since 1935. Following the insolvency of the company at its original location of Wernigerode, the well-known brand with its longstanding tradition, relocated. Its range of products, however, with the famous ‘Brockensplitter’ and ‘Nougattütchen’, has remained intact – and they aren’t alone. The Dietrich family and their 60 employees are putting new creations to the test all the time, as if the market has taught them one thing it’s that “We have to make sure we can surprise people all the time with new products. As popular as our well-known products are in eastern Germany, this isn’t enough over the long term. We will soon be bringing out a softer version of our Brockensplitter,” explains Axel Dietrich. Tastes are changing. The chocolate makers have clearly recognised the new developments in good time and have been able to respond to them with success.
Another reason may be the fact that Weißenfels and its surrounding region is home to a wide range of manufacturers of food products, such as Tönnies (meat), Frischli (milk), the sweets manufacturers Goldeck Süßwaren GmbH in Zeitz, and the chocolate makers Halloren in Halle, all of whom are competitors and rivals. The food industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in Saxony-Anhalt, a trend for which Argenta Schokoladenmanufaktur is also an example. “Our factory sales outlet in the Naumburger Straße proved to be very popular and we soon ran out of space there. We had a look around and eventually found an alternative in the shape of a former supermarket on the Zeitzer Straße,” recalls Axel Dietrich.
The supermarket had long since been vacated – and not only offered plenty of space under one roof but a large adjoining car park as well. It was practically ideal for resolving the space related problems, but it couldn’t go into immediate use. “We had already invested 14 million Euros in our manufacturing facility and had to find another 1.5 million Euros to create our Argenta World of Chocolate at the former supermarket,” explains Axel Dietrich. The opening party for the World of Chocolate took place in November 2015.
A glazed factory has been created in which those curious can see the chocolatier at their seductive work. Of course, the factory sales outlet also attracts visitors. And there is also a soothing smell of coffee from the adjacent café. The Zeitzer Straße is also home to laboratory equipment, a chocolate coating machine and a centrifuge for making chocolate Santa Claus and Easter bunnies. “We offer workshops for school classes and other groups, as well as for interested people who want to create their own pralines. Our workshops are popular,” enthuses Axel Dietrich. And it is also a centre of creativity, as the development department is also based in the World of Chocolate, up close and personal with the critical customers.
Sweet fruit on the bread by the tonne
ZUEGG Germany GmbH also makes products for lovers of sweet seductions in Zörbig, which is also situated in the south of Saxony-Anhalt near Halle, albeit without a display workshop. The 60 employees make jam which is sold throughout Europe and overseas under the brand name ZUEGG. In eastern Germany, especially in Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia, the location is known by the name of Zörbiger and the legendary sugar beet syrup “Über-Rübe”. “We mainly sell that in our region – but we are also nearing the limit of what we can produce,” admits Plant Manager Virgilio Spera.
The family-owned company, which is based in Italy and also has other locations in Europe, has recently overcome one of its other capacity issues, however. Since the Zörbig site is the only producer of jams in the ZUEGG group, a second production line was built there which began operating in October 2015. Six new employees were hired. The company invested 2.2 million Euros along with another 500,000 Euros for a new storage facility which takes empty containers and packaging. “We raised the money ourselves,” explains Virgilio Spera with pride. Over the past five years, ZUEGG has therefore invested almost six million Euros in its plant in Zörbig.
The demand rewards the courage to grow and the quality of the products generates new demand. “Last year we manufactured 13,000 tonnes of jam, this year it was 13,500 tonnes, and next year it’s set to be 15,000 tonnes. It was only 8,000 tonnes when I took the factory over in 2010,” reports Virgilio Spera. The company is planning to expand to 20,000 tonnes over the next five years.
The new production line provides the opportunity to address new customers. It was demand from Russia and the USA that gave the green light to the construction of the new production line. The fruit jams made in Zörbig also find their way to Brazil, Canada, Japan and many other countries.
The leading buyers are the Italians and the Germans, however. And which flavour is the most popular? “It varies,” says the Plant Manager. “In Germany it’s strawberry and raspberry, in Italy it’s apricot and in Russia it’s fig. We get our fruit from all over the world.”
Image caption: The second production line at the jam manufacturers ZUEGG Germany GmbH in Zörbig went into operation in October 2015.