Cocoa and chocolate manufacturers such as Hamester, Reese, Wichmann, Stockmann, Pea, Feodora, Venetia, Berger and Moritz once crowded the Hamburg region of northern Germany. As the largest port in the country, Hamburg accepted cocoa beans from West Africa, Asia and South America, making it an ideal place for cocoa processing and, subsequently, chocolate production.
Nowadays, no major chocolate manufacturer can be found in Hamburg, all having either gone out of business or moved to another area.
Even Wiebold Confiserie, which was established in 1968 by Rolf Wiebold, the chocolate truffle master, has left the famous port. Nevertheless, with its 6,000-sq.-meter plant just outside the city limits in Elmshorn, the company continues to build on a legacy started by Rolf through his son, Walter.
Rolf began his career as a chocolate master when he started as an apprentice after World War II making chocolate truffles. Initially, Wiebold Confiserie products were made in the kitchen of Rolf’s private home near Segeberg, Germany. His talents soon prompted the company to move to larger premises in Hamburg-Halstenbek.
Continued success enabled Rolf to acquire ginger and chocolate manufacturer Langenbeck in 1976, thus extending the company’s product range with ginger and marzipan specialities. Two years later, the company established a distribution arm called Chocon, which supplied the surrounding retail market.
In 1985, Rolf died unexpectedly at the age of 51. Succession fell to his son, Walter, who fortunately was well-prepared to continue his father’s legacy.
Not only had he been trained at his parents’ company, but Walter also gained valuable confectionery experience elsewhere, working for famed marzipan manufacturer Lübeck as well as other major chocolate companies in Belgium. In addition, Walter had had the opportunity to visit cocoa plantations in Brazil, providing him with invaluable “origins” experience.
Despite the tragedy, the company was in good hands. Slowly, Walter begins to make his mark, acquiring Krokant GmbH and consolidating it with Chocon Goslar, Wiebold’s distribution subsidiary.
In 1992, Wiebold Confiserie began construction on a new production facility just outside Hamburg in Elmshorn. The move enabled the company to expand sales abroad, including the United States.
The millennium ushered in further expansion, with Wiebold opening a sales office in New York City in 2003 and participating in the National Confectioners Association’s ALL CANDY EXPO in Chicago.
In 2003 and 2004, enormous demand for Wiebold Confiserie’s products enabled the company to add a new production line capable of handling 10 million chocolate truffles per month. A new packaging line with a capacity of 30,000 boxes per day helped support the new production capabilities.
Last year, in conjunction with its 40th anniversary, Wielbold christened a new headquarters facility - a three-story building measuring 1,000 sq. meters and representing a three-million euro investment. Besides administrative offices, the new headquarters also houses a research and development laboratory where tests are conducted to ensure quality and new products are created. The opening ceremony was attended by the American Consul General of Hamburg, Duane C. Butcher.
Today, the company produces about 40 tons daily, using Barry Callebaut chocolate couvertures and other ingredients of the highest quality, including marzipan from Lübeck. About 160 people employees work three shifts, with seasonal periods boosting totals. Interestingly, the jubilee year brought on the need to hire another 40 workers. Part of the company’s strategy is to manage the employees in a positive way, following principles such as “The five-finger hygiene rules” and “The five principles for managers.” It also adheres strictly to six principles of quality. (See sidebar.)
Fifty percent of Wiebold Confiserie’s products are exported mainly to the United Kingdom and other European Union nations. The company also does extensive business in Germany, where it has several thousand customers, alone. In export business, too, high emphasis is placed on private labels. Above all, confectionery retailers are being supplied with speciality products.
In the end, Wiebold Confiserie remains true to its founder. With more than 40 years’ experience, it has become one of Germany’s market leaders in this segment. It produces 60 varieties of chocolate truffles made without alcohol and 200 made with alcohol, both being partly hand-made. Its newest four-million euro truffle line, supplied by Chocotech, was built in just four weeks. Daily, its production capacity reaches 1 million pieces, which is 13 tons or 65,000 packs of 200 g. each.
The company strives for utmost freshness, using only the best ingredients as well as attractive, environmentally friendly packaging. Bags and boxes are covered with transparent lids of exquisite quality; chocolate truffles also are available in bulk. Seasonal articles complete the assortment; they include 260 varieties of chocolate truffle Easter eggs, 260 varieties of Christmas chocolate truffles and two varieties of Advent calendars. The shelf-life of the company’s truffles averages six months. Recently, it introduced a multilayer truffle made up of four fillings.
By combining automation and evolving technologies with traditional hand-applied touches and a strict adherence to high-quality mandates, Wiebold has earned consumer recognition for premium confections that are value priced. Recently announced figures from 2008 revealed a 15% sales spike.
To help usher in its next 40 years, the third generation of the Wiebold family has entered the company, with Sarah Wiebold now a part of the management team. But even after 32 years guiding the company, Walter will continue to have a hand in the business, remaining active as chairman of the board.
“For me, it is not only a ‘job,’ but a vocation, including body and soul,” he says. “I enjoy ‘living’ my profession constantly, although it means hard work and not just art, but craftsmanship, as well.”
One senses that this Hamburg/Elshorn tradition will not pass away.
Sidebar: Wiebold Confiserie's Quality Rules• We only buy from suppliers firms we personally know and trust, and who place the same high demands on themselves as we do.
• We only buy the best of the best and are completely uncompromising in any questions of quality.
• We always produce the best quality and freshness that can be achieved.Each co-worker is responsible for his work and we support him in this with no “ifs“ or “buts.”
• We wish to take the lead not only in quality, but also as regards price.
• The entire Wiebold Team has only one boss, and that is the customer.
• We only produce those products which we have perfected and dominated in more than three decades. Every day we wish to improve in terms of quality, rapidity and efficiency. We wish to take pleasure therein and have fun therewith and always take pride in what we have achieved. Everybody shall take pleasure in our products, regardless of whether he conducts business with them or whether he enjoys them as a consumer.