By Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry,
Retail Confectioner
casselld@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: A match made in chocolate

I love it when worlds collide. Well, not always. I’m reminded of a time several years back when my best friend from high school encountered my then supervisor from work (who, unfortunately, invited herself) in the kitchen during my annual holiday party. Um, awkward. That said, collisions often lead to great things.

Take the item in today’s sweet & healthy eNewsletter about premium chocolate producer Lindt & Sprüngli, which recently named tennis champion Roger Federer its “global brand ambassador.” In this humble editor’s opinion, the partnership is a perfect match (pun intended). Like Lindt, the current No. 1 tennis player in the world is a class act, both on the court and off, who garners international respect.

Admittedly, I’m a little biased. My interest in the Lindt-Federer release was piqued for another reason: my love of tennis. It’s been my sport of choice since age six, when my father first put a racket in my right hand and a yellow ball in the other. I’ve been hooked ever since, playing both in high school and college. In fact, I still participate in tournaments as well as Chicago-area USTA (United States Tennis Association) leagues. I even serve on the board for the Evanston Community Tennis Association in Evanston, Ill.

In my previous life as a home furnishings magazine editor, I was well-versed in star collaborations, which served as great marketing vehicles for many brands, especially when it came to licensed collections. Some of the biggies were Bernhardt (Martha Stewart), Century Furniture (Oscar de La Renta) and Largo (Jaclyn Smith), to name a few. I got the chance to meet all three celebs, in addition to J. Peterman (of “Seinfeld” fame) and Grizzley Adams … you heard me. Some celebrities have created whole furniture industry empires. Take Kathy Ireland, whose home collection features everything from dining room sets and master bedrooms to floor rugs and lighting fixtures.

The food industry is filled with similar partnerships, from NASCAR sponsorships to Food Network-affiliated promotions to entire brands such as Newman’s Own.

It will be interesting to see where Federer takes his ambassadorship. (Soon, we may see Lindt commercials during Grand Slam events.) The tennis player certainly was a wiser choice than Swiss counterparts such as Martina Hingis, who left the sport unexpectedly after testing positive for drug use. (One of my beloved favorites, Andre Agassi, recently admitted to taking crystal meth, among other things, in his new autobiography, too. This is just one of several shocking revelations reported.)

Back in the day, Swedish player Stefan Edberg (another class act, and a personal fave) would have been a good representative of products from his own homeland.

English confectioners might still consider favorite son Tim Henman, who can do no wrong in Great Britain, despite his never really getting the job done at Wimbledon.

American chocolatiers looking to form relationships with famed tennis players would be hard-pressed to find anyone worthy in this day and age. Andy Roddick? Way too volatile. (As John McEnroe might say, “You cannot be serious!”) James Blake has been slipping in the rankings and, at age 29, is one of the oldest players left in the game. Perhaps up-and-comers such as Sam Querrey or John Isner will turn out to be winners in every sense of the word, worthy of industry endorsements and accolades. Ah, well, there’s always Pete Sampras, another class act who’s now retired, but is no less well-known for making his mark on the tennis world.

For now, Federer will stand as the lone ambassador not just for Lindt, but for chocolate-loving tennis players the world over. I’d say he’s gonna ace this one.

Barry Callebaut acquires Chocovic

Barry Callebaut, Zurich, Switzerland, has signed an agreement with the Nederland Group to acquire Spanish chocolate maker Chocovic S.A., specializing in chocolate and specialty products for industrial and artisanal customers. The acquisition underscores Barry Callebaut’s strategic goals of expanding its core business and geographic presence.

Chocovic has a corporate history of more than 130 years and runs a state-of-the-art factory in Gurb, Spain, approximately 70 km. north of Barcelona. It produces about 30,000 tons of chocolate and specialty products per year and has annual sales of approximately 60 million euros ($89.2 million); it employs about 120 people.

“With our reconfirmed focus on our core activities with industrial and artisanal customers, we now fully concentrate on expanding our existing business,” says Juergen B. Steinemann, ceo of Barry Callebaut. “The acquisition of Chocovic is an excellent, future-oriented opportunity for us. Chocovic will strengthen our position in Spain, it is a perfect complement to our existing offering, and we will use it especially as a platform to further build our gourmet business."

The current owners will retain ownership of the Nederland Groups’ other activities, including Moner Cocoa S.A. and Nederland S.A.

For more information, visit www.barry-callebaut.com and www.chocovic.es.

Federer named global ambassador for Lindt & Sprüngli chocolates

Swiss tennis champion Roger Federer has partnered with Lindt & Sprüngli in a long-term deal to serve as the global brand ambassador for his favorite chocolate brand: Lindt.

This marks the first time in the company’s 160-year history that it has linked its name to a celebrity. According to a release, the global frame of Federer as a top sportsman makes the partnership a promising opportunity for Lindt & Sprüngli to further enhance the global popularity of its premium chocolates and more firmly establish them in key global markets. Federer embodies the company’s “fundamental values of ‘Swissness,’ ‘premiumness,’ ‘quality,’ and ‘passion,’” the release notes.

“We are naturally delighted to be able to name Roger Federer, an exceptional and well-known Swiss icon, as our brand ambassador,” says Ernst Tanner, ceo and chairman of the board for Lindt & Sprüngli. “Together … we will become the foremost ambassadors for Swiss quality.”

Federer is equally delighted with the match.

“I am Swiss by birth, and since my childhood, I have always been a great fan of Lindt chocolate. I am very excited to partner with the global leader in premium chocolate. I enjoy their products and am very impressed with their plans for future growth.”

For more information, visit www.lindt.com.

Utz Certified delivers to Amsterdam

The first bag of Utz Certified cocoa arrived in Amsterdam last week, marking the beginning of the worldwide initiative to improve cocoa production practices. The product hails from two cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire, which were the first to receive Utz certification last September.

As reported in the Nov. 4 edition of sweet & healthy, several companies and environmental organizations have joined forces with Utz Certified and Solidaridad with the goal of sustainable cocoa production. Those involved include Ahold, Cargill, Ecom, Heinz Benelux, Nestlé, Oxfam Novib, WWF, Barry Callebaut and the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative.

For more information, visit www.utzcertified.org/cocoa.

sweet of the week: Cocoa D'or Chocolates Nutffles

American-made Cocoa D’or Chocolates brand Nutffles from Morris National, Azusa, Calif., feature a choice of a whole hazelnut, peanut or almond in a creamy nut filling surrounded by a thin, crisp wafer covered in Belgian milk chocolate. The all-natural product contains 0 g. of trans fat. The individually wrapped Nutffles come in a variety of package sizes and counts. For more information, call 1-800-6-MORRIS or visit www.nutffles.com.