Editor Bernard Pacyniak tours Valor Chocolates’ manufacturing facility in Villajoyosa, Spain with Pedro Lopez Lopez, the company’s ceo and managing director and winner of the 2011 European Candy Kettle Club award.
One of the most satisfying aspects of my job involves having the opportunity to sit down with confectionery executives one-on-one and quizzing them about running a successful business in today’s highly competitive climate.
What makes this opportunity even more enjoyable is that occasionally I get to cultivate a relationship that goes beyond professional obligations; I like to think that there are several individuals within the confectionery world that I can call friends.
Pedro Lopez Lopez, managing director of Valor Chocolates, is one of them. Consequently, when I heard the European Candy Kettle Club (ECKC) has chosen him as its 2011 award winner last year, I was pleased to have a chance to not only revisit the company, but to break bread with him personally.
Naturally, at each ISM, I make it a point to sit down and have some chocolates with Lopez, who never fails to greet me warmly at his booth. One of the reasons both of us have developed a rapport amongst ourselves involves trust and a lack of airs.
Lopez’s straightforward, down-to-earth style pretty much meshes with mine. That, coupled with a passion for his work as well as a zest for life makes us “compatico.”
Consequently, it’s particularly encouraging to see that Lopez’s leadership has continued to keep Valor in the forefront as Spain’s premium chocolate supplier. His dedication to bean-to-bar processing, his commitment to continuous improvement as evidenced by targeted annual investments and his fine-tuning of Valor’s strategic plan have delivered 7% annual growth during the past three years, a number anyone would relish in these critical times.
But there’s more to the man that business acumen. For example, after he had taken me on a personal tour of his facility, pointing out changes since my previous visit in 2004, we came back to his office to finish the interview.
Toward the end of the interview, he apologized for the interruptions during the course of the day, but, as Lopez explained, he was personally involved in handling much of the coordination needed to make the events planned for the ECKC members.
Organizationally, the company’s fairly flat and they really didn’t have a public relations person on hand to ensure all the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed for the two-day extravanganza planned. As he admitted, in today’s economy, everyone in the company has been asked to do more, including himself. But as he related to me, Lopez has learned to take things in stride, thanks in part to city’s annual Christian/Moorish festival. For the 2011 event, he was asked to take on the role of king of the Christians.
“It’s six days of celebration, and as king, you’re constantly dealing with a host of requests from friends and festival-goers,” he told me. Prior to accepting the honor, he consulted with colleagues who were past local monarchs about the responsibilities of being king during this truly one-of-kind celebration.
“They told me not to worry, just enjoy,” he said. And that’s what I truly admire about Lopez, he truly enjoys his job, which involves building a family heritage into one of the premier chocolate companies in the world.
Mind you, his responsibilities aren’t free of anxieties. But one flash of his smile tells you that both the man and his chocolate are keepers.
One last tidbit about the man. Upon finishing our interview, Lopez wanted to find out where I’d like to go to lunch.
“Do you like seafood?” he asked. Well, if you’re on the southwestern coast of Spain, one better like seafood. “Of course,” I replied.
“Do you mind going to a ‘warehouse’ restaurant?” he asked again. Lopez explained that it was an unassuming place with a limited menu, but with some of the freshest fish in town.
“Sounds like my kind of place,” I said.
Suffice to say that if you ever get a chance to visit Villajoyosa in Spain, stop by Casa Pachell. Try the appetizers and the grilled shrimp. And, Pedro, once again, congrats.