During the past 18 years that I’ve been going to ISM, I’ve had the opportunity to interview a broad range of confectionery executives, people with all sorts of personalities and persuasions. In doing so, the chief executive often epitomizes the company and the product line, be they colorful and whimsical gummies, playful and sometimes mischievous jelly beans, classic and crisp wafers, intense and rich chocolates or elegant and inspiring biscuits.
When I was first introduced to Oscar Kambly III, president of Trubschachen, Switzerland-based biscuit manufacturer Kambly many years ago — and no I don’t exactly recall when — the man, the company and its product line were like one.
If you’re not familiar with Kambly’s product line, I’d heartily recommend getting a hold of these petite points of pleasure. From the famous Bretzeli, the traditional biscuit that adheres to his grandmother’s original recipe, to the sublime Butterfly, that lightness of being that incorporates fresh cream and butter, toasted almonds and a hint of lemon.
During all the years I’ve visited his booth, the message from Oscar has never wavered: Uncompromising quality; indulgence in incremental portions; inspiration in taste, texture and tradition.
So after a long day at the show, I saw an opportunity to sit down with the man who embodies class and character to discern how he views the incredible changes that have transpired during the past two decades. I wasn’t disappointed.
In between cappuccinos and treats, Oscar shared with me the joy of having his daughter and son-in-law enter the business, thus representing the fourth generation of Kamblys to eventually take over the company.
At the same time, he embraced the latest generation of consumers, that is Millennials, as being the kind of consumer that appreciates the company’s almost fanatical passion to producing the thinnest but truly flavorful biscuits in the world. As he explained, Kambly’s product delivers what today’s “discerning consumers” are looking for.
“I believe they appreciate the gifts of nature bestowed to us, and they are looking for truly natural, truly premium products that have been created with tender loving care. They also appreciate true indulgence.”
Given their thinness — for example, the Butterflys are 2.2 grams each — and richness, Kambly’s biscuit are already designed for portion control, sharing and sheer joy. Indulgence doesn’t have to translate into excess.
“To indulge fully, one couldn’t be trendier,” he says. It is incremental indulgence, as mentioned earlier.
To maintain such high standards, the company has continuously invested in new technologies. Having visited the Trubschachen facility nearly 15 years ago, I can attest to the sophistication necessary to produce such artisanal products.
A year ago, Kambly purchased the Tekrum plant in Ravensburg, Germany, from Griesson-de Beukelaer, which not only provided additional production capacity for the company, but also preserved a Southern Bavarian biscuit tradition.
“It was the most premium biscuit factory in Germany,” Oscar explained. That said, the plant needed upgrading to meet Kambly’s specifications, which when one considers not only improvements made on the three lines, but training of employees, took about a year.
“It is now a Kambly factory,” he says proudly.
As Oscar points out, the company doesn’t focus on short-term profit goals. Rather, its inspiration goes well beyond business plans.
“We’ve been investing and innovating over three generations [and no doubt will continue to do so],” he says. “A brand is a promise to be kept, so that whenever you taste our brand, you know it’s from Kambly.”
And when I indulge with a Kambly biscuit, I’m always reminded of the man behind that brand.