Camille Bloch, a family business founded in Berne, has been providing top quality chocolate and candies since 1929. It is the source of the Ragusa candy bar, a household name in Switzerland, and its 4% domestic market share places the company among the top five Swiss producers of candy and chocolate.
CEO Daniel Bloch explains that when his grandfather Camille founded the company he was building on Switzerland’s established expertise in producing fine chocolates; Switzerland was the place where both milk chocolate and ‘conging’, a process of refining chocolate, were invented. These innovations are typical of
the Swiss, he believes. He says, “As Switzerland has no raw materials, we are inventive in processing and transforming things. This is an intellectual capital that is unique to our culture here. My grandfather did not invent chocolate; what he invented was Ragusa, which is still the flagship of the company today.”
Innovative niche products
Camille Bloch invented Ragusa in 1942 during the Second World War when raw materials were in short supply. Out of necessity he included hazelnuts and hazelnut praline in his candy bar rather than producing the flat milk chocolatebar typical of the time. Ragusa was Switzerland’s first real candy bar. “He changed the chocolate bar’s shape, taste and name. This defines our company’s strategy today: we still make specialties, and we still start with niche products and make them grow,” Daniel Bloch explains.
The company is currently working on boosting its international presence. “The challenge to globalise is typical of Swiss companies,” Daniel Bloch points out. Camille Bloch is targeting Germany, Northern Italy, France and Austria as high potential markets for its products.
To gain market share, Camille Bloch intends to enhance global awareness of the ‘made in Switzerland’ quality of its products as well as the special features that set Camille Bloch products apart from others. The company aims to work with duty free sales to reach international customers while also increasing awareness of the Camille Bloch brand in Switzerland.
Chocolate and candy products are not like other types of products in that consumers tend to be conservative about their tastes in chocolate and candy, looking less for innovation than for familiarity, Daniel Bloch believes. “That is why we do not plan to enter the China market since there is no established culture there of eating chocolate,” he says.
“Instead of branching out into other types of products, Camille Bloch works with people who have an existing chocolate culture and brings that to a new dimension. We inspire loyalty in our customers because they know our brand will never change. Here in the Canton of Berne, we are a symbol of sustainability in the market,” Daniel Bloch says, noting that the company will also keep its chocolates affordable.
Core values typical of Berne
Berne is the ideal location for Camille Bloch. As Daniel Bloch points out, “Camille Bloch’s guiding principles are typical of the Canton of Berne: tradition, reliability and inventiveness. In addition, our company has perseverance: we were established in a time of crisis and we have continued through our positive outlook and determination.”
Another reason for Camille Bloch’s strength is that, as a small company, it has to be inventive to survive. “A large company can copy a small one, but a small one cannot copy a large one. A small company has to be more entrepreneurial, more of a pioneer. Since we are small, we can be flexible. Decisions can be made rapidly and every employee can express a point of view. We compete with big companies and we are still successful,” Daniel Bloch says proudly.
Promoting Berne’s strengths
Daniel Bloch believes Berne should work on making its attractions better known. “Berne does not have as strong an image as it deserves. We need to communicate our strengths more,” he says. Camille Bloch enjoys close relations with local government leaders and is known as a steady, reliable company which has never had to lay off staff in its history.
As Vice President of Berne’s Chamber of Commerce as well as Vice President of the Swiss Chocolate Association and a member of the board of other organisations, Daniel Bloch is a well-known community leader who is very positive about Switzerland as a place to live and work. He says, “Switzerland has always been a leader in many fields, and has a stable government and legal framework as well as humanistic values, openness, multiculturalism, and a capacity to adapt. Swiss people have always found ways to adapt to challenges. We are not always the first to see what it is that we need to do, but we are often very early in the game to adapt to new challenges.”