The story begins in 1845. The confectioner, David Sprüngli-Schwarz and his inventive son, Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann, own a small confectionery shop in the Marktgasse of Zurich's Old Town.
They decide to be the first ones in the German speaking part of Switzerland to manufacture chocolate in a solid form. The delectable new treat evidently met with the approval of Zurich's social élite because, after two years, it was decided to move chocolate production from the cramped Zurich bakery to a small factory endowed with a water-supply in Horgen at the top end of Lake Zurich. Even at that time, as many as ten workers were employed.
In 1859, Sprüngli and Son opened a second and larger confectionery and refreshment room on Zurich’s Paradeplatz and purchased the freehold two years later.
In 1870, chocolate production was relocated to larger premises in Zurich at the “Werdmühle”.
When Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann retired from commerce in 1892, he had acquired a widespread reputation for the quality of his products and as an expert in his field. He divided the business between his two sons: The younger, David Robert, received the two confectionery stores.
The Paradeplatz store, the larger of the two, enjoyed magnificent success. Under his personal management, and subsequently under the exclusive management of his family successors, the ”Confiserie Sprüngli” acquired fame and repute throughout the world.
The elder brother, Johann Rudolf Sprüngli-Schifferli, received the chocolate factory from his father. A far-sighted and adventurous entrepreneur, Johann Rudolf first expanded the factory at the Werdmühle, equipping it with the most modern facilities then available.
Yet he rapidly realised that the site allowed no room for further expansion. He therefore sought and found a suitable plot of land in Kilchberg on Lake Zurich, and built a new factory there in 1899.
To raise the necessary finance, he converted his private company into ”Chocolat Sprüngli AG”.
At the same time he was offered the option of acquiring the small but famous chocolate factory of Rodolphe Lindt in Berne.
This daring step transferred not only the factory but also the manufacturing secrets and the Rodolphe Lindt brand name to the young Sprüngli company which now changed its name to “Aktiengesellschaft Vereinigte Berner und Zürcher Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli”.
Rodolphe Lindt was probably the most famous chocolate-maker of his day. In 1879 he developed a technique by which he could manufacture chocolate which was superior to all others of that period in aroma and melting characteristics.
Using the “conche” he had invented, he produced chocolate with the wonderfully delicate flavour and melting quality which we know and love to this day. His “melting chocolate” soon achieved fame, and contributed significantly to the worldwide reputation of Swiss chocolate.
In 1905, Rodolphe Lindt and his relatives, August and Walter Lindt retired from the company. Shortly afterwards the latter pair opened their own new chocolate factory, “A. & W. Lindt” in Berne, thereby breaching their contract. The ensuing legal action cost much money and stress and was not concluded until 1928 when the new firm was liquidated.
During the first two decades of the 20th century, the Swiss chocolate industry enjoyed almost incredible expansion, especially in export markets. Lindt & Sprüngli played a powerful role in this boom which persisted throughout the First World War. In 1915 the company exported some three-quarters of its output to twenty different nations around the world.
Between 1920 and 1945 the firm had to face almost unimaginable challenges. Global protectionism and the depressions of the 1920s and 1930s led to the progressive loss of all foreign markets and it was necessary to re-organise and concentrate on the slowly-expanding Swiss market.
The Second World War brought rigid import restrictions on sugar and cocoa and, in 1943, rationing. Even though sales ceased to grow between 1919 and 1946, Lindt & Sprüngli withstood all these critical episodes, because it adhered at all times to maintaining quality: even when consumers could hardly afford it, they still wanted only the best of chocolates!
After the war, demand exploded first within the home market and later abroad. The new challenge was to replace the ageing plant, so heavily used in times of crisis and war, to enlarge the now cramped premises, and thus keep pace with the sudden expansion of demand and markets. And in a short space of time, recruitment of personnel within Switzerland became a problem.
Whereas, with the exception of a subsidiary in England, pre-war efforts to establish operations abroad had ended in failure, successful licensing agreements were now concluded in Italy in 1947, in Germany in 1950, and in France in 1954.
Growth also progressed at home. In 1961, Chocolat Grison in Chur was acquired, in 1971 Nago Nährmittel AG in Olten, and the Gubor Schokoladefabrik in Langenthal. In 1971, all three were fully integrated as branch factories. In 1972, the LSCP process, developed by the company itself, was introduced into production. This was the most significant improvement to the manufacturing process since the invention of the “conche” and not only secured the quality of the product, but also required less energy and space than dozens of conches.
The first building-block for the establishment of an international group of companies was laid in 1977 with the acquisition of a majority stake in the French licensee “CFC Consortium Français de Confiserie”.
In 1986, the minority-owned German Lindt operation became a wholly-owned subsidiary and, subsequently, the factory site of “Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli GmbH“ was established in Aachen in 1988.
In 1986 “Lindt & Sprüngli (USA) Inc.”, which had been founded in New York in 1925 , was activated and a manufacturing site and administration building were commissioned in Stratham, NH.
In 1989, “Lindt & Sprüngli S.A.” in France was integrated into the group as a wholly owned subsidiary.
In 1993, the acquisitions of former licensees were completed with the takeover of “Bulgheroni SpA” in Induno Olona, Italy, a long-time licensee, which was re-named to “Lindt & Sprüngli SpA”.
Worldwide net sales by this time were reaching nearly 900 million Swiss Francs.
In 1994 “Lindt & Sprüngli (Austria) Ges.m.b.H.” was founded in Salzburg and later that year relocated to Vienna when, also in 1994, the former, well-known Viennese Confiserie-Group Hofbauer was acquired and integrated into the Austrian Lindt & Sprüngli company.
Due to the meteoric growth of the Lindt Group of companies, the Group’s structure was redesigned and a Kilchberg-based holding company was formed in 1994 whereby all the companies became wholly-owned subsidiaries of “Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG”. The former parent and manufacturing company in Kilchberg thus was renamed “Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli (Schweiz) AG”.
A further step in the company’s geographical expansion program aiming at the world-wide leadership position in the premium quality chocolate segment in all markets which Lindt & Sprüngli considers strategically important, was the acquisition, in September 1997, of the tradition-enriched chocolate manufacturer “Caffarel” in Italy (Torino) and in January 1998 of “Ghirardelli Chocolate Company” in the USA (San Francisco) as well as the foundation in 1997 of a new subsidiary in Australia, taking over the distribution and sales activities in the whole region.
In 2014, Lindt & Sprüngli acquired Russell Stover Candies, Inc., USA: The biggest and most important strategic acquisition in the company’s history. The new brands RUSSELL STOVER and WHITMAN’s perfectly complement the existing premium brands portfolio make the company the Number 3 North American chocolate manufacturer.
Today, the Group is comprised of manufacturing sites in Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy (two sites: Lindt and Caffarel), the USA (four sites: Lindt, Ghirardelli, Russell Stover) and in Austria; sales and distribution companies and sales offices in five continents. Lindt & Sprüngli also markets its products via an extensive, worldwide network of distributors.
Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG is a publicly held stock company of predominantly Swiss ownership, trading on the Swiss stock exchange.