The story of Lindt & Sprüngli begins in 1845 when confectioner David Sprüngli-Schwarz and his son Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann have a groundbreaking idea: Becoming the first to produce chocolate in solid form in the German-speaking area of Switzerland.
Zurich's social élite is open to the invention and discovers its passion for these sweet delicacies. After only two years, in 1847, the confectioner and his son decide to move their chocolate production from the cramped bakery in Zurich's old town to a small factory in Horgen with a direct water supply, on the upper end of Lake Zurich. They employ ten workers to ensure sufficient production.
In 1859, Sprüngli and Son open a second and larger confectionery on Zurich’s Paradeplatz.
Until shortly before the end of the 19th century, Sprüngli is still a small chocolate factory in Horgen and a patisserie on both Marktgasse and what is now known as Paradeplatz in Zurich. When Rudolph Sprüngli-Amann regulates the succession with a division agreement for his sons, he lays the foundation for the two independent companies "Sprüngli" and "Lindt & Sprüngli". In 1892 Rudolf Sprüngli-Ammann retires from his confectionary business. The Sprüngli companies, chocolate factory and confectionery shops are devided up among his two sons: The younger, David Robert, becomes the owner of the patisseries on Marktgasse and Paradeplatz, while the older brother, Johann Rudolf Sprüngli-Schifferli, receives the chocolate factory in Horgen from his father.
Johann Rudolf is a visionary, and an adventurous entrepreneur. Thus, he expands the factory and moves it from Horgen to Werdmühle, equipping it with the most modern facilities then available. To raise the necessary finances, he converts his privately owned chocolate company into ”Chocolat Sprüngli AG” and in 1898 he and his investors meet for the first time.
As Johann Rudolf rapidly realises that the site at Werdmühle does not allow room for further expansion, he seeks and finds a suitable plot of land in Kilchberg on the Lake of Zurich. The new, larger factory is completed and chocolate production is commenced in the following year.
1899: The Merger of Lindt and Sprüngli
At the same time Johann Rudolf Sprüngli-Schifferli acquires Rodolphe Lindt's small but famous chocolate factory founded in 1879 in Berne. He buys the company and the brand for 1.5 million Gold Francs (equivalent to approximately CHF 100 million today). This daring step gives Johann Rudolph's young company access not only to the factory but also the chocolate manufacturing secrets and the Lindt brand name. In consequence, Johann Rudolf changes the company name to “Aktiengesellschaft Vereinigte Berner und Zürcher Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli”. From then on, the two world-renowned, independent companies "Sprüngli" and "Lindt & Sprüngli" would officially exist.
In 1905, Rodolphe Lindt and his relatives, August and Walter Lindt retire from the company. Shortly afterwards the latter pair opens their own new chocolate factory, “A. & W. Lindt” in Berne, thereby breaching their contract. The ensuing legal action, dragging on for more than 20 years, causes high costs and stress and is finally concluded in 1928, when the new firm is liquidated.
During the first two decades of the 20th century, the Swiss chocolate industry enjoys an almost incredible expansion, especially in export markets. Lindt & Sprüngli plays a powerful role in this boom which persists throughout the First World War. In 1915 the company exports roughly three-quarters of its output to twenty different nations around the world. Despite difficult conditions, Lindt & Sprüngli incorporates in the state of New York in 1925, founds its first subsidiary in Berlin with a factory for licensed production in 1928, and froms a subsidiary in England in 1932.
Between 1920 and 1945 the firm has to face almost unimaginable challenges. Global protectionism and the depressions in the 1920s and 1930s lead to progressive losses in all foreign markets. In consequence, it becomes necessary to reorganize and concentrate on the slowly-expanding Swiss market. For this specific market, the chocolate bars Lindt Cream and Lindt Milk are launched. This is an innovative chocolate milestone, as, up until 1934, the Lindt brand was only used for the classic dark chocolate made according to Rodolphe Lindt’s original recipe.
In 1930, the company's name changed to "Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG".
After the Second World War, demand for chocolate explodes, first within the home market, and later abroad. The challenge now is to replace the ageing factory, so heavily used in times of crisis and war. The new goal is to enlarge the now cramped premises, and thus keep pace with the sudden growth in demand and market expansion.
Regarding subsidiaries, with the exception of the branch in England, pre-war efforts to establish operations abroad had ended in failure. However, after Second World War, successful licensing agreements were now concluded in Italy in 1947 with S.A. A. Bulgheroni & figli, in Germany in 1950, and in France in 1954.
The growth in Switzerland continues to progress. In 1961, Chocolat Grison in Chur is acquired, in 1971 Nago Nährmittel AG in Olten, and the Gubor Schokoladefabrik in Langenthal are acquired. In 1971, all three locations are fully integrated as branch factories.
In 1972 the company develops the "Lindt & Sprüngli Chocolate Process LSCP" and introduces it into production. This is the most significant improvement to the manufacturing process since the invention of the “conche”. It does not only secure the quality of the product, but also requires less energy and space than the dozens of conches in use up to then.
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”.
While the founding of subsidiaries all over the world is continued into the late 90s with departments in Poland, Canada and Australia, there is a change in the management board: 1994, Ernst Tanner is elected as Chairman of the Management Board and Delegate of the Board of Directors. In 1994, he succeeds Rudolph R. Sprüngli as Chairman of the Board of Directors.
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 strong growth of the Lindt & Sprüngli Group, and in order to meet the requirements of international expansion, the Group’s structure is redesigned, and a Kilchberg-based holding company is formed in 1994. With this step, all companies become wholly-owned subsidiaries of Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG. The former parent and manufacturing company in Kilchberg thus is renamed Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli (Schweiz) AG.
In 1997 and 1998, further steps are undertaken in the company’s geographical expansion program, aiming for a world-wide leadership position in the premium quality chocolate segment in all markets. Two such milestone are the acquisition of the tradition-enriched chocolate manufacturer Caffarel in Italy (Torino) (1997), as well as the foundation in 1997 of a new subsidiary in Australia, taking over the distribution and sales activities in the whole region.
Lindt & Sprüngli takes on responsibility from the selection of the cocoa beans to the production of the finished chocolate products – from „bean to bar“. That's why we decided to develop our own sustainable sourcing model for cocoa beans in 2008: the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program. The Program is established in all countries of origin of our cocoa beans, Ghana, Ecuador, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and the Dominican Republic. As of 2016, the entire cocoa bean supply chain from Ghana is traceable and externally verified. In the year 2020, we reach an important interim goal: 100% of our cocoa beans are sourced through the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program, resulting in a fully traceable cocoa bean supply chain which is externally verified by an independent third-party organization.
In 2013, the Lindt Cocoa Foundation is established with the purpose of working to achieve social and ecological sustainability in the cultivation process of cocoa beans. In the same year the Lindt Chocolate Competence foundation is founded and aims to sustain, cultivate and promote Switzerland’s long-term standing as a business location for chocolate and further strengthen Swiss chocolate-making expertise. The Foundation’s aim is the non-profit promotion of science and research, education, culture, and information to the public about chocolate.
Lindt & Sprüngli Today
Since the turn of the millennium, Lindt & Sprüngli has been continuously breaking new ground and conquering future markets that are not traditional chocolate markets. A very special focus is on the growing emerging markets Russia, Japan, Brazil (Joint Venture), South Africa, and China where we are represented by own subsidiaries. Further subsidiaries or regional offices of Lindt & Sprüngli are in the Czech Republic, Sweden, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, North-America, Netherlands, Mexico, Hungary and Portugal. Today, Lindt & Sprüngli is represented all over the world and Number 1 in the premium segment.
The Lindt Home of Chocolate museum opened 2020, financed by the Lindt Chocolate Competence foundation. The highlight of the attraction is the over 9-meter high spectacular chocolate fountain.