SCCC Swiss Canadian Chamber of Commerce (Ontario)

SUISSE news Fall 2018 / August 2018

Interview with Matthias Kunz of Emmi in Switzerland

A few words about your company

In 1902, 62 dairy farmers' cooperatives from the Greater Lucerne area joined together to form a self-help organization. Since the 1920s, this community has operated a small cheese dairy in the municipality of Emmen. This small cheese dairy was the origin of the Emmi company, which takes its name from this municipality. 

Emmi has grown steadily over the decades. At first mainly in Switzerland. However, since cheese exports have always been important for Switzerland, relations abroad were also cultivated. The first major acquisitions were Cheese exporting Companies in Switzerland. Later, acquisitions outside of Switzerland were targeted to gain Market access. One of the first acquisitions in North America was the US cheese dairy Emmi Roth USA in Wisconsin. Since then, acquisitions have followed in Switzerland, Europe, North and South America and North Africa. Emmi is now Switzerland's leading milk processor with participations and subsidiaries in 14 countries outside Switzerland. 6150 employees worldwide generate annual sales of around 3.4 billion Swiss francs, half of this turnover comes from the Swiss market.

Despite its internationality and professionalism, Emmi has remained at its core a typically Swiss company. The main reasons for this - apart from the great importance of Switzerland as the main production location - are the owners and the people on the Board of Directors and Group Management. As in the early days, the dairy farmers from Central Switzerland are Emmi's main shareholders. They hold more than 50 % of the shares in the listed company, representing the majority of the members of the Board of Directors and play a significant role in determining the company's strategy. 

How would you describe your company culture?

How is this culture evolving? Emmi has grown over one hundred years. Despite numerous mergers and acquisitions, many companies that have joined the Emmi family in recent decades have retained their personality. It is not Emmi's aim to bring all companies belonging to the Emmi Group into a centralistic logic. The acquisitions in most cases have, however, a very similar set of values. Some cultural aspects are different in their core, but the pragmatic, solution oriented culture of Emmi is predominant. Central values - such as above-average quality thinking, the constant search for differentiation and cost awareness - should be shared, as well as proven methods and processes to be successful in such sharing. This facilitates the internal company know-how transfer and enables joint learning and further development.

When did Emmi first enter the Canadian market and with which products?  What was Emmi's experience (and are there still any challenges)?

Canada has been an important market for Cheeses from Switzerland for over 100 years. Emmi entered the market by acquiring traditional cheese export companies in Switzerland about 20 years ago. Today, Emmi is bringing mainly Kaltbach, Cave Aged Natural Cheeses and Emmi Swiss Knight Fondue from Switzerland to the Canadian Consumers. As a main challenge, due to the Quota System for Cheese Imports into Canada, it is very difficult to increase export volumes from Switzerland to Canada. With the CETA agreement it became even more difficult, as EU quota has been increased and Non-EU has been reduced in this Trade agreement. However, Emmi likes the Canadian market, because the Canadian Consumer recognizes good quality food such as artisanal, all natural cheeses from Switzerland. 

How important a market is Canada for Emmi?

Canada is a mid-sized Market within the Emmi portfolio of Subsidiaries. The two Companies located near Montreal do not have any production activity and employ around 30 employees.

Where can we find Emmi products in Ontario and how do you choose your retailers?

You can find Emmi products in all major Retailers, including Costco. We are well distributed as well in the more upscale, Specialty cheese shops 

Your products are made in Switzerland. Are there any modifications that were required to comply with the Canadian food standards and regulations?

There are no issues with our Exports to Canada and their compliance to Canadian legislation.

What is your bestseller product in Canada and are there any new products that you would like to export there?

The bestsellers are Emmi Fondue, Swiss Knight Fondue, Emmi Raclette and the Kaltbach range with Kaltbach Le Gruyère, Kaltbach Le Crémeux and others, as well as the traditional DOP Cheeses from Switzerland like Emmentaler DOP, Appenzeller, Tête de Moine DOP and others.       

Where do you see the company expanding or focusing its efforts in the next few years?

We will further drive our Lighthouse Products in Canada and continue to invest in our Story of excellent, delicious, all natural Cheeses from Switzerland and the Fun in sharing a true Emmi Fondue from Switzerland with Friends.