Josef Zotter, born 21 February 1961 in Feldbach (Styria/Austria)
Chocolatier, organic farmer and square peg.
Started as apprentice chef, waiter and confectioner.
Josef Zotter is married to Ulrike Zotter and has three children.
Ulrike Zotter continues to manage the company, otherwise this biography would end here.
Julia Zotter (*1987) built the chocolate theatre in Shanghai and ran it for three years (May2014-August 2017). Now she’s back with us in Austria and develops new products together with her father Josef Zotter. Julia spent a year in China (Xi-an and Beijing) during secondary school and went on to study food science and biotechnology at Vienna's University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences. For her final thesis, she travelled to Brazil to establish a cacao research project. In 2013, she graduates from the Cordon Bleu Academy in Paris with a Grand-Diplome in Pâtisserie and Cuisine as one of the best in her year. Julia has been working in all areas of the chocolate manufactory since she was a child and is a polyglot, speaking fluent English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, German and even a little Latin.
Michael Zotter (*1988) also studied food science and biotechnology at Vienna's University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences and is currently reading business information systems in Vienna. Michael is responsible for Zotter's website, online shop and everything else IT. He is currently on paternity leave.
Valerie Zotter (*2005) is still a pupil and is planning on studying hotel management next year.
In 1987, founding of the Zotter family business: Together with his wife Ulrike Zotter, the 26-year-old Josef Zotter opens up the Zotter confectionary shop in Glacisstraße in Graz. The unusual creations such as "hemp slice", "the funny pie" and "scarlet runner bean roll with coriander" earn regional fame. Josef Zotter expands and opens up three more branches.
In 1992, Josef Zotter begins to produce chocolates in the back office of the confectionary shop in Graz and invents the hand-scooped chocolate, a mixture of inventiveness and handwork, filled in layers and plies. Also new are the 70 g format and the chocolate coating instead of the cubed breaking pattern. The varieties of the first hour: poppyseed-cinnamon, pumpkin brittle with marzipan, hemp, crudités, champagne and grilled walnuts with marzipan.
In 1994, chocolate and art blend together. Art designer Andreas h. Gratze turns the packaging into little works of art.
In 1999, the Zotters decide to bank entirely on chocolate. In the former stable of the parental farm, the z o t t e r chocolate factory is opened.
In 2001, Zotter began to travel to the countries of cacao cultivation and supported the farmers with development aid projects like “Quality instead of poverty“ and “Cocoa instead of cocaine“ and many more.
In 2007, expansion of the manufacture to bean-to-bar production and to the Chocolate Theatre.
Bean-to-bar: Zotter invests 18 million to process chocolate directly from the cacao bean onwards. The fairly traded organic cacao is purchased directly, roasted, ground, milled and conched. With this, Zotter lays the foundation for the development of the manufacture into a centre of competence for chocolate. Many new chocolates are created. Insourcing instead of outsourcing: Josef Zotter is now one of the few independent bean-to-bar producers in Europe and the first one to produce solely in organic and fair trade quality. (In general, only three global players produce a large part (about 80%) of the overall world-wide chocolate demand.)
Chocolate Theatre: Visitors can observe the production live, experience how chocolate is made from the bean onwards and try, at various tasting stations, intermediate products such as milling powder and of course also the finished bars.
In 2011, Zotter opens up the Edible Zoo as open-air part of the Chocolate Theatre. 27 hectares of adventure farming (a total of 80 hectares of organically cultivated farming, 27 hectares of which are accessible to visitors), where Zotter serves the visitors organic meals, directly from his own pastures and gardens.
In 2014, Zotter opens the Chocolate Theatre in Shanghai, which daughter Julia Zotter subsequently runs until 2017. It’s a chocolate adventure world with tasting tour included, spread out over a 2400 square metre space. Within a very short time, the Chocolate Theatre has established itself as THE place to be in the thriving megacity of Shanghai. The “Shanghai Wall Street Journal“ and “Smart Shanghai“ name it as one of its top sightseeing destinations. Julia Zotter’s “No Pants“ events proves particularly popular. In the autumn of 2017, Julia returns to the manufactory in Austria in order to work on product development. Shanghai’s Chocolate Theatre and Shop are now run by general manager Amy Fang.
In 2015, Zotter launched a shop in the US. The subsidiary is increasingly focused on online sales – there is only one retail shop at the Cape Coral/Florida branch location.
In 2016, Riegersburg chocolate shop extension. Featuring a wall of manure reminiscent of the stable it once was, a big bonbon counter where customers can put together their own bonbon boxes, a Labooko library, a green, leafy storefront and a low waste station where you can buy Zotter chocolates in bulk, without any of the wrapping.
In 2017, the world’s first Choco Robots start working at Zotter. Industry 4.0 means blending skilled handicraft with innovation. Zotter wants to demonstrate that robots do not eliminate jobs but instead substitute other machines, thereby safeguarding the future of existing employees. The robots add more precision to the process and enable individual manufacturing. At the moment they are putting fillings into the wafer-thin Nashido bars. In the future, Josef Zotter wants to deploy the robots to manufacture individual bonbons, tailored to specific customers. The demand for individual and one-of-a-kind products will continue to rise. The choco robots are also one-of-a-kind – they were developed by a group of students in the face of initial resistance by older engineers. The robots are the first of their kind and are a perfect fit for Zotter and our desire to increasingly invest in innovative ideas.
In 2017, Josef Zotter travels to Peru and Madagascar for film shoots. In Peru, it’s a film about growing organic cacao in place of producing cocaine, which is playing at the Chocolate Theatre, and in Madagascar, he makes a Virtual Reality Film. Visitors to the Chocolate Theatre can put VR goggles on and dive into the cacao jungle.
In 2017, Zotter celebrates the company’s 30-year anniversary: in 1987, Josef Zotter opens his first confectionery shop in Graz/Austria, marries Ulrike and the couple welcome their daughter Julia. This heralds the eventful start of the family business and the beginning of a slice of chocolate history.
2019 The chocolate theatre expands: The Panorama Choco Space is added and increases the chocolate theatre by 200 m2. Further additions are many new tasting stations including a chocolate Ferris wheel, bonbon roller coasters, a robot serving chocolate snacks you can order via touchscreen menu, a dental clinic with sugar-free chocolates, a Hammer Choc workshop and much more.
2019 Zotter reacts to the political »Ibiza scandal« with a »Bergl not Ibiza«-chocolate bar. Instead of the rather conventional Red Bull and vodka, Zotter combines hemp praline and plum schnapps with a blue blackcurrant layer. Naturally the chocolate is also “white-washed” with a white chocolate coat. The »Bergl not Ibiza« chocolate bar is an instant success.
2019 Zotter opens the new season with 24 new hand-scooped chocolates, 4 new hand-scooped chocolate minis and a unicorn chocolate lolly for kids. The Labooko range features 6 new and delicious dark chocolates.