by Simon Rowley
At a lavish press event held at the Austrian Embassy on March 7, Josef Zotter – founder of Zotter Chocolate – explained his company’s roots, its bean-to-bar credentials, his innovation philosophy and more.
Zotter Chocolate, an Austrian chocolatier founded in 1987, has developed a strong reputation over the last 30 years – partly due to its innovative range of chocolate products and bean-to-bar credentials, but primarily thanks to Josef Zotter, the man behind the scenes that is responsible for the company’s growth and success.
A trained chef from an early age, Josef founded the Zotter family business alongside his wife, Ulrike, and today he oversees everything that goes on at the company; with a particularly strong hand in new product development. Thanks to his efforts, Zotter was recently named among the top 25 chocolate companies in the world (by chocolate tester Georg Bernardini in his illustrious 2015 publication, Chocolate – The Reference Standards), and additionally, Josef himself received an entrepreneurial award last year too.
But how does the company actually function, and what does Josef actually oversee on a day-to-day basis? In the extravagant surroundings of the Austrian Embassy in London last month, the Zotter head honcho made a rare visit to the UK to tell all.
Master of innovation
In a packed room filled with journalists and other culinary luminaries, Josef started by examining Zotter’s current product assortment – which is a revolving range made up of 365 chocolate bars, one for every day of the year. The majority of these are quirky combinations, such as the Britishthemed Lemon Curd & Orange and the (distinctly less British) Pink Coconut & Fish Marshmallow, and between 40 and 60 new varieties are introduced each year (with the same quantity being removed).
Speaking on how he manages to develop 60 new innovations every single year, Josef notes, “It really only takes one minute for one innovation. I can taste the flavour combinations in my mouth before I even begin making the product. We then make the flavour and the packaging, and it’s ready”.
Josef made it clear that the chocolates that are removed from the product line aren’t inferior sellers, by any means, but that he simply keeps in his favourite varieties. Expanding on this, he explained that confectioners have a tendency to produce items that the market wants, but Josef makes a point of producing the things he wants. (...)