Some think of Sturm wine and chestnuts in the fall – I think of chocolate chestnuts from Heindl and consult the WIEN PRODUCTS city map. I then set off for Willendorfer Gasse in the 23rd district, where the Confiserie Heindl family business has been based since 1953.
At reception I am greeted by Barbara Lindtner – the head of marketing – as well as the unbelievably tempting aroma of cocoa and chocolate.
Before we enter production, it is necessary to comply with hygiene regulations – coat, hairnet, and shoe covers are required – jewelry is strictly forbidden and hands have to be washed, disinfected, and moisturized. Special foods are produced here – three generations of Heindl family members are committed to making operations run smoothly every day.
There is a clear division of responsibilities – but the common goal connects the family of owners to their 250 employees – superb quality and sustainable production. I am amazed to discover that the largest privately owned photovoltaic system was installed here on the factory roof in 2012. The company is very careful with resources in general; they buy as locally as possible and were the first Austrian partner of the cocoa Fairtrade program in 2014.
Impressed, I walk through production as the individual steps are explained to me. With around 180 different products throughout the year, good planning is a must. October is the peak season for the famous Heindl chocolate chestnuts. I watch as large mixtures of puréed chestnuts are prepared in pots and poured into a funnel by a colleague. From there they pass through a machine that gives them their special shape, then they receive a base of chocolate and appear again on the belt a few meters further where they travel through a tunnel to be covered with liquid chocolate. Hundreds of chocolate chestnuts pass me by per minute – after a cooling process they are dry and ready to be wrapped.
And that is done by many skilled hands. In front of huge stacks of packing material, ten women sort the delicacies into boxes at the speed of light. First the packing cartons are erected, lined with the insert, filled with chestnuts, then covered with a sheet of cellophane and protective paper and the cartons are closed. The most important step, however, is the inspection – the ladies don’t miss the tiniest fault in a product – imperfect chestnuts are immediately rejected.
Based on the thousands of cartons, I surmise the Austrian’s have a ravenous appetite for their favorite chocolate chestnuts.
Barbara Lindtner laughs and agrees – even after many years in the company, the employees still love and indulge in their products.
We pass another packing station where boxes are being filled with different chocolates – here, too, there are only women working and they give me a friendly nod.
80% of the employees are women – I am told that the men we see are primarily working where great strength is required – when mixtures are prepared or making the hazelnut brittle. This is not left up to a supplier, but rather handled in house. At this point we have also passed by the many stacks of flat wooden boxes of starch into which first forms and then jellies are poured using a mold – the ones with sugar or dipped in chocolate are another all-time favorite from Heindl.
Packaged goods are stacked on pallets in front of us, waiting to embark on their journey into the world. Heindl supplies customers around the globe and sells its products in 30 of its own and franchise stores as the largest confectionery retailer in Austria.
Speaking of customers – they also fill special customer requests. There is a wide selection ranging from individual packaging of Heindl classics to their own chocolates. WIEN PRODUCTS, for example, wins hearts at trade shows around the world with the individually wrapped Wiener Riesenrad chocolate coins.
We walk past a machine with a large spool of gold thread on it. In answer to my puzzlement I get a simple explanation: chocolate ornaments.
Of course, they are already very busy with Christmas here. And it can certainly be something special – as I see here. At Heindl they have a special department where presents are carefully arranged and wrapped. Christmas fever is already here – St. Nicholas boots and Christmas pottery are filled with Heindl sweets and beautifully wrapped.
Right next-door is the shop, which is bustling with activity. A group of visitors just left the company chocolate museum and is happily shopping. Apropos the Heindl chocolate museum – it was opened in 2001 and vividly presents the 3,000 year history of chocolate. You can fully immerse yourself in the sweet world of chocolate here and learn a great deal about Confiserie Heindl. Naturally, the chocolate workshops are a big hit among chocolate lovers, both young and old.
I leave the Heindl world impressed and delighted – the outstanding quality here is certainly worth the walk to one of their shops.