Anna Hug (50, left) and Marianne Wüthrich Gross (56) run the Hug family business together.
It rattles and rattles. The biscuits just zip across the treadmill. In the next corner, a machine is cutting Darvida out of a huge sheet of dough. And another provides “Petit Beurre” with chocolate.
In the bakery of the family company Hug in Malters LU, the famous Wernli biscuits are made from the well-known red and white packaging. But also Darwina. And small cake bases, so-called tartelettes, for gastronomy. In 2022, sales increased to 123 million francs. An increase of ten million, as the company announced on Thursday.
From rusks to «Jura waffles»
Hug produces almost ten tons of baked goods every year. And the employees can simply snack off the treadmill. Of course only in full gear and with freshly washed hands.
«At home I can’t do without the ‘Amandes’ biscuits from Hug. But I also love our classic rusks, »says Anna Hug (50) during a tour of the bakery. She is the fifth generation to run the company. But not alone.
She shares management with Marianne Wüthrich Gross (56). “I like Wernli’s ‘Jura waffles’ best,” she reveals. Although Wüthrich-Gross is not part of the family, it has been with the company for 20 years. And thus longer than her co-managing director and company heiress Anna Hug. The two women are a well-rehearsed team.
Electricity costs quintupled
Baking takes a lot of energy. And, as is well known, energy has become more expensive. “We are faced with additional costs of three million francs,” says Wüthrich Gross. This would have quintupled the cost of electricity. This is also because Hug consciously continues to rely on renewable energies – and thus accepts additional costs.
The family business with around 500 employees cannot bear the higher electricity costs alone. Around half are passed on to customers by Hug. At Coop, “Choco Petit Beurre” or “Jura Waffles” from Wernli now cost 3.60 francs. A few months ago it was CHF 3.30.
Continue to grow in gastronomy
Despite sharply rising costs, the two managers expect further growth in the catering sector in 2023. Hug benefits from the trend towards more convenience in the kitchen.
“Semi-finished products are becoming more and more popular due to the shortage of skilled workers,” says Hug. “We can hardly keep up with the delivery.” The range of frozen products for the catering trade is now being expanded. This ranges from mini pizzas and ham croissants to tartlets and nut snails.
From March there will be another novelty for gastronomy: edible dessert spoons. “It’s really a treat – and a small contribution to sustainability,” says Hug.
However, Hug still earns more than half of its sales in retail in Switzerland, i.e. with Wernli-Guetzli and Darvida. At Coop, the “Choco Petit Beurre” are still one of the most popular types of biscuits.
The Chinese prefer Swiss biscuits
Hug treats are also gaining popularity abroad. Hug exports 16 percent of the goods – including to China. “We expect the Chinese market to continue to recover,” says Hug. Everywhere else, sales are back to pre-pandemic levels. Strict corona measures have been in force in China for a longer period of time, which is why the economic recovery is now taking longer.
But how do you manage to keep a family business running for almost 150 years? “It’s all about the right mix,” says Hug. So actually just like the biscuit. “We stay true to ourselves, but we also try new things.”