multimedia  › Arts and Leisure

Chocolate maker Zaini to take on Tokyo in 2017 as company focuses on export

by Federico De Cesare Viola

“We are an Italian company but we also like to represent a Milan-made style that today is equally appreciated abroad. We are very close to the history of our city: our old plant is part of the urban landscape and it’s a landmark building that needs to be preserved,” explains Luigi Zaini, whose grandfather founded the oldest chocolate and candy factory in Milan.

In 2013, the company opened the first Zaini Milano store on via De Cristoforis, the former site of its first factory, offering sweet and savory specialty products for a gourmet meal break.

“This was more a sentimental than a strictly marketing move to celebrate the 100th anniversary, but in early 2017 a very similar format will be ready in Tokyo, with more seats and a separate range that is not available for sale in large retailers,” Zaini said.

With his sister Antonella, Zaini runs the family company, which employs 180 and has grown from €42.5 million revenues to €69 million in the past five years.

The company exports 50% of its production in 75 countries. The core markets are in Europe – France, Spain, the UK and the Balkans – but the fastest-growing regions are the United Arab Emirates and the Far East.

Most revenues in Italy come from top-selling brand Emilia, the extra-dark chocolate block, leader in the sector and a symbol of Zaini’s history. The name was chosen in the 1940s by the founder’s wife Olga Zaini as a tribute to the nanny who helped her raise her children and who tested many recipes in the kitchen.

“We like to draw inspiration from our grandmother, from her courage and determination,” Zaini said. “She was one of the first businesswomen in Italy. When in 1938 our grandfather passed away, she was forced to run the company alone while having to raise at the same time four children, surviving through the drama of WWII,” he said.

Olga’'s example encouraged the company to support an important project in the Ivory Coast (from where the family sources most of its cocoa) in favor of women’s progress by supporting a factory where local women produce soap with cocoa waste.

The company’s new plant in Senago, on the outskirts of Milan, will be ready by the end of this month. Production will target children, with innovative products and balanced nutritional factors.