At first I thought the term “family business” was trite, something of a cliché. But that’s precisely the strength of Reitzel – being a family business. Since 1909, the Reitzel and Poupon families have helped to write the success story of our company, which was founded by Hugo Reitzel. We currently produce some 80 million jars of pickles every year. The Reitzel company is an institution with deep roots in Switzerland.
When I took the helm in 1986, I had three main goals: a company that was small, professionally organized, and with a sense of tradition. Before my nephew Olivier Camille – now Reitzel’s CEO – joined us, I was the only member of the family at the company. I hired him primarily because of his skills, but the chemistry between us was right, too. We share the same values and the same vision.
Reitzel is a family business because it emphasizes the family spirit – that’s simply a fact. Two families hold a majority of the company’s shares. What’s more, we are and will remain a family-run SME, in the best sense of the word. As such, we embrace an HR policy that focuses on development and the courage to do what needs to be done.
Human beings are the heart of our company: We learned very early on that no company can be successful without a cohesive, motivated team. Our employees know each other very well; in many cases they have known each other for many years. That, too, is what it means to be a family business. Employees are always welcome to come to my office and voice their opinions. We try to maintain a balance between a positive, supportive atmosphere and performance expectations. It’s not an easy task.
One example: Our employee Hubert Ballifard was set to retire after working for us for more than 35 years. We had such a close relationship, however, that we continued to employ him even after he officially retired. You can see his portrait downstairs, in the reception area. Unfortunately, Hubert passed away some time ago. He was truly a pillar of our company.
We don’t sell groundbreaking or innovative products; our real wealth lies in our vitality and passion for our work. The company owes its current position primarily to the women and men who work here.
I have always sought to ensure that all of our employees have the opportunity to share their entrepreneurial talents. Whether I have actually succeeded in achieving that goal, I can’t say. In the management committees, all members are free to make decisions as they see fit. This clearly leads to a feeling of belonging – a sense of being part of a team and a family. A company of our size is the perfect setting for fostering this kind of attitude.
Reitzel has made me an entrepreneur in the true sense of the word. For several years I have been traveling regularly to India, where we purchased property and built a factory that now employs more than 300 people. For an entrepreneur, there’s hardly anything better than a project like that – it’s simply wonderful!
Our industry, unlike the technology sector, offers little opportunity for adding value or achieving rapid growth. Instead, we cultivate close relationships – with farmers (we have 6,000 growers under contract), distribution specialists, and consumers. We cover the entire value chain, and that’s incredibly exciting, even when times are tough.
Like other businesses, we face enormous challenges: The COVID-19 pandemic, the commodity and energy crisis, and the labor shortage have regularly tested our limits. But such challenges also help us to grow and reinvent ourselves. As is typical of the food industry, we are resilient. Having survived several stormy periods, I’m confident about the future. Yet no one knows what 2023 will bring, so caution is warranted.
When your business is pickles, there is little potential for development. Innovation is limited almost entirely to production technologies and marketing campaigns. Our industry is all about traditional recipes. So we have to try to change our customers’ consumption habits. It’s about finding new, sophisticated settings for enjoying traditional foods, for example, as hors d’oeuvres.
The company’s values are essential for our further development. This is why we have focused for some time on organic and fair-trade products. In Switzerland, we have had great success recently with our Hugo® brand of local products. All of these things demonstrate our commitment to a sustainable economy. Consumers, for their part, have been attaching greater importance to the traceability of the food products they purchase – and for good reason. As a company, we therefore seek to act in a conscientious and responsible way to produce the best possible products and ensure complete transparency.
Working hard without taking ourselves too seriously – that philosophy sets us, and Reitzel, apart.