After five consecutive years of strong growth, the Swiss biscuit sector showed a marked downturn in 2002 as a result of increased imports and the collapse of the German export market.
According to the latest data from the Swiss Association of the Biscuits and Sugar Confectionery Industry (Biscosuisse), total volume sales dropped by 6.5 per cent last year to reach 44, 632 tons, while value sales declined 6 per cent to SF418.9 million (€283.6m).
Domestic sales dropped by 5.6 per cent during the year to 30,697 tons, while value sales were 4.3 per cent lower at SF302.4 million. In contrast, imported products, 97 per cent of which come from the EU, showed a marked advance during the year, rising 12.4 per cent to 43,883 tons.
Although per capita consumption was up slightly compared to the previous year (from 9.9 kg to 10.2 kg), the increase came almost entirely from cheap imported biscuits, which reduced the share of domestic biscuit producers from 45.5 per cent to 41.2 per cent.
Foreign sales dropped 8.3 per cent during the year to 13,929 million, while value sales were some 10.2 per cent lower at SF116.3 million. The decline came mainly from Germany, which accounts for 42 per cent of all Swiss biscuit exports in volume terms, where value sales were some SF20 million lower than in the previous year as demand for expensive imports was severely reduced under the dual blows of the strength of the Swiss franc and a continued policy of price discounting by the leading German food retailers.
Swiss biscuit products are exported to 74 different countries, with France (32 per cent), Austria (7 per cent and the US (3 per cent ) the leading markets after Germany. Exports account for some 32.1 per cent of total output.
"While the economic conditions at the moment are not ideal, Swiss sweet and savoury biscuit manufacturers firmly believe that exports will pick up again during the current year as a result of measures they have undertaken to increase market penetration," said Biscosuisse. "Furthermore, they firmly believe that consumers are more concerned about the quality of products than about lower prices."
Biscosuisse's data covers a wide range of biscuits and baked goods, including biscottes, savoury biscuits and snacks, sweet biscuits, semi-finished products (such as cake decorations) and products such as chocolate biscuits. The latter category accounts for the majority of production - some 43.6 per cent of total volume production.