Chocolate for cookies

02.08.2007 The Canadian cookie specialist Leclerc has made a successful step toward vertical integration: Since June 12, 2006, it has been producing the chocolate that goes into its products on its own cocoa and chocolate line – which was supplied by Buhler. “For some time now, we intended to produce the chocolate we use for making our various products ourselves,” explains Jean Leclerc. He is the fourth­generation representative from the family­owned Biscuits Leclerc Group, which is headquartered in Quebec, Canada. An important part of the vertical integration aimed at has now been put into practice after the company’s own chocolate production line went into service in the summer of 2006. The decision to start its own cocoa processing as well as chocolate production activities at a single stroke underscores the Leclerc’s pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit.

A long road
In implementing its new chocolate production facility, Leclerc relied entirely on the vast experience and process expertise of Buhler. But the road from inception to implementation was long. Initial talks started in May 2003, followed by a first approximate tender for a chocolate line. Then the company representatives toured showcase installations in Europe and attended several presentations. In April 2004, a cocoa processing line was added to the project.

In June 2004, Jacques Leclerc – the brother of CEO Jean Leclerc and head of the Nutri­Art division in which the new cocoa and chocolate system was to be incorporated – took part in a chocolate course organized by Buhler in Uzwil. At the beginning of 2005, the contract was signed for constructing a cocoa and chocolate plant in a new building on a green meadow site.

Built in an industrial park
This decision was slightly revised in May 2005, when Leclerc was able to purchase a vacant building in the Cardinal Industrial Park in Quebec. This required a number of plant engineering adjustments. In January 2006, the specialists from Buhler Toronto and Minneapolis started installing the new facility. Over the next five months, a complete production line was constructed for processing cocoa and producing premium chocolate. The new chocolate plant operated by Leclerc also includes a drop system supplied by Buhler Bindler. The chocolate drops are incorporated in tasty “Chocolate Chip Cookies” and cereal bars that are made in other Leclerc facilities.

Transfer of know-how
One crucial step ensuring the success of chocolate-making at Leclerc was the training of its staff. The understanding and mastery of the entire process chain by Leclerc employees was established in basic training courses organized by Buhler. These were held both during and after start-up. In addition, a continuing education course was held on site in December 2006 by Josef Mazenauer, who is in charge of training in the Buhler Chocolate & Cocoa business unit.

Over a century old
The cornerstone for the Biscuits Leclerc company was laid by François Leclerc in the Canadian city of Quebec in 1905. For over four generations, the family-owned Leclerc business advanced to become the market leader in the production of all varieties of cookies (biscuits). In addition to cookies, the Groupe Biscuits Leclerc – which is the official name of the confectionery-maker – also produces wafers, bars, and cereals. It employs roughly 500 persons in its four factories in Canada (three in Quebec, one in Ontario) and the one in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Leclerc exports some 30 percent of its products to the U.S. and to 20 other countries. In 2005, Leclerc generated sales of almost 250 million Canadian dollars.

Jean (CEO Groupe Biscuits Leclerc, right) and Jacques Leclerc – proud of their new chocolate production facility. Jean (CEO Groupe Biscuits Leclerc, right) and Jacques Leclerc – proud of their new chocolate production facility.