Identifying customer requirements: Source of inspiration for product development

The top priority of Swiss food manufacturer Wander AG is aligning its business model to meet customer requirements. CEO Arnold Furtwaengler explaines how Wander identifies these, how the company manages to successfully position itself abroad and why Swiss SMEs should enter into partnerships.
All Wander products in a glass display case.
Wander also has a strong market presence abroad, particularly with Ovaltine.

Customer requirements are part of the vision

Wander AG in Neuenegg produces Ovaltine for the entire European market. However, Ovaltine in Switzerland differs from Ovaltine in Germany. “The Swiss are very health conscious and love Ovaltine mainly for its taste, but also because it does not contain granulated sugar,” according to Furtwaengler, who has been CEO of Wander AG since 2011. By contrast, a little sugar is added for German consumers. However, it is not the powder that is especially popular in Germany, but the spread. It sells four times more than the powder. The idea for the spread originally came from Switzerland. “We noted that our customers were sprinkling Ovaltine powder on their bread. So we thought, why not offer our customers a ready-made spreadable alternative?” explaines Furtwaengler. Wander has meanwhile internalized this approach: “Observing consumer behavior is one of the most important lessons for our employees. Not only for those in product development, but for employees in all divisions.”

How to successfully tap a market

“In addition, we also work closely with neuro-scientists. Food is a highly emotional commodity. It’s not always just about the pure benefits of a product. For example, by using eye tracking we can learn how consumers react to packaging. It's always a combination of methods that brings the best result,” Furtwaengler notes. Through this close observation of the customer, Wander is also able to identify which export markets are suitable for the company and which are not. "We prioritize and take a close look at each market. We take local preferences into account. That's why there are over 30 different recipes for Ovaltine worldwide,” reveales Furtwaengler.

Partnerships enable new offers

Occasionally, customers want something a company cannot produce. This was also the case for Wander when it was developing the spread. “Ovaltine crunchy cream was like a paradigm shift. In the past we always said we know all about powder and therefore only offer powder. Today we no longer shy from sourcing the necessary expertise from external partners. Getting partners involved in order to remain competitive and innovative is vital for SMEs,” stresses Furtwaengler.

Switzerland as a business location plays an important role

Meanwhile, however, Ovaltine crunchy cream is produced in Neuenegg on a fully digitized system. Everything is automated here, from inventory updates, ordering missing raw materials and filling the machines to the actual production of the popular spread. Nevertheless, employees who know the equipment and are able to repair it on their own are still needed. “Thanks to Switzerland’s integrated education system, we always manage to find exactly the right people. This is an extremely important factor in order to be able to keep production in Switzerland. The staff must be able to lend a hand on their own, which is something Swiss a education ensures,” explaines Furtwaengler.

Video interview with Arnold Furtwaengler

S-GE Impulse Food - a tradition of innovation

Seize the opportunity to network with other Swiss SMEs in the food sector about the current trends and challenges in the export business. On November 08. in Baden.

International trade fairs:

Interview mit Arnold Furtwaengler, CEO Wander AG

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