The recipes for the calugas and the chocolates that they made in Poland were passed from one generation to another and, later, to a second family that would be in charge of maintaining the tradition. In 1954, a Polish family arrived in Chile after World War II and bet on a chocolate shop, whose first store was opened in the center of Santiago, in front of the Municipal Theater. But they decided to emigrate again and sell the chocolate shop. So in 1972 Varsovienne passed into the hands of the Cisternas family, who have maintained the tradition and recipes for almost 70 years.
And from that small store on Tenderini street in Santiago, there are currently 56 Varsovienne stores throughout Chile, offering more than 100 different products with a variety of flavors, textures and preferences, as they also decided to bet on a line of products without added sugar, gluten-free and vegan.
The year 2021 was historic in terms of company sales. However, in 2022 they expanded that growth by 5% more and only in the Easter campaign of this Holy Week they managed to sell 12% more compared to the same date of the previous year. What is the secret?
For Rodrigo and Gerardo Cisternas, both executive directors of Varsovienne, the secret lies in maintaining the traditional craftsmanship of the processes, respecting the quality of the raw materials and the product, and the shopping experience in stores.
“The purchase preference for this product is more face-to-face. Of course, as a result of the pandemic, we had to update ourselves and implement a robust platform in terms of what online sales is, which helped us a lot to reach the numbers, because at some point during the pandemic we had 100% sales. online at the most restrictive times, but as our restrictions were released, people began to go to stores and online sales began to drop again ”, explains Rodrigo Cisternas to Forbes.
“We believe that the fact of being able to have the products, touch them, that smell of chocolate, the attention, the experience is what prioritizes face-to-face sales”, says Rodrigo Cisternas, Vorsovienne executive director.
“We have a format of stores that we are no longer serving behind a counter and we are making the products available to customers, we also give tastings so that they feel the differences in flavors due to cocoas, origins. Online purchases are much more urgent or cravings, ”says the businessman.
For his part, Gerardo Cisternas adds that the growth is also due to the fact that they open stores every year and maintain their investment plan —which has remained at US$1,000,000 in recent years. “We have focused on opening stores in regions. In the next 45 days we will open our store in Osorno and we also have a thematic campaign format throughout the year, which allows us to be up-to-date with a new product”, he adds.
The raw material is brought from France and with it they produce everything from the most classic and iconic products, such as calugas, almonds dipped in chocolate and orange, to chocolates.
“Something that we are not willing to sacrifice and it is one of the pillars of the brand, is quality and doing things the same way they were done before. There are many processes within the production that continue to be artisanal, that is an important part of the brand so as not to have variations in the quality of the product, which is what our customers demand and that is an important effort. There are other products that do have slightly more industrialized production lines, but artisanal work is always implemented”, emphasizes Rodrigo Cisternas.
Varsovienne: sustainability, another focus
There is an issue that both say they are taking very seriously within the company that currently has 350 employees in the country: the sustainability of production processes and packaging.
“We are the first company measured in sustainability in the country’s chocolate industry. We have the certificate. We are buying machines to make our processes more efficient, allowing us to spend less light, less water and the least impact on the carbon footprint in all consumption within the production process”, says Rodrigo.
They also highlight the advances in recyclable packaging, without glues, with natural inks, with reforested and controlled papers.
On the other hand, they indicate that they take special care with the way the producers of their raw material work within the industry: that they pay fair prices, that there is no child exploitation, the conditions of the plantations. “The world of cocoa is quite complex in that sense of abuse, that children are used and the local producer is abused,” Rodrigo points out.
A big bet on Chile
In terms of competition, Rodrigo and Gonzalo assure that they are the company with the greatest presence in the Chilean chocolate industry, with almost 70 years of experience.
“What we defend is that Chile is one of the South American countries with the highest per capita consumption of chocolate, after Argentina, and we see that, in general, the food industry and, in addition to chocolate, generate good consumption,” he says. Gerardo Cisternas.
“We are always looking at foreign markets but we are also very conservative. Currently, the economic situation in the region is quite complicated and Chile is also going through a difficult time, therefore, our focus is here, on strengthening the regions and staying here, in Chile”, affirms Gerardo.
For this, they will continue to focus on the exclusivity of their brand and products that still keep those stories of migration, effort and family work.