Lindt Shakes Chocolate's Usual Summertime BluesBy
Pinning surprising earnings on unseasonably hot or cold weather makes sense for companies selling ice cream, air conditioners, beer, maybe even theme-park tickets. But chocolate?
Lindt & Sprüngli, the Swiss company behind those killer Lindor truffles, just chalked up an opulent six months of business to unseasonably cool and rainy weather. A little chill in the air and wrestling with umbrellas make people want to go all Willy Wonka—or so Lindt would have us believe.
In the first half of the year, Lindt posted a rich 10 percent increase in revenue and income of $53.2 million, a 40 percent increase from a year earlier. North America was a particularly sweet spot, with consumers gobbling up 13 percent more Lindt chocolate by revenue.
Lindt pointed out there were other factors at play in the company’s recent success. The euro finally gained a bit on the Swiss franc, for one, and cocoa bean prices were stable. Still, the weather explanation tastes a little funny. Do people really avoid chocolate when temperatures heat up?
Hershey, the closest thing there is to a pure-play publicly traded chocolate company, hasn’t mentioned weather in at least its past three conference calls with analysts. And historically, the quarter spanning April, May, and June is by far its softest part of the year: In the past five years, Hershey revenue in the July-to-September period has been 26 percent higher on average than sales in the prior quarter.
Who knows? Maybe Swiss chocolate pairs better with crisp, mountain air than Pennsylvania varieties. But Lindt also has some incentive to be vague. If it’s driving results with savvy strategies—changing prices, distribution channels, or marketing decisions—it might behoove the company not to broadcast those changes to rivals. It’s possible that Lindt has found a sweet spot in the market, nestled between the $6-a-bar artisanal offerings and more proletarian sweets.
And as long as sales are strong, investors and analysts don’t need to know every little detail. Cloudy summer weather may simply be a great strategy for covering up a competitive edge.