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In the green heart of a chocolate giant

The Barry Callebaut Group is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-end chocolate and cocoa products. At the new headquarters in Zurich, diversity of flavours and sustainability are as integral as well-being in the workplace and upcycling of materials.

Clichés don’t usually have a very good reputation. That’s why we shouldn’t use them too often. But when it comes to products that are typical for a nation, the things that spring to mind when we think of Switzerland are watches, pocketknives and chocolate. Maybe the alphorn too – but only a few of us have one of those at home, to be honest.

A sweet player with sales of billions

Chocolate “made in Switzerland” enjoys an exceptional reputation worldwide. That’s a fact, not a cliché. It is probably less well known that the Barry Callebaut Group, with annual sales of almost seven billion euros, is the world’s leading manufacturer of gourmet chocolate and speciality products.

Barry Callebaut

This is because, as a B2B company, it focuses primarily on food manufacturers as well as commercial and professional users such as chocolatiers, confectioners, bakers, hotels, restaurants and catering companies. Gourmet customers, for example, are supplied with products from the brands Callebaut®, Cacao Barry®, Carma® and the decoration specialist Mona Lisa®. The portfolio includes a whole host of other brands as well.

Headquarters as a bridge

But let’s get to the matter at hand: Barry Callebaut relocated its headquarters to the newly built ATMOS Business Park in Zurich West in 2021. Swiss architectural firm Evolution Design was tasked with designing the ultra-modern office premises.

Chocolate is a product that most people are very passionate about.

Fabian Stierli, Vice President for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa at Barry Callebaut

The client’s vision was to create an exciting place to live and work. “We wanted to create a strong connection to our culture and showcase our products. After all, chocolate is a product that most people are very passionate about. So, we wanted to build a bridge between our employees, our clients and our products,” explains Fabian Stierli, Vice President for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa at Barry Callebaut.

Barry Callebaut – spotlight on sustainability

In line with the chocolate giant’s general corporate and growth strategy, the workplace concept centred largely on sustainability and well-being. For example, environmentally friendly, certified and upcycled materials were used alongside indoor greenery to generate a healthy, productive and pleasant indoor atmosphere.

This means that carefully selected, high oxygen-producing plants, combined with sensors and corresponding data collection, allow the indoor climate to be controlled and adjusted automatically. “Customised sustainability standards were developed to achieve project-relevant benchmarks for optimal lighting conditions, indoor air quality, room temperature, noise levels and environmental impact,” Evolution Design emphasizes.

Spatially designed aromas

Another task was to develop a connection to chocolate. To do this, the architects came up with a design concept that reflects the diversity of flavours, aromas and textures of cocoa products as well as the company’s ethos in terms of sustainability, innovation and sensory pleasure.

Barry Callebaut

To do justice to all of this, they used textures from wood and various fabrics as well as earthy colours and natural materials. The flooring, for example, is made from upcycled cocoa shells. Cork and moss were also incorporated. And there is wallpaper where the natural colouring comes from safflower blossoms.

Design as a language

“We assigned Barry Callebaut’s brand characteristics to different areas throughout the office, creating a bespoke language of materials, colours, patterns, haptics and graphics. This approach creates a workspace with a lot of diversity and choice and at the same time reflects the passion and values people share and are proud of at Barry Callebaut,” says Stefan Camenzind, Executive Director of Evolution Design, describing the guiding theme in the design.

One of the biggest challenges in the project was promoting interaction between the three floors that Barry Callebaut occupies in the multi-storey building. Evolution Design rose to this challenge by incorporating internal staircases to connect the central hubs on each level.

Mottos and coffee breaks

Each of these hubs has its own distinctive interior design and colour scheme, corresponding to themes such as “We Care”, “We Craft”, “We Transform” and “We Live Taste”. These also represent Barry Callebaut’s core beliefs. The hubs primarily serve as Coffee Points for breaks, informal meetings and lunches. At the same time, they allow people to circulate optimally and encourage the feeling of a journey through the different zones.

Barry Callebaut

For example, a small, stepped amphitheatre links the reception area with the hub on the floor below. Located strategically between two office areas, this centre is a popular place for coffee breaks. Most of the offices, by the way, have an open-plan layout with desk sharing, but there are also some individual offices for the management team. If these are not occupied, they can be used by any staff member for meetings.

The best place for any work

The open-plan offices are designed as different neighbourhoods, alternating with quieter areas separated by plants and various partitions. There are also several meeting rooms of different sizes as well as booths for video conferencing and telephone calls.

To meet the growing need for quieter environments, two large rooms have been set up for work that requires extra concentration. Furnished with height-adjustable desks and plants, one area resembles a green jungle, while another a cosy library.

Chocolate production live

Another highlight is the integrated Chocolate Academy complete with fully equipped kitchen. Here, employees and visitors can watch the chocolatiers create new products. Located opposite the main entrance, the fully glazed Academy provides a first impression of the newly designed headquarters and accentuates Barry Callebaut’s passion for cocoa products, craftsmanship and innovation.

Barry Callebaut

The Coffee Point next to the Chocolate Academy features soft colours and cosy seating resembling small greenhouses. Pastel shades of pink, green and blue are paired with herringbone wooden floors, while steel frames above the kitchen worktops showcase metal craftsmanship.

A delicious thought

Subjectively speaking, having chocolate as both the defining element of Barry Callebaut’s day-to-day work and also the main ingredient of the educational institute based there is definitely a delicious thought.

Text: Martin Obermayr
Photos: Peter Würmli