Reviving an old brand Interview with the CEO of Biscuits Agathe
Les Biscuits Agathe (formerly known as “Tante Agathe”) is a biscuit manufacturer based in Nyon, and was founded in 1954. Its new CEO, Alexis Richard, took over the reins in July 2020, modernizing the company’s image and setup. We asked him how he made the change and what his current challenges are.
Can you tell us about Les Biscuits Agathe? Why did you change the brand name when the old name “Tante Agathe” was well established on the Swiss market?
Tante Agathe is a biscuit brand that was indeed well established on the Swiss market and known for the quality of its biscuits. However, we felt it was time to overhaul the brand and bring it more in line with consumer expectations. We decided to simplify things and keep the name “Agathe” so as to connect the brand with its past. Hence the change to “Biscuits Agathe” – and our trademark, to which we’re very attached: “Petits biscuits suisses”.
What’s your new positioning? Which markets are you targeting?
Our ambition is to successfully manage the shift towards organic and local products. We’ve reviewed all our recipes to focus on short supply chains. Here, the first thing we did was to eliminate palm oil. Today, we use only Swiss flour, Swiss butter and Swiss eggs for all our biscuits. And we’re now Bio Suisse certified. We’ve got two ranges: a Swissness range and a Bio Suisse range. We’re really proud to say that we are a purely Swiss biscuit manufacturer.
You set up an online shop at the beginning of 2021. What role does this sales channel play in your sales strategy? What are the other channels / touchpoints with your customers?
Traditionally, we’ve had two main sales channels, i.e. professional customers – such as companies, hotels, restaurants – to whom we offer small biscuits for coffee or tea breaks, and ready-to-eat cakes. The second distribution channel comprises sales outlets for end consumers such as Manor and small retailers.
Offering an online shop allows us to achieve three goals: firstly to offer our products to customers who cannot find us nearby; secondly to establish direct communication with them; and thirdly to offer something complementary to our traditional channels. One thing that’s important to us is to always offer a small surprise to all of our online shop customers.
How are online sales developing? Is the shop also aimed at your business customers (B2B)? What are you planning in terms of future developments?
We launched our online shop just a few weeks ago (in mid-March to be exact), which means we’re still in a learning and adaptation phase.
We’re currently building up a whole range of gift boxes and will soon provide a B2B version to offer our products – such as our individually wrapped biscuits and our Swissness cakes – to professionals as well.
What are your customers’ expectations in terms of delivery? Do they prefer to have the biscuits delivered to their home or to another address (e.g. as a gift)?
At the moment, customers are more likely to have products delivered to their home. They treat themselves or buy the product to give to their loved ones as a little present.
What challenges did this digital transformation pose for you? What advice would you give to Swiss SMEs or startups that are contemplating a similar change?
I think it’s very important to consider carefully in advance how online sales fits into your overall sales strategy. We have clearly chosen to be complementary to other sales channels.
And finally, has the pandemic slowed down your plans? Or was it an opportunity to speed up the transformation?
The pandemic has slowed us down in many projects. But it’s also been an opportunity to rethink the way we do things and to question many things we’ve been certain of. The pandemic has accelerated many trends that were already emerging. Consumers, to name just one example, want more transparency in their choice of food. Digitization is an ideal way of meeting this demand.
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