Mastering Sweet and Sour

Interview with Harald Doppler, Managing Director of S. Spitz GmbH

S. Spitz Production Area
Spitz relies on flat hierarchies; not only does the family-like atmosphere of the company make it an attractive employer

More than 160 years of market experience, a product and processing variety that is internationally unmatched, and a strong focus on a sustainable company strategy with values that are lived day by day - S. Spitz GmbH is a medium-sized beverage and food manufacturer that sets exciting accents in the market based on its experience and always sees change as an opportunity. A Hidden Champion with the potential for more.

Wirtschaftsforum: Mr. Doppler, S. Spitz GmbH was founded in 1857. Looking back, what has particularly shaped the company?

Harald Doppler: We associate tradition primarily with experience. In recent decades, Spitz has focused on building a large diversity. Already after the war, the owning family began to establish categories beyond the original core category of spirits; thus, the desire for greater diversity is in the Spitz DNA. Today, we have three production sites and, globally, there is nowhere else such a large variety of categories and products.

Harald Doppler, Managing Director of S. Spitz GmbH
Harald Doppler, Managing Director of S. Spitz GmbH

In addition, the rapid recognition of different business models has favored our development. Spitz started with the classic retail business and today operates at 90% in the private label sector. In addition, the B2B business was quickly established to produce and co-pack for other branded goods manufacturers. A third milestone is the brand business; today, there is, among other things, a honey location and a mineral water location in Gastein.

Wirtschaftsforum: How can the portfolio be described?

Harald Doppler: We develop and produce beverages, confectionery and baked goods, sweet and sour products, are not innovation drivers, but can support our partners in innovations.

S. Spitz Wafer Production
Wafer oven in the confectionery and bakery production area
S. Spitz Biomass Power Plant
Biomass Power Plant

Wirtschaftsforum: Diversity, Business models, Brand Business - besides these three main focuses, are there any other focus topics?

Harald Doppler: The issue of sustainability, climate protection. We have been operating our own biomass power plant for 20 years. Since this was not always economical, we were often laughed at. Now the tables have turned, and many are following suit. For many, sustainability remains just a buzzword. It is important to us that sustainability is truly lived and included in all business decisions; this is how we want to differentiate ourselves. Our long-term goal is carbon neutrality.

Wirtschaftsforum: How can the company's development over the past few years be expressed in numbers?

Harald Doppler: The Spitz Group employs around 800 staff and has a turnover of about 300 million EUR. The development of diversities led to significant revenue growth, especially in the first few decades. Now the strategic focus is more on value growth and climate protection. We expect an organic growth of a sensible 5% annually.

S. Spitz Production Site Attnang-Puchheim
At the Attnang-Puchheim production site, Spitz has been operating its own biomass power plant for about 20 years, thereby early underscoring its commitment to a sustainable corporate strategy

Wirtschaftsforum: How do you assess your role in the company?

Harald Doppler: I was with the company from 2010 to 2018 and came back in May 2022 because my heart has always beaten for Spitz. As a very pragmatic family business, we rely on flat hierarchies; that's why I am active both strategically and operationally. The change process initiated in 2022 and the associated newly established organization are important. We want to move away from thinking in categories towards more customer-oriented thinking. Meanwhile, there are dedicated teams for specific customer groups, and we have revised the company values. Values such as humanity, solution-orientation, responsibility, and trust are to be implemented operationally.

S. Spitz Auer Waffles
Auer Waffles – an important part of the brand assortment
S. Spitz Auer Neapolitaner by Yes
Spitz supports clients like Rewe in implementing sustainable innovations such as Neapolitan wafers with cocoa substitute

Wirtschaftsforum: In 2022, a fundamental change process was initiated in the company. Are there any special plans, goals, or wishes for the coming years?

Harald Doppler: The topic of sustainability will continue to be a major focus for us. We operate in a very competitive market, and it would be great if customers could recognize what a company actually accomplishes in the area of climate protection. There’s a saying ‘America innovates. China imitates. Europe regulates’. Regulations that continuously change challenge European competitiveness and pose one of the biggest challenges for us. These changes, often associated with price increases, are not communicated to the customers by the EU. Therefore, my wish to the EU would be to handle regulations more carefully and to think about their implementation.