01 October 2010

Double Double

Do you know Aryzta Ltd.? Few have ever heard of this Zurich-based company, despite its €3bn in revenues and €305m operating profit. A good chunk of this profit comes from selling Aryzta products to hungy Canadians in a hurry.

Of course, the Canadians have no idea that they are just sending money down Bahnhofstrasse and into Swiss coffers when they choose to accompany their daily caffeine fix with a muffin, a donut or a cream cheese bagel. No, they think that they are supporting one of the most iconic Canadian brands around: Tim Hortons. Founded in 1964 by a Toronto Maple Leaf hockey player, this chain of coffee and bakery outlets quickly expanded across the Great White North, and today operates more stores in Canada than any other restaurant chain. With 3040 locations across the country (one per 11'000 residents!), you are never far away from a quick sugar rush. That's also true should you be on detachment with the Canadian Armed Forces in Afghanistan - there's a Tim Hortons at that base, too!

In a country of perennial cold, Tim Hortons became famous not for the warm atmosphere of its branches (there isn't any), but for its "always fresh" filter coffee. When I first tried it, I immediately realized why the preferred way to order it was "double double" (that's with 2x milk and 2x sugar for you non-Canadians); This way, the muddy water at least tastes like milk and sugar. But this Espresso-loving European was distinctively unimpressed.

And yet I find myself in line at a Timmy's more often than I care to admit. Blame it on the cheap, extremely sticky and incredibly tempting confections on offer. From nut-and-date muffins to triple chocolate cookies and maple-glazed donuts, I dig them all. Not to mention the sweetest invention since the Schoggistängeli: the Timbit. These little dough balls, essentially the holes stamped out of donuts, maximize the glaze-to-dough ratio and are sold by the dozen. They are wonderful crowd pleasers and have already delighted guests at the opening of the first ever CORD Estate in Switzerland in 2006 (overnight airfreight from Toronto, thank you).

Clearly, none of these treats is good for your waistline - but they seem to be excellent for the bottom line. Which is why on August 12th, Aryzta has ponied up CAD475M to buy the 50% stake Tim Hortons had held in their joint bakery operation, which supplies all the baked goods sold at Tim Hortons stores. The Timbits now come from the same home as the Hiestand croissants so abundant in Switzerland - which clearly makes it my patriotic duty to indulge in them. Talk about a sweet deal!

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