An exciting company history in the picturesque Toggenburg
Embedded between the Säntis massif and the seven peaks of the Churfirsten mountain range, the Toggenburg offers a pristine landscape. You'll find the Kägi company here, in this entirely natural paradise.
On the timeline, the story starts with modest beginnings by the company's founder, Otto Kägi senior, in the "zum Hecht" bakery. Next, you'll learn lots of interesting things about the enlargement of the bakery and how this was further developed into a factory by his three sons, Alfred, Eugen and Otto junior.
Quality, enjoyment and the Toggenburg provenance continue to be unique to all Kägi products to this day. The past and present of this company with its time-honoured, long-standing Swiss traditions offer much that is interesting and fascinating. We hope that you enjoy reading about Kägi.
"zum Hecht" Bakery
With prudence and foresight, Otto Kägi senior purchased the Hecht property in Lichtensteig. It contained a bakery-patisserie and a restaurant. He lived in this large house together with six children. The Kägi success story was able to begin.
Otto Kägi was unique – a pioneer who saw that the key to success lays in quality: the quality of his products, but also of the services that he offered his customers. His approach was not simply to wait behind the counter for customers to arrive, but instead to take his products to them. In the beginning, Otto Kägi pedalled countless kilometres on his bicycle to deliver the delicious biscuits that he had made himself with great passion. His three sons, Otto, Eugen and Alfred, who later took over the Kägi company, also inherited his entrepreneurial, inquisitive and avant-garde spirit.
Start of wafer production
Using manual methods only – with so-called waffle irons – production was able to be increased from 100 kg to 600 kg in the first two years.
The subtle balance between the various ingredients was, and continues to be perfect to this day: the wafer sheet must not taste overly sweet, nor should the triple-layered cream filling dominate.
These delicious wafers are the result of the fine art of arriving at perfect proportions for each of the different ingredients. Even exotic flavours feature amongst Kägi's products today. Our traditional flavours like vanilla and chocolate, however, continue to remain the favourites of connoisseurs all around the world.
Plans for a 'new' company
The company was extremely successful. "Although success was never an end in itself", as Alfred Kägi emphasises. Nevertheless, the Kägi company became a victim of its own success: because of the high amount of manual work involved in production, the limits of what was possible were soon reached.
The ovens operated round the clock, the bakers were no longer able to produce the company's products quickly enough. Demand for the delicious bakery products rose and rose. Frequently, the customers who arrived shortly before the bakery closed were too late: the shelves had long since been emptied.
A larger factory was constructed to satisfy the tremendous demand. The first delivery van replaced Otto Kägi's legendary bicycle.
Purchase of three wafer baking ovens
The wafer baking ovens provided the much needed increase in capacity. Thanks to the automated production of wafers, overall production was able to be increased many times over. The number of employees increased to twelve.
After many experiments with different recipes and the necessary technical preparatory work, the installation of a special machine allowed wafers to be produced with a chocolate coating. A key challenge that still exists today lied in giving chocolate the best possible flow properties during its production process. The wafers need to be completely covered with chocolate in the shortest possible time. What's more, the temperature control needs to be just right. This allows the cocoa butter to precrystallise properly; this is critically important to give chocolate an appealing sheen and good storage properties.
Purchase of the first packaging machine
From this point onwards, the crisp chocolate-covered wafers underwent automated packaging. This was a tremendous help – since there were still many individual production steps that needed to be completed by hand with great care and attention.
Enlargement of the production facility
The ever-increasing demand led to the construction of a new factory building on the present site after only five years.
Installation of an ultra-modern baking oven
The Kägi brothers invested in the modernisation and enlargement of the production site.
Export of Toggenburg specialities
The wafer specialties were a huge success and became renowned far beyond the borders of the Toggenburg. This worldwide popularity of their products far exceeded the expectations of the Kägi brothers. The first export shipment left Lichtensteig on 21 February 1956, to be loaded onto a freighter destined for Los Angeles via the Panama Canal.
A memorable event – Kägi Söhne AG had become one of the pioneers in the export of speciality biscuit products.
The Kägi is born
Years of research and countless trials with various recipes were necessary. But success arrived in 1958: the first Kägi in the shape of two bars rolled off the belt. It marked the start of commercial production for the Kägi, which continues to this day with the Kägi still true to its original appearance.
Kägi – the light and crisp wafer – is made from a dough that is unbelievably light in texture, and then given a triple-layered unique cream filling. Finally, this airy, filled wafer is given a heavenly chocolate coating.
The Kägi is a delicious, delicate work of art that evokes the sweet memories of childhood. The fact that this complicated structure doesn't crumble after the first bite is remarkable and solely attributable to Kägi's confectioners.
The secret of the Kägi
The Kägi brothers agree on how the famous wafer speciality (also known as the Kägi fret in German) came to be named – the French word for wafer "gaufrette" was simply shortened and added – but not on the original idea that led to its creation.
Two versions have currency: according to the first, the idea stems from a childhood experience in Zurich where wafers were eaten with pieces of chocolate.
The second version has it that the Kägi was the result of a discussion between Otto senior and his sons during the preparations for a trade fair in Basel. Back then, the contentious point was whether coating the wafers with chocolate – especially for this event – would be possible.
The chocolate coating that is made in house at Kägi is a source of particular pride, because our chocolate specialists set themselves the highest standards. To obtain a smooth, perfect chocolate, the cocoa liquor that has been produced in house is ground finely in a five-roll grinder, after which conching (refinement) takes place for at least 48 hours in one of the 18 longitudinal conches. This gentle production process ensures that the chocolate’s aroma develops fully and is critical in making the chocolate truly exquisite. Our considerable patience and diligence here results in Swiss chocolate – also termed couverture – that is truly exceptional.
Legend has it that the development of the conching technique was attributable to an accident. At the end of the 19th century, a renowned Bernese chocolatier was said to have forgotten to switch off his roller for 72 hours. On returning, he was supposed to have found a cocoa liquor of exquisite flavour and appearance.
Otto Kägi senior passes away aged 75 years. His sons now take over every aspect of running the business.
Success, thanks to continuity
The company meant everything to the three Kägi brothers. It is a success story written by single-minded entrepreneurs who set about their daily work with enthusiasm and passion, and who regard the results of their production with heart-felt pride.
And their passion is also infectious. From their beginnings as an insiders’ tip in the Toggenburg, Kägi's delicious products blossomed into a confectionary name... and their popularity far exceeded the expectations of the Kägi brothers. Thanks to high quality standards and on-going marketing campaigns, the Toggenburg specialities already enjoyed an outstanding reputation worldwide in the early years.
Valora Holding AG acquires the company
Otto, Alfred and Eugen Kägi sell their life's work that was founded with passion in 1934 to Valora Holding AG in Bern. They leave the running of the business, yet continue to live nearby.
Enlargement of production
The turn of the millennium marked the start of a modern era for the Toggenburg-based company. The existing buildings were enlarged, the machinery was replaced, all of the product packaging was redesigned. The focus of Kägi as a company was directed to the future, without sacrificing its soul in the process.
Kägi Söhne AG celebrates its 75th anniversary
The anniversary was commemorated at a glittering event together with business partners, customers and employees. Extensive celebrations with gripping entertainment were held on a paddle steamer, in the mountains and as part of an "open day" at the company.
Kägi returns to being a family business
On 4 February 2010, the Swiss company Burger & Söhne AG, which is active in the fast-moving consumer goods sector, acquired the Toggenburg-based producer of wafers and biscuits. This returns Kägi Söhne AG to being part of a family business again.
Play to win on black...
Kägi Söhne AG launched Kägi Dark and Kägi Dark mini – crispy chocolate wafers and the legendary Kägi filling covered with the finest home-made plain dark couverture.
The expansion continues in the Asian market
Kägi products have also enjoyed widespread popularity in Asia and the Middle East for many years. That's why Kägi opened offices in Hongkong and Dubai. It allowed Kägi to be even closer to consumers as well as its distribution partners.
Kägi sports a new look
The entire product range is released with a new, fresh and contemporary look. This updated brand identity is also intended to strengthen the core competencies and further promote the Kägi brand at a global level.
Kägi Music Box
Our Kägi Music Box wins at the ISM in Cologne the 3rd place as "Top 3 Innovations".
The success story …
… continues – thanks to you! Thank you for your loyalty and trust.