Maestrani’s Chocolarium by simple, Switzerland

June 1st, 2017 by retail design blog

The Cologne-based communication agency Simple has created an unusual and distinctive brand experience for Swiss chocolate manufacturer Maestrani. Covering an area of 2000 m2, the Chocolarium opened in eastern Switzerland on 1 April 2017. Everything at the visitor centre revolves around the question: How does happiness get into chocolate?

A different approach
A lot of chocolate manufacturers in Switzerland have visitor centres and factory outlets. The majority present their factories as artisan workshops, where chocolate is brewed in copper cauldrons and crafted with wooden spoons. However, Maestrani is taking a new approach. The aim is an emotional experience with fun at its heart. This is realised in Maestrani’s Chocolarium, the Chocolate Factory of Happiness, which becomes its own brand, attracts more visitors to the site and equally represents Maestrani’s three chocolate brands: Minor, Munz and Maestrani.

Enjoying chocolate and interactive experiences are also top priorities. To fulfill the expectations of a fun and fantastic chocolate factory, Simple designed a clear visual language, bold and magical. Chocolate is used in all its forms and colours, gold twinkles for happiness, and bright striped pipes make a factory fantastic. ‘Swissness’ rings in the small things: in a Glockenspiel made from cow bells, in the iconic landscape integrated into graphic stories and framed in the buildings’ windows.

So how does happiness get into chocolate?
In Maestrani’s Chocolarium, visitors use all their senses to find out in a playful way why chocolate makes people happy. They discover what happiness feels, sounds, looks, smells and tastes like … and of course, how it gets into chocolate. In the striking exhibition rooms, visitors are immersed in the colourful, adventurous and fantastic world of chocolate and happiness. At one point, the room becomes a shower of chocolate, in another, the visitor feels wrapped in golden paper. The sound of Swiss dairy cows rings from a “cow bell wishing well” and in an interactive exhibit, visitors smile to trigger a happy feeling.

These exhilarating experiences are accompanied by music specially created for the Chocolarium – composed and played by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra – as well as a unique audio guide with 3D sound. A highlight for young visitors is the kids’ tour which guides them at eye level through the exhibition rooms. The Swiss cartoon character “Globi” helps locate hidden periscopes, interactive games and brief audio features. To round off the experience, visitors walk over the real chocolate factory floor in a glass gallery. An integrated timeline takes them on a journey through the history of happiness, cocoa and chocolate.

In detail
The visit begins with a film in which a “professor of happiness” muses over what one needs to be happy: love, freedom and enjoyment – the pleasure of sweet moments, the indulgence in chocolate. He opens the question: “Chocolate makes you happy, but how does the happiness get into the chocolate?” whereupon he relates findings from his field trips to cocoa farms in Peru and dairies in the Swiss Alps. After the film, the screen retracts to reveal the “Ingredients Port”, a room where visitors discover the stories of the ingredients until their arrival in the factory.

Milk and sugar come from Swiss fields, hazelnuts grow in Italy and cocoa is harvested all year round in Peru. They learn that the warm sun of South America, the fair working conditions of the cocoa farmers as well as the pure mountain air and luscious grass of alpine meadows all bring happiness into the ingredients. Interactive stations add elements of fun to the tour. The Ingredients Port is thematically and aesthetically split into two halves: a brown side for the brown ingredients, cocoa and hazelnuts, and a white side for the white ingredients, milk and sugar.

All the ingredients are blended together in the next room, the “Mixing Works”, with a view into the warm part of the real factory, where the ingredients are mixed, rolled and ‘conched’. Visitors are invited to smell, taste and feel the mixtures. The brown and white worlds that met in the previous room now swirl and twirl over the walls, ceiling and floor, continuing the visual metaphor and creating a new spatial experience. The tour continues through the “Happiness Seal” – a completely golden room – into the “Laboratory of Inexplicable Happiness”. Here, experiments are carried out into metaphysical happiness in chocolate.

Lucky charms, bringers of happiness and good fortune, load happiness into the chocolate, which flows through a huge induction coil. The experiment works, even if you don’t believe in it. Visitors can taste the freshest, happiest molten chocolate, which flows out of chocolate fountains. At the “Happiness Sharing Station”, visitors then share their happy feeling. After all, happiness is the only thing that doubles when you share it. They send out well wishes to friends, family or strangers, by sticking a colourful sticker onto a world map. Then it’s back to the pragmatic, through a glass gallery over the factory floor where visitors enjoy views of the chocolate manufacturing processes.

Arches of light structure the long passageway. Interactive discovery stations communicate the production process. Life-size employee photos and graphics tell stories and fun facts. Visitors learn that organic quality, fair trade and favourable working conditions contribute to the happiness in chocolate. And that the happiness can only stay in chocolate if the people making it are happy too! They study Maestrani’s state-of-the-art machines, which make sure the chocolate with its load of happiness is packed as freshly as possible.

Then the visitors test this freshness at tasting stations with Munz, Minor and Maestrani chocolate. Finally, visitors can make their own chocolate in the “Chocolate Foundry” and find inspiration from the recipe board to share sweet tastes at home. While they are waiting at the cooling tunnel, old Maestrani ads offer light entertainment. The tour ends with a stroll down memory lane, with three intertwining timelines telling the history of happiness, cocoa and chocolate. Visitors then land in the shop and café, where they can satisfy any remaining cravings.

Behind the scenes
Simple’s interdisciplinary team of experts spent four years designing and producing the brand story and scenography. As the general contractor and creative lead, the agency was responsible for coordinating all aspects of the spatial experience. The new-build rose from the ground after intensive preparation by simple and Maestrani, from architect Thomas Keckeis and planer SMC. The extension is the attractive street-facing façade of the Chocolarium.

It is the visitor entrance, with foyer, ticket desk, chocolate shop and café. The second floor hosts event rooms and the Maestrani offices. The Chocolarium discovery tour starts in the new-build, goes through the existing factory, before a nearly 50-metre-long bridge takes visitors back into the extension. In the secluded atrium, terraces on two levels offer visitors an area where they can rest and relax. For more information go to and follow us on Facebook. All the ingredients are blended together in the next room, the “Mixing Works”, with a view into the warm part of the real factory, where the ingredients are mixed, rolled and ‘conched’.

Visitors are invited to smell, taste and feel the mixtures. The brown and white worlds that met in the previous room now swirl and twirl over the walls, ceiling and floor, continuing the visual metaphor and creating a new spatial experience. The tour continues through the “Happiness Seal” – a completely golden room – into the “Laboratory of Inexplicable Happiness”. Here, experiments are carried out into metaphysical happiness in chocolate. Lucky charms, bringers of happiness and good fortune, load happiness into the chocolate, which flows through a huge induction coil.

The experiment works, even if you don’t believe in it. Visitors can taste the freshest, happiest molten chocolate, which flows out of chocolate fountains. At the “Happiness Sharing Station”, visitors then share their happy feeling. After all, happiness is the only thing that doubles when you share it. They send out well wishes to friends, family or strangers, by sticking a colourful sticker onto a world map. Then it’s back to the pragmatic, through a glass gallery over the factory floor where visitors enjoy views of the chocolate manufacturing processes. Arches of light structure the long passageway.

Interactive discovery stations communicate the production process. Life-size employee photos and graphics tell stories and fun facts. Visitors learn that organic quality, fair trade and favourable working conditions contribute to the happiness in chocolate. And that the happiness can only stay in chocolate if the people making it are happy too! They study Maestrani’s state-of-the-art machines, which make sure the chocolate with its load of happiness is packed as freshly as possible. Then the visitors test this freshness at tasting stations with Munz, Minor and Maestrani chocolate.

Finally, visitors can make their own chocolate in the “Chocolate Foundry” and find inspiration from the recipe board to share sweet tastes at home. While they are waiting at the cooling tunnel, old Maestrani ads offer light entertainment. The tour ends with a stroll down memory lane, with three intertwining timelines telling the history of happiness, cocoa and chocolate. Visitors then land in the shop and café, where they can satisfy any remaining cravings.

Behind the scenes
Simple’s interdisciplinary team of experts spent four years designing and producing the brand story and scenography. As the general contractor and creative lead, the agency was responsible for coordinating all aspects of the spatial experience. The new-build rose from the ground after intensive preparation by simple and Maestrani, from architect Thomas Keckeis and planer SMC.

The extension is the attractive street-facing façade of the Chocolarium. It is the visitor entrance, with foyer, ticket desk, chocolate shop and café. The second floor hosts event rooms and the Maestrani offices. The Chocolarium discovery tour starts in the new-build, goes through the existing factory, before a nearly 50-metre-long bridge takes visitors back into the extension. In the secluded atrium, terraces on two levels offer visitors an area where they can rest and relax.

Design: simple
Photography: Annika Feuss

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