Biography

Josef Zotter, born 21 February 1961 in Feldbach, Styria.
Apprenticed as a chef/waiter and pastry chef.
Josef Zotter is married with three children.

1987 Formation of the Zotter company as a family business: 26-year-old Josef Zotter decides to put his own ideas into practice. He and his wife Ulrike open the Zotter confectionery in Glacisstraße in the Austrian city of Graz. Their unusual creations such as "hemp slices", "full-of-fun gateau" and "beetle bean roulade with coriander" become famous throughout the region. Josef Zotter expands his operation by opening three more branches.

1992 Josef Zotter starts making chocolate in the back room of his confectionery in Graz and invents hand-ladled (“hand-scooped”) chocolate, a unique blend of innovation and craftsmanship with layered fillings. In another innovative move, he replaces the traditional cubical pattern with a sleek 70 g bar coated in a smooth layer of chocolate. Here are his pioneering varieties: Poppy-Cinnamon, Pumpkin Brittle with Marzipan, Hemp, Raw Food, Champagne and Roasted Walnuts with Marzipan.

1994 Chocolate fuses with art. Art designer Andreas h. Gratze transforms chocolate wrappers into works of art and makes up witty titles such as "For Rascals" and "For Good Ones." Gratze’s choice of artistic motifs is driven by his exasperation with advertising that permanently underrates people’s intelligence. In his view, good advertising should inspire and challenge consumers. He succeeds in creating a recognisable design with a multitude of different styles and motifs. Many people keep and collect their Zotter wrappers instead of throwing them in the bin.

1996 Josef Zotter is forced to go into administration. Three branches are closed. This failure becomes a pivotal moment in his life. Zotter refuses to give up and in 1998 introduces a new product range of hand-ladled bars of drinking chocolate.

Josef Zotter remembers the decisive moment: "It’s either the chocolate or the confectionery, we can’t do both." And my wife Ulrike said: "Well, so let’s do the confectionery, because I’m not really sure whether the chocolate really works." "Okay," I said to her, "so we’ll make chocolate." (Laughs.)

1999 The Zotters decide to put all their proverbial eggs in the chocolate basket. Together they open the z o t t e r Chocolate Manufactory, an artisan workshop in what used to be the barn of Josef’s parents’ farm.

"There wasn’t even a sign, but people used to knock on my mother’s door and ask if they could buy chocolate."


1999 Zotter was still a one-man-one-woman operation


1999 The first Zotter shop was in my mother’s lounge

2001 Zotter starts travelling to the countries where the beans are grown – Nicaragua, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil. He wants to get to the source and to talk directly to the growers.

2002 An extension is built to meet rising demand. This time, Zotter does not have to do the wiring and tiling himself. The construction of a state-of-the-art workshop with a "running chocolate" tasting station for visitors marks a big step towards transparency, openness and close contact with customers.

2004 Zotter converts the entire range to FAIRTRADE. He relies on small-scale farming structures, quality, close contact with the growers and cooperative relationships.

"In Ghana and Ivory Coast, 200,000 children work in cocoa production. That’s our issue. After all, you can’t taste the child labour."

2006 The entire range is converted to organic production. Not as simple as it may sound for a company that uses a wide variety of different and often very specific ingredients. But Zotter’s efforts pay off – even whisky and goji berries are sourced from organic production.

2007 The Manufactory is extended to accommodate bean-to-bar production and the Choco Shop Theatre. Bean-to-bar: The entire production process from bean to bar is incorporated into the Zotter Chocolate Manufactory. Josef Zotter is one of the few European bean-to-bar chocolate makers and the only one to produce exclusively organic and fair-trade quality.

Choco Shop Theatre: Visitors are invited on an excursion into the world of chocolate with various tasting and learning stations and a discovery shop. Over 250,00o visitors per year make Zotter the second most popular tourist destination in Styria.

2009 and 2010 Zotter Choco Shops open in Essen (G), Innsbruck (A) und Salzburg (A).

2010 Zotter is invited to Harvard. z o t t e r becomes the first Austrian company to be included in the prestigious American university’s curriculum as a case study.

2011 Zotter opens the Edible Zoo as the open-air part of the Choco Shop Theatre: a 66-acre adventure farm where Zotter serves food from the company’s own fields and gardens. He wants to encourage visitors to "look your food in the eye." Animals and plants are not products but living beings that should be treated with love and respect. As with the Choco Shop Theatre, his watchwords are transparency, sustainability and innovation.

2012 Josef Zotter and his family visit Burmese child refugees in Thai camps, whom he supports with his "Yummy! Meals for Schools" project.

2012 The chocolate maverick publishes his memoirs. The Kindle version of Josef Zotter’s fourth book Kopfstand mit frischen Fischen. Mein Weg aus der Krise ("Headstand with Fresh Fish. How I Got Over the Crisis") makes it all the way to the top of the philosophical biography rankings on Amazon.

2012 The new film Namaste Kakao - in den Kakaogärten Südindiens ("Namaste Cocoa – in the Cocoa Tree Orchards of Southern India") is shown in the Choco Shop Theatre.

2012 Zotter is rated among the top 8 chocolate makers in the world. Georg Bernardini tested 271 companies from 38 countries and 2,700 products. It took him two years to complete the research for his book Der Schokoladentester ("The Chocolate Tester"), in which he rates Zotter as one of the best chocolate makers in the world.

Bernardini’s verdict: "Zotter is by far the most innovative company in the chocolate industry. During the chocolate boom they were certainly one of the driving forces. But their products are not just innovative, they have always been of a very high quality as well. Even their tried and trusted ‘hand-scooped’ chocolates are continuously being developed and taken in new directions."

Labooko Nicaragua 50% is the best milk chocolate in the world according to Bernardini’s tests. Zotter’s strawberry chocolate comes in at number 2 – a chocolate that sets new standards, as Bernardini says. Much to the chocolate maker’s delight and surprise, the Nougsus range of nougat products and the Biofekt truffles also score very highly in the world ranking.

2013 Zotter’s traceability scheme offers complete transparency. Now every single bar of chocolate comes with a beating heart and a soul.

2013 The Open-Air Cinema opens in the Edible Zoo.

2013 Zotter opens a Choco-Shop Theatre in Shanghai. The chocolate is still made in Austria and delivered to China. His 25-year old daughter Julia Zotter moves to China to manage the new facility. She has taken a liking to the country and speaks the language fluently. Zotter products are sold online in China.

2014 Opening of the Skywalk, an observation deck made with glass, that allows a spectacular overview of the Edible Zoo and the surrounding area.

2015 In the newly erected meat workshop in the neighbouring villlage, Zotter processes the meat from the animals of the "Edible Zoo" directly into the finest meat and cold cuts specialties, which you can try in the eco restaurant. The delicious zoo delicacies will soon also be available in cans for your home.

2015 Zotter goes USA. The subsidiary Zotter Chocolates US was established in April, focusing primarily on E-Commerce and its Online-Shop. In August, Zotter opened up a pop-up store on its own premises at the warehouse in Cape Coral, Florida.

2015 Artifical Fertiliser for Body and Soul. Zotter opens up the season 15/16 with the Artificial Fertiliser chocolate, a fusion of chocolate and art. Our world-class chocolatier approached the classics a little and gave them a Zotter-like twist: such as “Coffee Toffee”, “Liquorice de luxe” and “Chocolate Mint”. Sugar reduction is an important trend, which is why Zotterreinvented its white chocolate; with less sugar and lots more milk. The idea to reduce sugar led to the creation of three more new chocolate varieties: “Verjuice - Green Grapes”, Labooko “Cheeky Fruits” and Labooko “Apple & Sea Buckthorn with Vanilla”, which have a refreshingly sour taste. They introduce an entirely new chocolate-eating experience, chocolaty-melting and, at the same time, refreshingly sour with a smooth finish.

2015 Zotter pushed its range of cakes, now offering 16 varieties of Sim Bim Cakes, the very first organic and fair-trade cakes that can be conjured - poof! - directly from the glass onto the plate!Read more

2015 Extension of the Cemetery of Ideas. Since many visitors grieve over the variety, Zotter resurrected the most popular former varieties for a short while. Read more

2015 Including RaspberryBlood, Zotter's chocolate thriller: a raspberry chocolate ganache with a few real drops of blood from our animals at the Edible Zoo, combined with an incredibly delicious jelly made from cornel cherries, which are often thought to be poisonous, even though they are an old remedy. Coated with dark, high-percentage chocolate.

"I have created this chocolate shocker because I know that only a few drops of blood are cause for a huge uproar, while factory farming is quietly accepted. Is our value judgment a bit off?", says Josef Zotter.

2015 Zotter ranks among the Top 25 - the best chocolatiers in the world. 
The chocolate world is in motion, which is why the chocolate tester Georg Bernardini once again published a colossal standard work (919 pages) about the international chocolate market. The test included 550 brands and 4,000 products from 70 countries. 

"Zotter is and will remain at the top of the world-best chocolate manufacturers and by far the most innovative chocolatier of all." (Chocolate – the reference standard 2015, p. 839)

The Top 25 are awarded 6 cocoa pods. 6 cocoa pods stand for "Extraordinary quality of all products. Extremely rare to no deviations in the outstanding quality of the products."(Bernardini, p. 137)

Zotter is the only producer from Germany and Austria in the Top 25 and still the only oneto produce solely in organic and fair-trade quality. 

2015 Josef Zotter is awarded "Entrepreneur Of The Year", by the audit & consulting organisation EY at an award gala at the Hofburg in Vienna. He wins in the category of Trade & Consumer Goods. 

2016 Zotter wins the Academy of Chocolate Award 2016 in London. Zotter submitted 17 chocolates and was awarded 2 x gold, 8 x silver and 5 x bronze, 15 times in total. A unique result for Zotter, next to top chocolatiers such as Amedei, Michel Cluizel and Demarquette.

2016 Zotter is nominated for the World Entrepreneur Of The Year Award 2016 in Monte Carlo.

Julia Zotter (born 1987) runs the Choco-Shop-Theatre in Shanghai. 
She spent a year in China (Xi’an and Beijing) during her school days and studied food- and biotechnology at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. For her final paper, she travelled to Brazil to start a cocoa research project. In 2013, she graduated among the top of her class from the Cordon Bleu Academy in Paris with a Grand Diplôme in patisserie and cuisine. Since her adolescence, she has helped out in all areas of the chocolate manufacture. Julia Zotter is an all-round talent who is also, by the way, fluent in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese,Chinese, German and a bit of Latin.

Michael Zotter, born 1988, stays in Austria for the time being. He takes over the management of product ranges such as FlatIce and Mi-Xing bar, an online tool that allows customers to choose from 99 different ingredients to create their very own favourite chocolate.

Little Valerie, born 2005, looks after the animals in the petting zoo and is in charge of collecting eggs.

Ulrike Zotter still manages the company, otherwise this would finally be the end of this organigraphy.


Today Zotter combines innovation and craftsmanship


Today Zotter manufactures bean-to-bar, from the cocoa bean to the finished product.