Creating and consolidating a startup is very difficult, but it is just as or even more difficult to ensure that a 130-year-old company not only survives but has also positioned itself among the largest in the Spanish chocolate industry in a one-on-one interview. one with the most warriors in the world, from Mondelez to Nestlé or Lindt: a credit to all generations of the López family, which founded Chocolates Valor in Villajoyosa (Alicante) in 1881, but also to the last of its representatives on the company’s board of directors, Pedro Lopez Lopez.

The least that can be said about the graduate business economist, who grew up in his family’s chocolate environment from an early age, is that he got bored. Since he joined the company in 1991 and took over the management in 1997, the sector has incessantly experienced interesting times, characterized by the emergence of new competitors, products, formats and the virtual disappearance or sale of almost all the major Spanish companies in the sector, from Trapa to Elgorriaga , unable to fight against the ominous brands that came from abroad. Almost all, with the exception of Valor, which in these two decades has risen to leadership in some of the most commercial segments (dark chocolate, with almonds or in the cup), have won an award as important as the European Candy Kettle Award 2011. It is even managed to triple its turnover. Work by Pedro Lopez.

BUSINESSMAN: How do you explain that Valor has managed to resist the multinationals and become the Spanish leader in this sector?
Pedro Lopez Lopez Because we have acted on several fronts: we have accelerated innovation in new products and constantly renewed our portfolio, we have created our own chain of chocolate shops, we have intensified internationalization in countries such as the United States, Colombia, Canada or the Philippines, that we opened a new market that we were in, the industrial market, where we sell quality chocolate to other companies (ice cream makers, nougat makers, biscuit makers) for their processes and renew our advertising message from scratch. In addition, we have tried to achieve the highest level of quality and image.

EMP. What was the defining moment in your company that marks a before and after?
PLL It was in 1963 that the descendants of the founder Valeriano López (bravery in Valencian) decided to go from the artisanal to the industrial stage with a new, much larger plant and the launch of the pure concept: a chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa, presented in a big pill of half a kilo, something completely new, so much so that many didn’t believe it would work.

EMP. Survival would already have been remarkable because the pressure from the multinationals is strong.
PLL Yes, we constantly feel the onslaught of multinational corporations, which forces us to constantly make very important decisions, and this has intensified in recent years. It also forces you to run a very strong and expensive promotion and constantly look for products and lines that will make you stand out from the rest. You can never relax or you will end up losing the odds.

EMP. But how is it possible to thrive and resist in a sector dominated by multinationals?
PLL First of all, making very good chocolates, the best. As? Development of the entire manufacturing process from the cocoa bean to the chocolate. In this industry you have to have a lot of enthusiasm, love the product very much and constantly look for differentiation.

According to Pedro López, “although the branding strategy has less leeway than years ago, it is still crucial.”

EMP. Which differentiation strategies apply?
PLL We apply them to specific products, formats, image and advertising… We have managed to break into very specific niches such as e.g. We also introduced large formats, we created a chain of retail chocolate stores to reach the end consumer directly, we launched the “Adult Pleasure” campaign.

EMP. Own chocolate shops should also play an important role.
PLL This is because, along with advertising, we consider them to be one of the main pillars of promoting our brand. Although they only contribute 3% to the company’s turnover, the 40 chocolate shops that we have spread across Spain contribute 20% of the brand awareness.

EMP. Have they tried to buy your company?
PLL Yes, and it is logical, because it is already known that a pretty girl has more opportunities to receive proposals. It has happened occasionally but we have never thought about it, mainly because we put a lot of enthusiasm into this business and also, and this is important, we have never faced such difficult times that we were seduced by the opportunity to sell .

EMP. What are the basic ideas that carry Valor, the culture behind it?
PLL We have tried to act knowing that we must not rest on our laurels, that we must not be afraid of change and that we must implement it with greater agility.