The scent of gingerbread and Spanish peanuts is in the air in the Zuwebe warehouse in the Bösch industrial area in Hünenberg. Five people with disabilities, clients of Zuwebe, are concentrating on their work: filling nuts, chocolate and cookies into the prepared cotton sacks, weighing them, tying them up and preparing them for shipping. The institution, with headquarters in Baar, produces some 15,000 Samichlaus (Father Christmas/Santa Claus) sacks each year, which are sold via the online shop, to companies and at the Christmas market in Inwil on 23 and 24 November.
Philippe Mercier is already an experienced producer of Chlaus sacks, having helped in this area of the workshop over the last few years. "I enjoy the work," says the Zuwebe employee. "I particularly like the fact that it is nice and quiet here." He shows the visitor the exact procedure for filling the sacks. First, the walnuts and the Spanish peanuts are weighed and filled into a container. "It must be exactly 210 to 212 grams," explains Mercier. It’s then time to add the confectionary. A label attached to the table shows how many Lindor balls or Sugus sweets have to be be placed in the sacks. "For the Sugus, for example, we have to make ensure that all the different colours come in the bag." After filling, a supervisor or a caregiver checks that the total weight is correct. The Chlaus sacks from the Zuwebe are available in five different sizes. Once the gingerbread has been placed in the sack, this is tied and the label is added. Philippe Mercier provides refills when the filling “stations” become empty: the warehouse is only a few metres away.
"Being able to weigh and count are the most important skills the workers clients need," says Rös Bühlmann, specialist assistant. Employees with disabilities work very independently, says the experienced caregiver. "I feel they need fewer instructions year after year." The work in Chlaus sack production is popular, he adds. "It brings a change to the daily work routine. "Correcting errors is also part of it - as with any company where people work. " I sometimes have to empty bags again if the weight is not right," says the supervisor. For example, if the scales have been adjusted incorrectly.
The change when the size of the bags, and thereby also the quantities, vary is also a challenge. Or if customers send in special requests.
For Ernst Wiss, head of the manual production department at Zuwebe, the preparations for the Chlaus sack production already start before the summer holidays, when he determines the quantity, obtains quotations and orders the material. Production then take place over six to seven weeks. "Sustainability is important to us," adds the department head.
The organic cotton sack helps support micro-farmers in Africa. The other items are procured locally wherever possible. For example, the total of 21,000 gingerbread cakes comes from the local bakery Creabeck. "The Chlaus sacks are very popular with our clients," says Ernst Wiss, adding: "It’s particularly nice for them to create something that can be given away afterwards. They identify with the product. In some cases, they can even sell it themselves at the Christmas market.”
It is just before 5 pm, and the working day has come to an end for Philippe Mercier and his colleagues. He doesn’t know in advance whether he will be working in the Chlaus sack production the next day. "I hope I'll be here a few more times," he says, and says goodbye with a smile.
Philippe Mercier prepares the confectionary for packing