Opening up with Alessandro Pradelli of Peyrano.
We spoke with Peyrano Torino’s CEO, Alessandro Pradelli, who talked about the challenges and the joys of preserving 100+ years of tradition and multi-generational practices. As a non-family member but an active participant, he considers this company a very special one indeed.
&Open: Tell me a bit of high-level history regarding Peyrano Torino chocolatiers, as it seems the company is laced with family history from inception.
Alessandro: One hundred percent. The company was born in 1915. It was founded by the Peyrano family, and they’ve been in Turin for forever. Turin's the chocolate capital of Italy and has been since 1861.
So, you have the legacy of the family corresponding with the development of the company. And we’ve now moved into the fourth generation of Peyrano family members helping steer the ship, so to speak. So while we’ve grown as a company over the years, it’s still a family business today. And that makes it very special.
I've been at the company for a little more than two years now, and it's been a hell of a ride since then.
&Open: What’s it been like trying to preserve the legacy of a brand with 100+ years of hard work and history?
Alessandro: Three feelings come with managing a company like Peyrano. First, it's an honor. Second, it’s a great competitive advantage. And third, it's a massive responsibility.
It's an honor because you're part of something that’s much bigger than you, almost like a chapter in history. We've been suppliers of the Royal family, we’ve served the MoMA and Guggenheim in New York... Peyrano’s always worked with notable entities or families throughout the years, and having the privilege to be able to continue to do that today in our current day and age is really special.
It's an advantage because we have more than one hundred years of history and knowledge in making chocolate. So the skills our people have are honestly unparalleled. I'll give you an example. We have a lady that’s worked with us since 1966. She's now technically retired, but she still works with us here and there, coming in 2-3 times a week. We’re so grateful to still be able to speak to her about, I dunno, how certain cacao is best paired with hazelnuts. She’s just a fountain of knowledge, and having that skill set is invaluable in getting a leg up competitively.
Lastly, it's a big responsibility because you really don't wanna mess it up. To me, the biggest balance is trying to respect and celebrate who we've been for years, and then also making sure that we're not only relevant today, but that we're going to be relevant for another 200 years to come.
&Open: MoMa, the Royal Family… How do you and your team vet those opportunities? Do you have to be pretty choosy in terms of what kind of partnerships you pursue?
Alessandro: So the moment at Guggenheim, these were like more heritage partnerships. Today, one of the hardest things is having to say, “No, this partnership is not good for us right now.” You don't wanna be snobby about it. I just think it's a matter of being meticulously clear about what we stand for, what we want to do and working with like-minded people. It's not that other philosophies or priorities are better or worse. I’ve just always found that it's better — and much easier — to work with those that share similar core values.
&Open: “Attention to detail” and “the artisan nature of the product” are two cornerstones (values) of Peyrano’s craftsmanship. How do you do this at scale, shipping products all over the globe?
Alessandro: Well first of all, our purpose and the primary reason we exist is to make people happy. And so everything we do should be reflective of that end goal. In order to take our operation global, we try to automate the steps that are “less important” in ensuring the highest quality in our chocolate.
A great example: moving chocolate from one station to the other. It's not adding or removing any value to the end product, right? So that's something that we don't want our people spending time doing. We’d rather invest in a machine that moves the chocolate from one place to the next. So taking steps like those is how we scale. Yes, we're artisans, but being artisans doesn't necessarily mean that you have to do everything by hand. A good rule of thumb is anything that contributes to our purpose, we do it by hand, and anything that doesn’t, we automate.
&Open: Right. You're still delivering this artisan product that people are delighted by — even if it’s operating on a larger scale than it was 50 years ago.
Alessandro: I think it's important to be relatively big. Being too small can be dangerous. If you don't have enough resources to buy the best of everything, that's also dangerous.
&Open: Do you think Peyrano redefined the preconceived notion that giving someone chocolate can come across as “corny” or perhaps a little too expected?
Alessandro: It's very important for us to make sure receiving and indulging in Peyrano products is a special experience. Something we always say is that the product is not only the chocolate. It's the full experience. For somebody in the US, China or elsewhere, they obviously can’t visit our store in person, at least not easily. So our box is really the alternative experience to our store. So we put a lot of time and thought into the packaging itself.
The details, to me, are so important. Once you receive that package as a gift, it needs to be really special. And with Peyrano, we’ve nailed that. Not only is it special the moment you open the box, but it’s also special for the next few days or weeks in which those chocolates will be consumed.
&Open: Alright. So switching gears just a bit. Is there anything really special about the culture at Peyrano, perhaps something you haven’t encountered at other organizations?
Alessandro: Definitely, yes. I think the real difference is that the people I work with aren’t just my colleagues, but my family. A lot of companies will say that line, I know. But for us, it's really the case. Good or bad, that's truly the best way to describe it.
The other thing that's interesting for us is that we have this ginormous generational gap. There are really old, experienced artisans who’ve been working with us for ages. And now we have this wave of six young kids — we’re talking like, 18 to 22 years old. And these are the people that we carefully selected, hired and hopefully will work for us for the next 40-50 years.
Seeing that interaction, between the 70-year-olds and the 20-year-olds working together, it's really beautiful. We started doing some happy hours and dinners at the end of production on Fridays. Seeing those two generations coming together, it’s s feeling you can’t put into words. Yes, generations change. But the value and love that goes into doing something perfectly... That’s something that stays the same, regardless of age. I’d never really experienced this drastic but beautiful age gap at other organizations.
&Open: Where or who do you find inspiration — whether it’s for Peyrano products or just personally/for fun? Do you think seeking inspiration regularly is important, and why?
Alessandro: Having inspiration is so important, and it can come from anywhere. I love to travel, and so a lot of my inspiration comes from that. I also enjoy the world of food — I think there's a lot of innovation or inspiration that can come from parallel industries or categories.
Peyrano in the ‘70s launched this concept of creating chocolate boxes done by artists or designers. My favorite one was by Ettore Sottsass, one of the top designers of the last century; I found some in the archives, there were about 20-30 of them left. It got me thinking that for the time, the idea was actually really innovative. To collaborate with artists and work together to inspire each other's work. So what does that next idea look like in the next 10 years, 20 years, 30 years and so on.
&Open: Very ahead of your time with that one I feel.
Alessandro: Kudos to the third generation.
&Open: Okay, so now we're gonna get into a few gifting questions. First, what makes Peyrano a really great gift?
Alessandro: A Peyrano gift delivers that “wow” factor everyone loves, but it’s also a gift that keeps on giving. It’s something that stays with you for a few days or week (if you have more self-control than most). It’s just so beautiful; you’ll always remember the person that gave it to you. I think the combination of short-term and long-term enjoyment might be one of the most interesting parts of giving someone Peyrano chocolates. .
&Open: Who is Peyrano for? Is it someone that loves unwrapping something beautiful, maybe like those who appreciate finer things in life…?
Alessandro: For sure, both. Peyrano is for somebody that has a fine appreciation for beauty in general; anybody that loves high-quality, good-for-you flavors.
&Open: What's your favorite reason to send someone a gift, whether it's chocolate or something else?
Alessandro: I love gifting to celebrate moments in life. From wins at work to having a delicious dinner to just spending quality time with somebody, I love to send gifts for unassuming, everyday occasions.
Fiat, a car company that actually started in Turin, would gift its employees really nice things to celebrate 10 years with the company, 15 years with the company, 20 years and so on. It seems so simple, and yet you’d be surprised by how many companies don’t take the time or consideration to keep track of those dates. So the concept of consistently celebrating milestones, professionally or personally, is always going to hold weight and value.
&Open: What’s the best gift you’ve ever given, generally speaking?
Alessandro: This isn’t an exact answer to your question, but I honestly think that the best gift you can give in this world is time. It’s our most precious resource. So those moments, hours and weeks where I’ve spent good quality time with whoever I care about, those are some of the best gifts I’ve ever given.