Sold in 100+ countries, the world is its oyster – yet ‘home sweet home’ for every bar of Ritter Sport that tickles the palate anywhere in the world is the little German town of Waldenbuch in the rolling hills of southwest Germany near Stuttgart. Here, some three million bars roll off the production line each day. Whether Alpine Milk, Whole Hazelnuts or Marzipan – after Germany, the square bars are consumed most avidly in Russia, the US and Italy. When it comes to producing over 70 thousand metric tons of chocolate per annum, Ritter Sport chooses to trust a combined heat and power (CHP) plant from MTU Onsite Energy – used to generate a third of its total power requirements.
There’s an old German saying: ‘chocolate makes you happy’. Serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness, must surely not be in short quantity among the Ritter Sport workforce. Walking towards the production bay,
your nostrils are filled with a pleasant, chocolaty aroma which intensifies as you approach the door to this hallowed space. Chocolate made here travels to destinations the whole world over. Whether that Alpine Milk bar is enjoyed in Belgium, the US or Russia: it was poured and cooled in Waldenbuch. Chocolate production requires both heat and cold, and the energy to deliver this comes from the powerhouse located inside the production building – which, since the middle of 2016, has been equipped with an MTU engine. At its heart is a CHP plant fitted with a 16V Series 4000 gas engine from MTU Onsite Energy. The co-generation module does not just supply power to liquefy chocolate, it is also used to air-condition the production bay.
Production temperature: 29°C
“Chocolate production runs 24 hours per day in a three-shift system operating around 300 days per year,” explained Markus Maurer, Production Manager at Ritter Sport. The production facility consists of six high-power units and an enrobing plant. “Whether Mini bars, 65g ‘Bio’ organic, or 100g or 250g bars: the entire range is produced on these six lines,” said Maurer. Ritter Sport has 1,400 employees, around 500 of whom work in production. “We make our own chocolate – using cocoa beans, sugar, milk powder and secret Ritter Sport ingredients,” he said. In fact, 350 metric
tons of raw materials are processed every day, and Ritter Sport produces 2.7 tons of chocolate per hour.
Heating the pipework
All chocolate is derived from cocoa beans, and at Ritter Sport the dry beans are cleaned, roasted and ground all in one large machine to produce a brittle mass, which employees then mix with cocoa butter, milk powder and sugar – although it does not yet have that delicate, chocolatey aroma. The machine kneads all the ingredients
together for ten minutes at 40°C. Only at the conching stage does the cocoa mass become delicate and chocolatey. The liquid chocolate is held in large storage tanks, waiting to be pumped through large-diameter pipework to the various lines. The pipework is actually one pipe inside another, and the heat generated by the MTU CHP
plant heats both the inside pipe, which carries the chocolate, and the water in the water-jacket formed by the outside pipe. This prevents the chocolate from solidifying before the end of the production process. But to make perfect Ritter Sport, you have to have the right temperature as well as the right ingredients: Held steady at 29°C,
the chocolate develops its full taste potential and gets its color and its appetizing, glossy surface.
Constant energy needs
“The waste heat given off by the engine coolant is used to heat the factory,” said Dirk Rozema who is the Energy Manager in charge of the Ritter Sport CHP plant. “The CHP plant is perfect for our needs,” he explained. He has worked at Ritter Sport for 26 years and also spent many years as a ship’s engineer. “I know my way around engines. The MTU Series 4000 was the one I wanted. I knew in my heart it was the
right one. Everything’s nice and tight – you can sense that if you have a feel for the engine,” Rozema smiled contentedly. “We’ve got a steady energy requirement all through the year, and the generated power and heat are used right here on site,” he said. The plant has an efficiency level of 90%. The CHP plant supplies 1,280 kW
of electricity and 1,580 kW of thermal energy. “The CHP plant is perfectly designed for our needs. It runs at 100% of its rated power all year round,” said Rozema. The project was planned by Midiplan from Bietigheim-Bissingen, just outside
Stuttgart, and Bosch Co-Generation Systems supplied the natural gas engine and ancillary equipment to Ritter Sport in its role as MTU systems integrator.
A center for every taste
Peppermint, strawberry yogurt or hazelnut cream: When it comes to Ritter Sport fillings, there is one to suit every taste. But how do the centers get inside the chocolate? To do this, the warm chocolate is piped onto the production belt, and
machines pour the warm mass into a pre-heated, square-shaped mold, which is immediately flipped over so that part of the mass flows back out, leaving a thin layer of solidified chocolate on the walls of the mold - this is the chocolate shell. Marzipan or biscuit squares are then set into the shell, and liquid masses such as yogurt or
chocolate cream are injected through nozzles. The freshly-made chocolate is then refrigerated at 8°C to await further processing.
Ritter Sport makes 23 varieties of its 100g bar, six varieties of whole nut, and eight varieties of the 250g bar. Complementing these are three seasonal special editions – in spring, summer and winter – varieties sold for limited periods only. Ritter Sport staff are never short of ideas for flavors – be they delicate and fruity or tangy and strong – and they work on new varieties behind closed doors. The development kitchens see a lot of testing, experimenting and tasting. The trial chocolate is put into uncharacteristic white wrappers and sold to fans and bargain-hunters at the Ritter Sport factory shop in Waldenbuch. At the end of the day, it is the customer who decides whether a new creation is set to be a retail hit or a one-bar wonder.
15 minutes of fridge time
Once the filling has cooled and solidified, the employees pour on the underside of the bar. Energy generated by the CHP plant warms the edge of the chocolate mold so that the liquid chocolate coats the contents all round. The machine then removes the excess chocolate. The freshly cast chocolate bar is now almost finished – and is taken off to be cooled. Exhaust heat from the CHP plant is passed through an absorption cooler to produce refrigeration power, which is used to keep the product cool during
production and storage. The chocolate stays in the refrigerator for 15 minutes at 8°C. The final stage in the production process is the twister, a machine, that turns the square chocolate bars over, allowing them to be removed from the mold safely and undamaged. A hammer then taps the bars out of the mold. To ensure the chocolate
arrives in the supermarket in one piece, the conveyor belt whisks it to the packaging machine which puts it in air-tight wrappers and prints the relevant best-before date for the country of sale.
Green power is anything but square
The Ritter Sport energy scheme is based on two mainstays. One portion is produced by the company’s own combined heat and power plant from MTU Onsite Energy and by solar panel arrays, with the rest sourced from Schönau Electricity Works, Germany’s eco-power pioneers in the Black Forest area. Ritter Sport has operated
its own CHP plant since 2002. “At the time, we were trailblazing CHP in the food industry and drew smiles from people who said it wouldn’t pay. But it quickly became clear that generating your own power is an extremely attractive proposition, given the major rises in electricity prices in recent years,” said Ritter’s CHP boss Rozema. At Ritter Sport, sustainability is not simply a project that gets wrapped up at some point, but is rather an ongoing process. In spring 2016, the former CHP plant was getting somewhat long in the tooth and was replaced by an MTU genset.
“We’re conducting what is a very green project costing 10% more, but which is much more eco-friendly,” explained Rozema. “That helps not just our energy costs, but the environment too,” he continued. Indeed, even the company founder, Alfred Ritter, believed that only sustainably-run businesses survive, and that is one of the principles followed by the family business to this very day.
Power – squared
Whether it’s Cocoa Mousse, Corn Tortilla Chips, Chopped Hazelnuts or Raisin-
Cashew – at Ritter Sport, it’s all about ‘inner values’. The aim is to create as much taste as possible, the right consistency, and chocolate that simply melts in the mouth. Ritter Sport connoisseurs, understandably, are too preoccupied to consider that these inner values also come thanks to a perfectly-tuned combined cooling, heat and
power plant, but it is a fact worth knowing all the same.
Did you know? Alfred and Clara Ritter did not hit upon the idea of making square-shaped chocolate bars until 1932, 20 years after the company was founded. It was intended to be a bar that would fit easily into any sports-jacket pocket without
breaking and weighs the same as the normal rectangular bar. Little-known fact: At the time, the chocolate factory in Waldenbuch was located next to an amateur sports ground, and soccer players always took a bar of chocolate with them to training sessions. Now that’s how to inject fun into any fitness regime!