-- Who has more to gain from the joining of American chocolate company Russell Stover and Swiss maker Lindt?
It might be the Kansas City, Missouri-based company, which analysts call a "non-premium" brand. The company known for its cheap Valentine's chocolate boxes in drug stores and an appearance in the movie "Forrest Gump" might learn a thing or two, or 10, from the Swiss chocolate-making process, according to Hans Mazenauer, 80, retired Swiss "Master Chocolatier" of Lindt & Sprüngli USA.
Lindt & Sprüngli Group announced today its biggest acquisition yet, though the financial details were not disclosed.
Mazenauer, who retired in 2002 and lives in Florida, said, "I ate chocolate every day," while he worked for Lindt, but he hasn't tried Russell Stover in a "long time."
"It’s definitely not chocolate weather [in Florida]," he said.
Still, he said there may be too many differences to list between the two chocolate brands.
First, there's the difference in ingredients, including the aroma of Swiss milk vs. American milk. Then, there's the heritage and the process. Lindt traces its roots to 1845, in Zurich's Old Town. The company boasts of roasting its own cacao beans ("the world's finest coca beans," according to its website) and making chocolate from "bean to bar."
"Lindt chocolate is the best chocolate, in my opinion, you can buy," Mazenauer told ABC News, adding, "Lindt has quality control and process that is the best there is."
The former "Maître Chocolatier" said he's not a fan personally of Russell Stover's sugar-free chocolate products either.
"Of course I know how to make sugar-free chocolate. For people who need that, that’s fine, but I was never keen myself," he said, saying it might be an option for chocolate lovers who are diabetics.
As for American classics like Hershey and M&Ms, he said they might be more for the "conservative American taste," following World War II.
"I’m not so keen on them," he said. "I like more the Lindt taste. Over the years, I got to like it. But Lindt is creamier and tastier -- the quality of the Lindt flavor."
Will Russell Stover follow the path of Ghiradelli, the San Francisco-based chocolate maker that Lindt acquired in 1998?
"They are doing very, very well. You find Ghiradelli all over," he said.
Mazenauer said he was "surprised" by the latest acquisition, and he called it a "good move."
"It might make a big difference. I think Russell Stover will profit with this takeover from Lindt’s expertise in chocolate. It’s just the best you can get. I’m sure the quality will improve and they will profit by having such good people join them," he said.
Russell Stover Candies calls itself the nation’s largest manufacturer of boxed chocolate, with three brands: Russell Stover, Whitman’s and Pangburn’s. They account for more than 60 percent of all boxed chocolate sales in the U.S., the company says, and it is the third-largest American chocolate manufacturer behind Hershey and M&M Mars.
"This biggest and most important strategic acquisition to date in Lindt & Sprüngli's history is a unique opportunity for us to expand our North American chocolate business and will greatly enhance the group's status in the world's biggest overall chocolate marketplace," Ernst Tanner, CEO of Lindt & Sprüngli, said in a statement announcing the deal.
A spokesman for Russell Stover declined to comment to ABC News.