Our Portfolio

Strauss Group is an international corporation with a portfolio of five companies, which provide a response to two leading world trends – Health & Wellness, and Fun & Indulgence.

Strauss manages and develops its business in order to offer a wide range of quality Food & Beverage brands to the entire populations, which are marketed through various commercial channels.

The Group has 14,000 employees worldwide, is active in more than 20 countries.The Group’s turnover is estimated at NIS 7.6 billion in 2015, of which its international operations account for 49%.

Strauss has collaborations with Danone, PepsiCo, Haier, Virgin and the global private investment firm TPG Capital.

Strauss Group is traded on the Tel Aviv 25 Index, which includes Israel’s largest public companies, and has an AA+ credit rating.

Our companies

Max Brenner

Max Brenner was founded in 1996 in Ra’anana, Israel, as a small shop selling handmade chocolates. From this small and humble beginning grew the notion and business plan to change the way consumers see, touch, taste and experience chocolate by “creating a new chocolate culture worldwide”. The first example of this new culture was established in Sydney, Australia with the opening of the original Chocolate Bar concept.

Strauss Group purchased Max Brenner in 2001. Since then, the company has expanded its activities by leveraging its position as a Strauss Group business unit and growing its brand globally. In 2003, Max Brenner opened Chocolate Bars in Israel and then expanded that combined food and chocolate concept into the USA in 2006.

Max Brenner manages both wholly-owned and franchised Chocolate Bars and restaurants. Each location contains a small retail shop that offers the brand’s chocolate in its globally recognized and collectable creative packaging. The brand currently has 64 locations worldwide: 41 in Australia, 8 in Israel, 5 in the USA, 1 in Singapore, 5 in Japan, 2 in Russia, 1 Seoul, South Korea and 1 in china.

Max Brenner arrived in China for the first time in May 2016 with the inauguration of the chain’s first Chocolate Bar in Beijing. The restaurant is located in The Place, one of the largest shopping malls in the city’s financial district. Customers can enjoy the chain’s flagship dishes and shop on the premises for Max Brenner products, which are manufactured at the chain’s major production site in Bet Shemesh and exported to all over the world.

The restaurant in China continues the chain’s expansion in East Asia and was launched concurrently with the inauguration of the fifth Max Brenner Chocolate Bar in Japan.

The Max Brenner chocolate factory in Beit Shemesh, Israel produces and packages the brand’s handmade pralines and bonbons as well as its proprietary praline cream.

 

    

 

Areas of Activity

Management Team

Michael (Mike) Avner
Michael (Mike) Avner
Chairman

 

Mike joined the Strauss Group (then Elite Industries) in 1994, and is Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, Corporate Secretary and Management Team member. Mike also serves as Chairman of Max Brenner International, since November 2012. Mike has a law degree from Tel Aviv University (1983), and prior to joining Strauss Group practiced law in a number of law firms in Israel and the US. Mike is actively involved in public and social causes, including as a member of the Haifa University Board of Governors, founder of the Young Ambassadors Program at the Reali High School Haifa and Chairman of the Business Forum on Prevention of Bribery and Corruption.

Dave Pilarski
Dave Pilarski
VPO

 

As Max Brenner’s Vice President of Global Operations, Dave Pilarski oversees all of Max Brenner’s domestic and international Chocolate Bar operations. In his role, Dave is responsible for the budgeting and executing all financials for the Chocolate Bars and Chocolate Bar Restaurants, leading communication with franchisees, developing the international Food and Beverage and Training Team, and much more.Prior to Max Brenner, Dave worked as the Regional Director of Operations for Le Pain Quotidien. In his role, he oversaw 17 units with over $28 million in sales. Dave’s work experience includes popular food brands, including Bob Evans, Cosi, Inc. and The Cheesecake Factory. Dave holds a B.S. in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management from the Penn State University.  

 

 

Debbie Merlos
Debbie Merlos
Director of HR

 

Debbie Merlos is a long time ambassador of all things chocolate; since she was a child making triple chocolate brownies on Sundays. Now as the Director of Human Resources for Max Brenner, Debbie supports her fellow chocolate ambassadors by leading benefits analysis and administration, compensation, staff training & development, workers compensation, safety training, employee relations, performance management, organizational development, and HRIS. Debbie has over 10 years of hospitality experience in human resource management and prior to Max Brenner, she served as the US HR Administration Manager at Le Pain Quotidien. Debbie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Hofstra University. She also holds an Human Resources accreditation from Pace Uni. and is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Crispin Pangan
Crispin Pangan
Director of Development

 

Crispin joined Max Brenner in July 2013 to oversee company and franchise development worldwide.  He brings years of relevant experience from restaurant groups across the globe, starting with Pepsico, where he managed acquisitions and conversions for Taco Bell before moving to Pepsico’s Casual Dining group and overseeing construction for Chevys restaurants.  At Yum! Brands, Cris managed franchise development for KFC and Pizza Hut in Asia and teamed up with celebrity chef Martin Yan to create Asian fast casual concepts in the USA.  Cris also served as Vice President of Development at Catalina Restaurant Group, and most recently, as Vice President of Development at Johnny Rockets, where he led expansion efforts in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.