Discover the 75-year history and win a drop made of gold.SCROLL
A blend that has remained unchanged to this day.
Every story has a beginning. Ours starts here. Emil Richterich had been involved with the healing powers of herbs for some time. Initially he successfully developed cough drops, but the first breakthrough came in 1940 with the discovery of the magic herb blend. The birth of the Original Herb. He was inspired by the herbal book of pastor Künzli. In addition to the taste, the Original Herb also stood out from the competition through something else:
its appearance. It was not round, but rectangular. And it still is today. Truly unique with an attitude.
Making a virtue of necessity, or how the name Ricola came about.
"Another Richterich is coming!" The Ricola representatives heard this often in the 1940s, as they traveled through the countryside to take Original Herb drop orders and to present the latest Ricola products. While at first people wondered about this type of reception, it was soon clear that in Laufen there was another business with the name Richterich that also sent out its representatives to sell candies. These were chocolate-coated marshmallow treats. From the customers point of view, Richterich representatives appeared far to often in the stores, sometimes one, sometimes the other, causing confusion. Naturally one could not forbid the other from being called Richterich! Ricola founder and namesake Emil Richterich wanted to end the confusion, and soon had the brilliant idea:
without further ado, he shortened the name in 1948, the name under which Ricola officially did business, and coined the melodic-sounding Ricola from the name Richterich & Co. Laufen. This was true intuition.
How Laufen gave us legs.
"During my grandfather's time, we initially gathered wild growth, which was sufficient because we did not need such large quantities of herbs. The entire Laufen Valley was on its feet. Private individuals were out and about on the weekend, and if Ricola employees had too little to do, they also went out gathering herbs." (Felix Richterich)
Casablanca meets Ricola – maybe.
How the right words would make the world a little better.
The word "patron" comes from the latin "patronus" and "pater", and means "father". As the head of the family, a patron bears all the burdens so that all those under his care are able to thrive. Emil Richterich was just such a "father" to the company. The Ricola founder concerned himself with issues affecting his employees and fellow citizens far beyond his business interests. In his "Richterich letters", he also referred to his position on the turbulent political events of his time and expressed his personal recommendations. He did this with passionate idealism, as the following words illustrate:
"And all this is likely possible! Next to the world of tanks and u-boats, the bombers, dive bombers and mortars, there is another world that does not destroy but creates new power: The world of poetry and music, theater and art. A world where people can triumphantly show what they can accomplish when in the right frame of mind. A world where man is victorious over the evil within himself. A world where doctors and nurses enter contaminated areas and save the suffering, where scientists in laboratories undertake tests that endanger their lives, where people have declared war on disease – a world where, for the first time in the history of mankind, attempts are being made to eliminate hunger through technology. If we also take care of this brave, beautiful world, where the old wisdom "do what is right and shrink from no man" still applies, then today's world will soon no longer appear hopeless and the turn of the year will then be just a small stop on the way to a better, more beautiful world!" (From: Richterich letter at the end of 1941)
From Charlie Chaplin to Original Herb.
Why going round and round in circles is not all that bad.
In 1958 the hula hoop was brought onto the market, and in the same year it conquered the entire world. Large or small, everyone spun the plastic ring around their hips. But only in Laufen could people also spin a Ricola Original Herb in their mouth at the same time. According to legend.
Because a good product is the best argument.
Long before the alpine "Riii-coo-laa" call, the lovable fuddy-duddy candy police went around asking "Who invented it?" and the current slogan in dialect "Chrüterchraft", the advertisement for the Swiss Original Herb and its sweet relatives had its origins first and foremost from personal customer contact. Emil and Hans Peter Richterich themselves searched for the store owners that were already customers or that could become customers. Early in the morning, via bike or in an old Simca, they would set off into the Jura, into the Bernese Highlands or to Lucerne, armed with good arguments and a sample case in their luggage. They would visit 20 to 30 shops per day in this manner. On their return, they would take notes of not only the orders, but also personal observations, such as whether the shopkeeper was nice or whether her husband was sick. These notes served as conversational material and a connecting factor when they saw each other again.
In addition to these visits and advertising letters or seasonal greeting cards to the customers, advertisements were also published in the 1950s. Alongside these visits and advertising letters or seasonal greeting cards to the clientele, advertisements were also published in the 1950s. Far removed from social media or the world of abstract experiences, people were persuaded with very practical considerations "How quickly will one catch cold during this wet, cold and unfriendly time of year? Try a Ricola Original Herb today. You will be surprised at how quickly it works." Or, "Free from coughing, a huge relief. Your family will thank you for it."
The small bakery will be left behind.
The first color TV was introduced in 1951. It was an historic moment, which nevertheless hardly impressed the Richterichs, who were busy relocating from their pastry production facility into their new residential and factory building. The old bakery could simply no longer cope with the volumes of herb drops. The newly acquired building had previously been used as a makeshift church and garage. The Richterich family later lived on the second floor and production took place on the ground floor.
It is certainly better with the bike.
The DNA of the Original Herb.
A probably fake story.
Unsellable? No way!
Less is more – which, in the case of Ricola in the 1960s applied to the reduced product range, and was not allowed to be a slogan for their sales. Since as a sales territory Switzerland was too small for just two products, Ricola became one of the first Swiss companies to make sweets. It was known that Ricola products had already been smuggled across the borders to Italy and Luxembourg. And accordingly, they were initially sold in these two countries. Then came an attempt to turn Ricola's core business into an export hit in Germany. In the meantime, the large biscuit and candy manufacturers had founded an export association intended to replace and optimize individual imports. A "Biscosuisse" committee worked out a strict procedure that would enable products to be sold in foreign countries under "Biscosuisse" name. One of the most important criteria was, of course, quality. The Ricola Original Herb was judged to be barely sufficient. A Swiss gentleman who at the time was the director of Tobler Chocolate in Stuttgart, received the delegation from Biscosuisse and looked over the products. The conclusion of his marketing director concerning the Ricola pouch was sobering:
the marketing director stated that it was nothing more than a sort of "seed packet", and would be unsellable in Germany! But the director felt sympathetic and arranged to buy. Possibly 100,000 such packets would sell per year. This is how the Original Herb came to be included in the product range. The first 50,000 packets were delivered – and a follow-on order had to be placed within just a few months. At the end of the first year, it was no longer a total of 100,000 packets, but rather a total of one million packets, a superb success.
A new home for Ricola.
Once again, Ricola was running out of space – the Original Herb drops were stacked up to the ceiling, and it was time to move. In 1967 we moved into the new factory building in Laufen. Not only to have more space for production, but also to accommodate the many new employees who were now attending to desk work. This allowed the old residential and factory building to be repurposed easily into an office building.
Work goes better with a song on the lips.
In the past, people always sang while they worked. At least that's what people say. But it's not entirely true. In the past people only sang while they worked if they were experiencing a sense of well-being. Singing, an age-old human need, is the expression of a connection with nature and well-being – every child hums when he or she roams barefoot and lost in thought across a summer meadow. The office workers at Ricola, who in the early years still wrapped every single herb drop in paper by hand, partially in their own living rooms, sang.
They sang folk songs such as "E Hand voll Heimetärde" or "Uf dr Falkeflueh". This made them feel good while they worked. At least, this is what Heidi Schenk, a former employee from the very first hour, relates as she reflects on the one time she ventured to find a different position and turn her back on Ricola. But she was personally persuaded by the company patron to stay. She has never regretted it. Not least because the work back then had been hard (and the office workers at the beginning were hardly smiling), but to compensate successes were also adequately celebrated. Whether casually over a can of beer or formally – there were many reasons to sing a song. "We celebrated the first million, we celebrated the second million, we celebrated the third million. It wasn't important when it happened – when we reached the million, we stopped operations and celebrated. I still remember the fifth million well, because every employee received half a chicken. At the time, that was something really special!"
Ricola went to Woodstock.
Why even a punk listens to grandma.
In 1977, there was a swing in the youth scene. People separated themselves from the middle-class world of their parents and simply did the opposite of what the older people expected them to. Only at grandma's would they make an exception. Thanks to her good advice "Ricola is good for the voice," the young punks could continue to roar against society at the top of their voices.
How a yellow tin of herb drops made it into the Japanese dictionary.
In 1972, my father and I were travelling in the US. We found a yellow tin containing herb drops and ate the entire contents on the flight from New York to Los Angeles. They tasted so delicious we couldn't resist, and when we tried to buy another box in Los Angeles, we couldn't find one. Looking at the box, my father asked what "herb" meant. The word "herb" was totally new to Japan at the time and did not exist in the English-Japanese dictionary. So it was the Ricola herb drop that made the word "herb" a familiar term after its introduction in Japan.
Mitsutaka Nakamura, President of Nisshoku Japan
With entrepreneurial spirit and a sense of order.
If the business starts running, it runs. And in the 1970s, due to more Swiss Original Herbs needing to be produced daily, every now and then even the grandson of the founder was occasionally employed. This lead to the current Managing Director, Felix Richterich, once spending his school vacation as temporary staff for Ricola. His operational area on this day was the basement. He was directed to take the wrapping paper with which the sweets were to be packed from the rack intended for them and to re-sort them according to the following system: the untouched paper rolls toward the back, the ones that had been used toward the front, and throw away the empty rolls.
After about two hours, the student appeared out of the depths of the stockroom to report with a grin on his face that his work was done, and someone could now check whether they were satisfied with his work. When someone did so, they could not believe their eyes. The rack was empty; Felix Richterich had thrown all the wrapping paper into the garbage disposal system. The garbage disposal system had been right there, and so he thought to himself that it was the easiest way to put things in order. After about an hour, the oven was off. The entire Original Herb production had to be suspended. If the sweets could not be wrapped after cutting they would stick together. All together. In a huge clump of Original Herbs. And so they had to wait. Until new wrapping paper would arrive from Zürich. And that could take awhile. The student saw it as a positive and thought, at least everyone gets a break now thanks to him!
Sharks and Original Herb?
The Original Herb conquers the USA.
The Original Herb goes mobile.
In the 1980s, people became more mobile. Music could be attached to your belt thanks to the Walkman, and cell phones allowed business people to be reached at any time – at least in the bigger cities. And also Ricola herb drops were available to take with you:
In 1988, the first Ricola herb drops pocket packages appeared. Since then Ricola can always be with you.
The television premier of the year.
Herzog & de Meuron for Ricola.
Many new trends originated in this decade. And we also gave our former residential and factory building a new look in 1983. Or, better put, this was done for us by the then-fairly unknown architects Herzog & de Meuron from Basel, Switzerland.
But that was just the beginning: six additional projects would follow.
The beginnings of a fruitful collaboration.
Rather logical: without herbs, there are no Original Herbs. Consequently from the beginning searching for herbs was of great importance. In the summer when there was little other work, company founder Emil Richterich would even go into the field. But over time, people noticed that even though the peppermint continued to taste wonderful, it contained hardly any essential oils. The plants were hybrids, or "mongrels" as they were called back then. In addition, the inhabitants of the mountain villages that had previously earned extra income through gathering herbs, now no longer found this necessary with the introduction of social security, and the herb population had declined anyway over the years. The main Original Herb ingredients were therefore poorly cultivated. "We are searching for herbs." Advertisements were then made throughout Switzerland without success. Without success.
Municipal leaders of small villages were written to to ask whether school classes wanted to earn money for school trips by gathering herbs. Also without any response. Where to get the herbs? The targeted cultivation of herbs went from being a necessity to a decided matter. Two options were considered: either Ricola would grow the herbs itself, or they would contract farmers to take care of this for the company. A first in-house test garden was planted. Quickly it was realized that herb cultivation was a complex undertaking, and Ricola decided in favor of cooperation with expert farmers. The first cultivation of herbs in Switzerland was was established.
Obliged to be noble.
Even royal children like something sweet – as was proven in 1982 at a ski race high in the Spanish Pyrenees, which was set up for the ambitious offspring of the winter sport guests there. Since the Spanish royal family were spending their vacation at this location, the then 14 year old Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Grecia, better known today as Felipe VI, King of Spain, was among the youth participating.
The then-crown prince confidently executed the race and befitting his rank placed first. Not only did he wear one of the green-yellow start numbers with which the competitors previously had been equipped by the then General Manager of Ricola in Spain (and thus advertised the drops from the far-off Swiss town of Laufen). During the awards ceremony, he also received a selection of Ricola products, which obviously brought royal satisfaction to the sporty crown prince. Olé!
The famous jingle comes into being.
Ricola's first cult television commercial.
In 1998, a new Ricola campaign saw the light of day and was particularly an overnight cultural success in the German-speaking countries. "Who invented it?" has likely become one of the most well-known Swiss advertising campaigns of all time since 1998. Altogether, eight spots were filmed with the legendary question.
The secret of his great voice.
A look at Ursula Richterich's nightstand.
"I work intensively with herbs and herbal medicine. Therefore, there are no novels next to my pillow, but instead, approximately 50 herbal books. They quite simply fascinate me, all the way down to the medical aspect. When I learn or develop new things, I then discuss them with my brother Felix. But my research is only on a small scale. Ricola runs professional research together with a laboratory. What I do here is more from the heart."
Why an Original Herb is also good for a Tamagotchi.
The Tamagotchi conquered the entire world in 1997. No one could avoid it. If you didn't have one yourself because you were too old, then you at least had to dry the tears of your children when it starved to death. If there should ever be a revival of the trend, then just feed it with Original Herb drops. This provides energy and is good for its health.
Now, images of herb meadows are available at the click of a mouse.
The world wide web has brought the world a little closer together. You can now also view pictures from faraway places from your home. Even real Ricola herb meadows. Although you could probably travel from Asia to Switzerland faster than you can load an image with a 56k modem.
Sometimes exuberance is good for you.
Sometimes it gets really wild at Ricola. When there is excitement about the cultivation of a new type of tree, for example. It was supposed to be the elder tree, one of the main herbs in the secret Ricola Original Herb recipe. Planted on behalf of Ricola for the first time in 2002, 2,500 new trees were to be nurtured in the Valais region over the course of the year. After dendrology assistance was first obtained from a farmer in eastern Switzerland, the youngsters were ordered.
Now they were to be picked up from the Emmental region and brought to their new home. But it rained heavily on that day. And the root balls of the young trees which, as is common in such situations, are skillfully constricted in cloth sacks together with the surrounding soil became wet. And heavy. They were weighed. And weighed again. They were very heavy. Even too heavy to be transported at one time. Effectively. Because the anticipation in Valais was great. So great that it was decided, despite all the adverse conditions, to still deliver 2,500 trees all at once – in the hopes that they would not be confronted by any police patrol in the bad weather. From the bus, of course, one could see its heavy load... But the visibility was poor enough to convey the precious freight unmolested down the Autobahn. After a two hour delay it finally reached its destination. The farmers of the Valais region were all out in the streets despite the poor weather – and celebrated a full-grown elder tree party for the first time.
Pharmaceutical standards for our Original Herb.
In 2006, we expanded our facilities with a highly modern production site, which meets the most modern pharmaceutical and food industry standards. Today 17,000 herb drops are created here per minute. At the same time, the old factory was renovated: it serves as a packaging location.
A sweet life.
Drop. What sounds delicious is usually epitomized by unburdened childhood taste for most people. For Thomas Fringeli, in contrast, drop is his daily bread. Because the Laufen native is the production manager at Ricola and a candymaker by trade – and it also says as much in his record of achievement. When as a boisterous 15 year old, he reluctantly weeded the herb garden behind the company headquarters on Ricola's behalf, he started preparing to enjoy his future work with the sweet masses.
So much so that he would even try out new recipes in his free time, and he also took the time to surprise the boss on the boss' birthday with a new creation – as it happened, in 2005, when he proudly presented then Managing Director, Hans Peter Richterich, with the first "Ricola Rocks", a type of ingenious piece of inlay work made of multi-colored sugar. Fringeli himself, however, only eats the Original Herb in his private life, naturally! And also in great quantities; according to his own declaration, he consumes an entire packet just on the way to work. And he's also never sick, to boot. Somehow obvious, because "bon" means good. So it's even twice as good as a bonbon!
A successful combination.
A bulky golden-brown stele, possibly made of ice or resin, solid and yet translucent; it turns out, upon closer inspection to simply be a wetted sweet smooth and glistening. What upon first glance appears to be a puzzling unapproachable object unfolds its entire variety of flavor after successful identification as a Swiss Original Herb. Viewing it almost becomes a sensuous experience. The photograph described was created by Iranian Shirana Shahbazi, whose work has been represented in the Ricola collection since 2002.
Ever since it was founded, the company has provided a platform for contemporary Swiss artists. In this regard, art is much more than just a marketing instrument. It is a fixed component of the company identity, according to Roman Kurzmeyer, post-doctoral art historian and the curator of the collection. The issue is, "further developing in the future through immersion in the knowledge of the past, and through active participation in contemporary culture, to preserve an unbounded glimpse of the world". Corresponding also to the somewhat unusual context in which the art is presented by Ricola: all of the company's facilities are enhanced with artistic exhibits. These exhibits provide variety in the day-to-day work, and contribute to a stimulating living environment. The respect that the carefully curated Ricola collection enjoys in the art world speaks for itself – and for the originality and drive for innovation within the company.
Pioneering work for a primrose.
Never say never, thought Thomas Aeschlimann in his capacity as official herb expert for Ricola and as a farmer at heart, as he went to the primrose harvest in the year 2006. Primula veris. The spring primrose. To date the delicate plant had only been collected in the wild or purchased extra, but Ricola now wanted the primrose to be cultivated according to plan in Switzerland. Therefore, he set out to discover how one could harvest the complex herbal plant with up to twenty flowers per inflorescence. It would have to be done mechanically! But that didn't work. No person in the entire world had done it yet! And then came the game-changing idea:
if you plant so many primrose plants that you basically no longer have the opportunity to harvest them by hand, then you are simply forced to build a machine that can harvest them. And where there is a will, it is well-known, there is also a way. Initially a wooden prototype was put together. One on the right and one on the left, they went through the fields. It worked! An artist was entrusted with the honorable task of sketching the first primrose plucking machine in the world. A machinist worked on the implementation. Aeschlimann today calls the undertaking a "kamikaze" mission. But what they were able to do with united forces also fills him with pride. It was real pioneer work! And there are also always the few that in the beginning say it won't work, and others who nevertheless do it anyway.
At last, a casting winner with good taste.
The 2000s are known for casting shows. There really wasn't anything that there wasn't casting for. Musicians, lovers, cooks and even company founders – no one could avoid it. And even our Original Herb reached the taste of the jury. We were awarded the Superior Taste Award in 2008.
Ricola and the bees.
We founded the Ricola Foundation in 2010 to research and conserve the natural and cultural basics of human life. For example, it supports research on the reasons for the global reduction of honey bee colonies. We also do this in our own interest, because the flying insects ensure that every year new herbs are created.
This is where our herbal blend is produced.
What Bruno Mars loves about Ricola.
And the Original Herb Oscar goes to...
Even if the Swiss Original Herb is a real piece of gold, it does not dispense with a certain irony when you see the drop in front of you in actual gold. At least, it doesn't when it involves goldsmith Mathias Jenny, from Basel, who was commissioned by Ricola to raffle off 15 specimens as part of the "75 Years of Swiss Original Herb" anniversary. Click here to visit the sweepstake. In the beginning, when the Original Herb was still made by hand, the confectioner poured the cooked candy mass onto a cooled iron table, where they then were rolled into long rolls and hacked into small pieces. In order to immortalize the one chosen sample of the current dairy-free Original Herb in gold, Jenny used a sophisticated casting method:
The original candy was first embedded in a silicone mold, which was then immersed in wax. This positive mold was then encased in liquid gypsum, then melted out, and the remaining hollow space was then filled with liquid gold through quick rotation. The result of this procedure? A cubic centimeter-large piece of precious metal, with weak properties, subtly lit and uncommonly heavy for its small size, which conveys the entire world and the entire value of this small and yet so delicious product as if it was the Original Herb.
We are celebrating a birthday.
In 2015, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Original Herb with a huge sweepstakes, in which you can win an Original Herb made of real gold. We wish you good luck in "75 years in 75 seconds", and we are crossing our fingers for you.