13 Alpine herbs for a good cause

A traditional family business

Their sweets flavou­red with Swiss Alpine herbs are world-famous. With its two foun­da­ti­ons, the ‘Emil und Rosa Rich­te­rich-Beck’ foun­da­tion and the Ricola Foun­da­tion, this company from the Basel region has a broad-based approach to philanthropy.

Rese­arch into bees, plants and loam cons­truc­tion are at the heart of the Ricola Foun­da­tion, an insti­tu­tion with an inter­na­tio­nal focus estab­lished in 2010. Ricola uses its foun­da­tion to support projects that help gene­rate rese­arch and a deeper under­stan­ding of the nature and culture that form the bedrock of our lives. ‘Aware­ness, respect and respon­si­bi­lity are important to us, both in our dealings with nature and in our day-to-day inter­ac­tions with each other,’ empha­si­ses Felix Rich­te­rich, Chair of the Board of Direc­tors at Ricola Group AG. Ricola wants to play its part in crea­ting a world where people are happy to live and work. The foundation’s grant-giving acti­vi­ties prima­rily focus on the same field as its parent company. Its assets were provi­ded by Ricola AG when the foun­da­tion was established. 

A focus on bee research

Bees and other polli­na­ting insects are a crucial part of growing and nurtu­ring the 13 herbs Ricola uses – so it’s no surprise that rese­ar­ching bee health is a crucial area of focus for Ricola. As a result, the Ricola Foun­da­tion supports COLOSS the honey bee rese­arch asso­cia­tion, a scien­ti­fic network that coor­di­na­tes global rese­arch on bee health. COLOSS is coor­di­na­ted by the Univer­sity of Bern and curr­ently compri­ses more than 1000 members across almost 100 count­ries. To mark this year’s World Bee Day, which has been cele­bra­ted on 20 May since 2018, the foun­da­tion supported an array of acti­vi­ties to improve bees’ living condi­ti­ons: in Switz­er­land, Germany, France and Italy, the foun­da­tion worked with orga­ni­sa­ti­ons like Bienen­Schweiz and Slow Food Italy to sow flower strips and coll­ect dona­ti­ons for protec­ting the bees. With flower strips, the target is to offer more food­s­tuffs for bees and other polli­na­tors, and ther­eby promote species diver­sity. Strips of land in various loca­ti­ons are sown with a bespoke mix of flower seeds that’s tail­o­red to the exis­ting features of the landscape. 

Loam cons­truc­tion and plant research

In addi­tion, the Ricola Foun­da­tion supports projects in the fields of loam cons­truc­tion and plant rese­arch. The foun­da­tion built its own herb centre from loam, enab­ling all those invol­ved in the project to learn a great deal. ‘As a foun­da­tion, it goes without saying that we should make our findings acces­si­ble to others,’ says Felix Rich­te­rich. As a conse­quence, Ricola’s buil­dings are some of the indus­trial cons­truc­tions in Europe visi­ted most frequently by archi­tec­ture lovers. And, of course, the foun­da­tion also enga­ges with univer­si­ties on various levels. In the field of plant rese­arch, the Ricola Foun­da­tion is support­ing a rese­arch project invol­ving scien­tists from Zurich and Paris.

Regio­nal philanthropy

Along­side the Ricola Foun­da­tion, this Laufen-based company has been opera­ting an addi­tio­nal nonpro­fit orga­ni­sa­tion since 1975, in the form of the ‘Emil und Rosa Rich­te­rich-Beck’ foun­da­tion, whose work focu­ses on the Laufen valley. Its aim is to support and promote artis­tic, cultu­ral and educa­tio­nal endea­vours and allo­cate contri­bu­ti­ons to nonpro­fit insti­tu­ti­ons, aid orga­ni­sa­ti­ons and people in need. Along­side this, the share­hol­ders of Ricola Fami­li­en­hol­ding have built up a coll­ec­tion of Swiss contem­po­rary art since 1975. The works are exhi­bi­ted throug­hout the Group’s premi­ses for employees’ enjoyment.

A member of society

Ricola sees itself as an active member of society. ‘Ricola’s roots in Laufen really do run deep,’ says Felix Rich­te­rich: all their sweets are produ­ced in the Basel region. ‘A total of 430 of our 500 or so employees work here, and many live locally, too. The herbs for our sweets are grown to certi­fied orga­nic Bio Suisse stan­dards by 100 Swiss farmers on an area cove­ring around 124 foot­ball fields. This results in around 250 tons of dried herbs, which are turned into seven billion Ricola sweets, or “Däfeli”, as we call them in Basel. That’s 35,000 herbal drops a minute.’

And who inven­ted them?

In 1930, the baker and pâtis­sier Emil Rich­te­rich foun­ded the confec­tion­ers Rich­te­rich & Compa­gnie in Laufen, where he was born. He seems to have been inte­res­ted in cough sweets from the off, with Emil Rich­te­rich dedi­ca­ting a great deal of time to the heal­ing power of herbs. He played around with his own blends until he had his breakth­rough in 1940 with the inven­tion of his 13-herb mixture. His recipe remains near-unch­an­ged today and forms the basis for all the company’s sweets. Emil Rich­te­rich chan­ged the name of his company in 1948, turning Rich­te­rich & Co, Laufen into Ricola. He did this because people were frequently confu­sing his company with another confec­tioner from Laufen called Richterich. 

A successful family-run company

Today, Ricola AG is being successfully run by the third gene­ra­tion of the Rich­te­rich family: the Chair of its Board of Direc­tors is Felix Rich­te­rich and its CEO is Thomas P. Meier. The company exports products to more than 45 count­ries at present, and it regu­larly tops the rankings in surveys of Swiss consu­mers, coming in 4th this year (2022). 

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