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.
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).