Monday, 5 July 2010

Bahlsen's Leibniz butter biscuits, Erfurt

Last autumn, during a web chat on the parents' website Mumsnet, some mothers clearly interested in key issues that would affect the future of their children repeatedly asked Gordon Brown what his favourite biscuit was. However at the time the then-Prime Minister failed to come up with an answer. If they had asked me, I would have given one straight away: chocolate-coated lebkuchen before and around Christmas, and for the rest of the year Bahlsen's Choco-Leibniz. And in both cases, the pack disappears in far less time than it takes me to write a post on this blog!

Bahlsen has been making biscuits for more than 120 years. Indeed on July 10, 1889, Hermann Bahlsen (1859-1919) took over H. Schmuckler's Fabrikgeschäft englischer Cakes und Biscuits in Hannover, and renamed it Hannoversche Cakes-Fabrik H. Bahlsen (in 1912 it was changed to H. Bahlsen Keksfabrik). A couple of years later the company, which at the time employed around hundred workers, launched a biscuit named after the city's most famous resident: the philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Since then the Leiniz butter biscuit has been at the heart of Bahlsen's success. For more about the company's history, you can check its website (in English). Just wait for a couple of seconds and look into the 'About Bahlsen' section.

This sign is now barely visible, and to be honest, what actually brought me to that building on Erfurt's ring road was another sign, painted just below (that will be for another post), that I had spotted as we were driving from Schloß Molsdorf to the city centre. It was only when I stood there that I started to notice some white lines which turned out to be a box with some text written on it.

Enthält nur feinste
Made only with the Finest
Dairy Butter]

On the side of the box are the letters 'TET' together with the accompanying hieroglyph. TET is the dust and moisture-resisting packaging first used by Bahlsen in 1904 (look on the company's website at that date).

The design of the box on this sign is very similar to that of the closed one found on the right of an advert printed in Leipzig's Illustrierte Zeitung in 1909. However on this particular advert the English word 'Cakes' has been kept. The German version of the word, 'Keks', which Bahlsen had been pushing for, was only approved in 1911. Consequently this sign was painted after that date but certainly not long afterwards. Indeed after the First World War, the design of Bahlsen's ads became much more modern and bolder and this painted sign would have been at odds with the image the company was trying to project.

The historic Bahlsen headquarters in Hannover are well worth a visit. You can find several pictures and an article (in German) about them by checking Hinter 52 Zähnen: Zu Besuch bei Bahlsen.

Location: Straße des Friedens, Erfurt, Thüringen / Picture taken on: 24/04/2010

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