Laufen, a quiet town of 5,000 inhabitants 15 miles southwest
of Basel, is home to one of Switzerland's most famous names;
Ricola-the maker of those herbal lozenges. I've been impressed
with the fact they seem to be available everywhere in the world
I've traveled. Very little information is available on the company
so, not knowing who's who; I mailed my letter of introduction
a month earlier addressed to "Chief Executive Officer".
Riding into Laufen I stop at Ricola's one and only factory on
the edge of town mistakenly thinking it's also the headquarters.
The aroma of herbs is definitely in the air as the non-English
speaking woman points me down the road.
It's somewhat of a letdown coming upon Ricola's two-story headquarters
on the side of the main road going through town. Why? It's right
on the side of the road: there's the 1940's building, a sidewalk
and then the street. One could stand at Ricola's entrance and
extending a broom-touch passing cars.
There's a large display next to the reception counter showing
samples of the company's various products. There's now a range
of over 45 herbal specialties to supplement their sugar free
pearl drops, instant teas, cough syrup as well as the original
Ricola Swiss herb candy.
A few minutes after explaining myself to the receptionist, the
secretary to CEO Felix Richterich steps into the lobby. She remembers
the letter and says to take a seat while she finds someone to
meet with me. It's August (vacation time) and not many people
are here. I look out the rear of the building and see a fishpond
area then, behind that, a spiffy-looking, modernistic two-story
glass structure. Wow, from the street side you'd never think
there would be such a building tucked behind. Lots of paintings
line the walls of both buildings.
Markus Vogt, Head of Marketing & Sales Overseas, gets corralled
into meeting with me. It turns out to be a nice visit thanks
to the accommodating Vogt who's in charge of marketing Ricola
in the US. Vogt's been with the company over 20 years. I tell
Vogt I've seen Ricola everywhere I've traveled but when I have
a sore throat I turn to competitor Fisherman's Friend because
their extra strength drops really are strong.
Twenty-five people work in the head office. The new modernistic
building in the rear was built in 1999, and, the 1940's building
in the front used to be home to a car dealership. There's a public
parking lot directly across the street, smoking isn't allowed
in offices and there's a company cafeteria. The family-owned
art collection is contemporary, modern and international in scope.
It's 25 minutes to downtown Basel, 15 minutes to the nearest
freeway, 40 minutes to Basel Airport and one hour and fifteen
minutes to Zurich Airport.
In 1924 Emil Richterich bought a small bakery here in Laufen
that specialized in confectionery. The company grew and in 1930
Richterich found Confiseriefabrik Richterich & Co. Laufen.
Later, Richterich & Co. Laufen was shortened to Ricola. Current
CEO Felix Richterich is the grandson of the founder. Revenues
for this family-owned concern total $152 million with 350 employees.
CEO Richterich's modest second floor corner office in the 1940's
building contains a computer, a family picture and an unexciting
view of the cars passing by on the main road through town.