German brothers brought grocery empires to the US

German-Americans are the largest single ethnic group in the United States, and their influence can be seen across all industries. From cuisine to businesses to holidays and traditions, Germans have brought many of their customs and products to the US – including grocery stores.

Two of America’s largest grocery store chains, Trader Joe’s and ALDI,  were under the management of two German brothers who ultimately split up ownership.

© dpa / picture alliance

In 1913, Anna Albrecht opened a small store near Essen, Germany. When her sons Karl and Theo came of age, they both started work in the food industry. While Theo worked in his mother’s store, Karl gained experience in a delicatessen. After the Second World War, the two brothers took over their mother’s business together, naming it Albrecht Discount (in short: ALDI).

By 1950, thanks in part to the Marshall Plan, business in postwar Germany was booming and the brothers’ discount supermarket had expanded to 13 locations. By 1960, they had about 300 stores throughout much of West Germany. But the brothers didn’t always get along, and in 1960 they clashed over whether or not they should sell cigarettes in their stores. As a result, the brothers divided the company into Aldi Nord (“north”) and Aldi Süd (“south”), splitting up ownership by region. Theo claimed ownership of the north, while Karl took over the south.

Over the years, both grocery store chains expanded internationally, opening locations across Europe, the U.K. and even as far away as Australia and the United States, opening its US headquarters in Iowa in 1976. In the US, Aldi Süd simply goes by the name ALDI, and has about 1,300 locations across the country. Aldi Nord, on the other hand, operates under the name Trader Joe’s and has about 418 locations.

Both stores have seen success in the U.S. While ALDI prides itself on its overall low prices, Trader Joe’s has become known for its affordable organic food selections. A 2013 Market Force Information study found that Americans ranked Trader Joe’s as their favorite grocery store, with Publix, Whole Foods, Wegmans and ALDI also ranking high.

Both Karl and Theo Albrecht passed away in recent years, but their grocery chains continue to expand in both the U.S. and Germany.

© dpa / picture alliance

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Gummibären – a German delight since 1920

Go to the candy aisle of any grocery store and you’ll find at least one gummy product. There’s gummy bears, gummy worms, gummy Smurfs and gummy rings. Maybe you’ll find a bag of rainbow-colored gummy frogs or a pack of fun-sized gummy spiders. Gummy candy has found its way into lunchboxes and kitchen pantries across the world, but the chewy treat originated in Germany almost a hundred years ago.

Hans Riegel © dpa / picture alliance

In 1920, Bonn resident Hans Riegel launched a confectionery company that he named Haribo (which stands for Hans Riegel Bonn), producing hard, colorless candies in his own kitchen. His wife, Gertrud, helped him with his endeavor, distributing the candies to their first customers using only her bicycle. Business was good, but not as good as Riegel had hoped – until he came up with a new idea.

In 1922, Riegel was struck with inspiration: after seeing trained bears at festivals and markets across Germany, he invented the so-called “dancing bear” – a fruit-flavored gummy candy in the shape of a bear. The initial “dancing bears” were larger than the Haribo gummies that are on the market today, and they quickly became popular. The bears were sold at kiosks for just 1 Pfennig (German penny), making the colorful treats affordable at a time when the economy was struggling.

© dpa / picture alliance

It wasn’t long before Haribo made it onto store shelves: by 1930, Riegel was running a factory with 160 employees. By the time World War II began, there were more than 400 employees. But World War II took a toll on the company: Riegel died during the war and his two sons were taken prisoner by the Allied forces. When they were released, the company had only 30 employees left.

Despite the wartime hardships, the company recovered and Haribo continued to grow. It soon had over 1,000 employees and a catchy slogan (in English: “Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo!”). The name Goldbär (Gold-Bear) was registered as a trademark in 1967. Although Haribo dominated the gummy bear market, other companies were emerging with their own versions of gummy candy as far west as the US. In 1981, the German company Trolli introduced gummy worms, while The American Jelly Bean Company came out with its own line of gummy bears. In 1982, Haribo opened its first branch in the US. Today, Haribo produces over 100 million Gold-Bears each day.

And not all gummy candy is uniform; over the years, a diversity of gummy types emerged on the market. There are organic gummy bears, gummy candy with added vitamins, Halal gummy candy, gummy candy in various shapes and gummy candy that’s allegedly good for your teeth. Gummy bears are a staple candy in Germany, but even across the world, the chewy candy has become a common treat.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

 

Sven Marx Cycles Around the World

For the many of us here who bike to work, even a half hour ride can wind us enough to consider purchasing an E-bike. So when we found out we’d be visited by a German cyclist who is making his way around the WORLD, we stood in awe and had a plethora of questions ready to throw at him.

DCM Boris Ruge with cyclist Sven Marx outside of the German Embassy.

Who is this mystery cycling? His name is Sven Marx and he is someone to follow—we suggest on social media rather than on a bike. About ten years ago, Sven found out he had a 1 cm large tumor of the brain stem. After having it partially removed, he was left with double vision which throws of his balance. Within the same span of time, he was also diagnosed with skin cancer. Obviously, both balance and exposure to the sun are major parts of being on a bicycle. Sven promised himself, however, that if he survived to his 50th birthday with two life-threatening diagnoses, he would hit the road on a trip around the world.

Since rolling out on April 23rd, 2017, he has visited 5 continents, 41 countries, stopped in 27 capitals, and cycled over 43,500 miles! He even made a stop to visit the pope! He often sleeps in a tent overnight and carries everything on his bike—clothes, food, equipment, everything. His bike, in fact, weighs a whopping 132 pounds.

Sven consumes at least 10 chocolate bars a day to intake enough calories.

He said he can’t keep count of his calories intake when he is riding so many miles per day but that his diet consists of a lot of sugar and salt to keep his body energized—including “at least ten chocolate bars a day”.

Sven’s mission is to use his trip to raise awareness for and start a conversation about reducing barriers for those with disabilities. Under the motto “Inclusion Requires Action” he hopes his cycling the world will showcase that disabilities should not hold anyone back from reaching for their dreams and that anything is possible if we ensure access for everyone.
During his stop at the German Embassy, Sven shared a hot coffee with our Deputy Chief of Mission Boris Ruge and took a well-deserved break inside to explain his mission and experiences. He told us that the most important aspect to completing such a long journey by bike is staying calm and avoiding allowing your heart to race. So in the end it was the diplomats who were out of breath– with excitement, compared to the heroic cyclist!

Follow Sven’s journey on his blog (in German) at sven-globetrotter.com.

By Claire MacFarlane, German Embassy

German scientist Joachim Hecker brings experiments to American schools

For the next few weeks, German scientist Joachim Hecker is in the US, where he is visiting schools and conducting entertaining science experiments with high school kids.

Before beginning his roadtrip, Hecker sat down with us at the German Embassy and showed us a few of his favorite experiments — including a trick to burn money without actually damaging the bill!

Watch the interview with Joachim Hecker:

Watch the money-burning experiment only:

Travel Tuesday: Schrecksee

High up in the German Alps is a lake so eerie that it’s known as the Schrecksee (“fright lake”).  With an elevation of 5,949 feet, the Schrecksee is Germany’s highest alpine lake – and it’s often covered in fog.

While some might consider it spooky, others would call it beautiful: the Schrecksee has a mystical feel to it.

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Located in the Swabian region of Allgäu, the natural lake lies in the Alps — but getting there is no easy feat. Hiking up to the Schrecksee takes about seven to eight hours round-trip, on average. The views, however, are worth the effort: the Austrian border is located only about 1,000 feet away and hikers can peer over to Germany’s neighbor from the Schrecksee.

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Those wanting to cool off can swim in the lake — but with temperatures around 55 degrees in the summer, few find the desire to do so.

Today, the Schrecksee remains a lesser-known travel destination in Germany, perhaps due to the difficulty in reaching it. But for those with a sense of adventure and motivation for a long hike, the Schrecksee is well worth a visit! Just make sure to start your hike early enough to make it back down before sunset.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Kaffeeklatsch

© dpa / picture-alliance

You probably know that Germans love gathering for Kaffee und Kuchen (“coffee and cake”), traditionally in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. But did you know there’s a name for this type of social gathering? Germans call their afternoon coffee-and-cake sessions a Kaffeeklatsch (“coffee gossip”).

Like the name implies, a Kaffeeklatsch presents the opportunity for coffee (or tea) and conversation. It can be held in someone’s house, at the office or even at a cafe. Traditionally, however, a Kaffeeklatsch is held in someone’s home – often on Sundays. Many Germans use Kaffee und Kuchen as an opportunity to invite friends or family to catch up. And they’ll sometimes make quite an event out of it, bringing out a pretty tablecloth and their best tableware. In addition to coffee, Germans will usually serve some sort of pastry, whether it’s homemade cheesecake or something sweet from the bakery.

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12 German women who influenced the world

In honor of International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at 12 influential German women whose names have gone down in history. Who would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

Hildegard von Bingen

1098-1179
Hildegard von Bingen (also known as Saint Hildegard) is the oldest person on our list. This influential German woman is largely considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany. She was a Benedictine nun who was also an abbess, artist, author, composer, pharmacist, poet, preacher, mystic and theologian! It seems there is nothing that von Bingen couldn’t do! In 2012, she was named a Doctor of the Church, a rare title only given to saints who contributed heavily with their theological writings. Only three other women in history have received this title.

“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world – everything is hidden in you.”

Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria („Sissi“)

1837-1898
Many of you may have watched or heard about a royal Austrian woman nicknamed “Sisi”. Elisabeth of Bavaria was born into a royal family in Munich, Germany, which was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria at the time. At the age of 16, she married Emperor Franz Joseph I and became the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. Her biggest achievement was helping to create the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867. She was killed during an anarchist assassination while in Geneva in 1898.

Bertha Benz

1849-1944
Although the invention of the first practical automobile is credited to Karl Benz, his wife also had an enormous impact on the industry. Bertha Benz, a German woman from Pforzheim, was Karl’s business partner. She financed the manufacturing of his first horseless carriage with her dowry. In 1888, she took her two sons and drove the Patent Motorwagen Model III 120 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim without telling her husband. This was the first time someone drove an automobile over a long distance, fixing all technological complications on the way. Bertha made history; her drive alleviated fears that people had about automobiles, bringing the Benz Patent-Motorwagen its first sales.

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Travel Tuesday: Blautopf in Blaubeuren

In the Swabian Mountains in southern Germany is a spring so blue that it attracts countless visitors. Known as the Blautopf (“blue pot”), this strange mountainous spring forms the drain for the Blau (River Blue) cave system. What makes this spring particularly strange and unique is its deep blue color – a result of the physical properties of the nanoscale limestone present in the water.

According to scientists, that is.

Legends tell a different story.

One local myth claims that someone pours a vat of ink into the Blautopf every day to maintain its color. Another strange myth claims that it is impossible to measure the Blautopf’s depth since a water nix steals the leaden sounding line (a thin rope with a plummet) every time it is submerged. There is even a story about the Schöne Lau, a beautiful mermaid trapped in the Blautopf. Today, a life-size statue of the mermaid stands near the Blautopf.

Experienced cave divers are known to explore the Blautopf and its underground corridors (which are many miles long with enormous chambers). This, however, is restricted to well-trained divers, since it is dangerous and has led to fatalities in the past. But for most people, viewing the Blautopf from the outside is satisfying enough! The majestic blue color makes for spectacular photos year-round.

Germany prepares for Bobsleigh World Cup

© Sebastian Kahnert/dpa

Germans have a vast selection of winter sports available to them, ranging from skiing to snowboarding to ski jumping to bobsledding. In fact, Germans are highly talented in bobsleigh. This weekend marks the final races of the 2017-2018 Bobsleigh World Cup in Königssee, Germany. Top bobsleigh and skeleton sled athletes will go on to represent their countries in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The top forty sleds qualify for the Olympics!

Bobsleigh is a sport in which two or four teammates race down an icy track in a sled, with the goal of getting down the fastest. Skeleton is a similar sport, but it only involves a single rider on a small sled. The reported world record speed for bobsledding is 125 mph!

So far this season, Germans have already won 11 gold medals in bobsleigh and 27 total medals – more than any other country. Canada is currently in second place with five gold medals and 14 total. The United States is listed third with three gold medals and 14 total.

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