August Oetker started selling baking powder in single-portion packets in Bielefeld in 1891. Now the Oetker Group, still family-run, is an influential conglomerate with over 22,000 employees worldwide.
Oetker is one of the most widely known brands in Germany
Most people think of baking powder, pudding, pizza or desserts when they hear the name Dr. Oetker and the group remains one of Germany's largest food suppliers.
It's also one of the last large family businesses in Germany and CEO August Oetker said the family is well aware of the responsibility it has to its staff to maintain a corresponding company culture.
August Oetker is the founder's great-grandson
"As a family business, we're dependent on our acceptance in society," said Oetker. "Otherwise we can't do what we want."
What's less well known is that Oetker has expanded well beyond the kitchen. Its subsidiary, Hamburg Sued shipping company, manages over 140 ships, conducting river cruises for tourists one of the conglomerate's main pillars.
It also owns the Radeberger Group, one of Germany's largest breweries, as well as a series of luxury hotels in Germany, France and Switzerland.
Extra onions in Poland
While business on the home market has stagnated in recent years, sales are booming abroad. Italy, the Benelux countries, Austria, Britain, France, and nearly all of the eastern European countries have become vital markets.
But Dr. Oetker can't sell the same food products in every country. The French prefer lighter pizza, while Poles want a heartier meal. That's why the pizzas sold in Poland have a lot of onions on them, said the CEO.
In Poland, as well as Russia, Dr. Oetker maintains local factories -- not least to save on customs fees and transportation costs.
German pizza in Italy
Oetker perks up its Polish pizzas
The company is currently exploring the Chinese market, said Oetker, and closely observing the eating habits there to find out which products could be successful. It has already learned that pizza -- with or without the extra onions -- doesn't sell well everywhere. In India, for example, the sweet dessert products have gone over much better.
Oetker emphasized the importance of paying attention to local taste. "No one in Sicily eats German pork knuckles, so we sell pizza there instead," he said. "And the Italians are buying German pizza."
Which pizza variety does the boss like most?
"Pepperoni -- we have one that's spicier and one that's not so spicy. I really like them both," he said.