The development of the company, from the time of its formation to the internationally active, widely diversified company of today, has been shaped in large measure by the owner family Oetker, which is now managing the company in the fourth generation. While the leadership of the company has for decades been characterised by consistency, the products have always been further refined and redeveloped in order to meet changing consumer demands.
It all began in the back room of a Bielefeld chemist's shop in 1891: the young pharmacist Dr. August Oetker was busy working late into the night with apothecaries' scales, mortars and various powders – he was developing the baking powder Backin. Tiny paper bags were filled with precisely the right quantity for one pound of flour. Because of the exact proportions of the mixture and the quality of the raw materials used, Dr. Oetker was able to guarantee that each cake would turn out successfully. The baking powder invented by Justus Liebig, by contrast, was neither suitable for storage nor neutral in taste – for its time, then, Dr. Oetker's Backin was a sensational innovation, and quickly helped to make baking a more frequent activity in domestic kitchens.
To publicise his product, Dr. August Oetker attached his name to it as a guarantor of quality, making it one of the country's first branded articles. The company's founder very soon realised the possibilities of advertising. He developed recipes, advertised them in newspapers, and sent them to potential customers with a sample of Backin. In this way, he succeeded in attracting the attention of ever more customers and winning them over to his innovation with its promise of guaranteed success.
The success of his discovery vindicated the idea, and further products, such as pudding powders, flavours and dietary starch followed. In 1900 Dr. Oetker abandoned the chemist's shop, moved into a newly built factory in Bielefeld's Lutterstraße and, a few years later, ventured into foreign markets for the first time.
In 1918, two years after his son had fallen in the war, Dr. August Oetker died. He bequeathed a company which, despite the consequences of the First World War, ranked among the most important of its kind in Europe. Among his lasting achievements was the creation of one of the country's first branded articles and, at a very early stage, the consolidation of the Dr. Oetker brand to form the solid basis of his company.
Dr. Richard Kaselowsky, the second husband of the widow of the founder's son, took over management of the company in 1920, a year in which the products were already being manufactured and distributed by more than 600 employees.
He augmented the production and sales internationally by founding sister companies in France, Poland, Belgium, Denmark and Italy.
After the company had overcome the major challenges of the post-war period, advertising was further stepped up and augmented by techniques novel for the time: infomobiles, film performances and talks brought Dr. Oetker closer to the consumer everywhere. Dr. Kaselowsky also continued to develop the business outside Germany.
The grandson of the company's founder, Rudolf August Oetker, set about rebuilding the company following the death of Dr. Kaselowsky and the end of the Second World War.
Dr. Oetker products kept step with these changing requirements and simultaneously set new priorities with constantly improved quality and an expanding product range. The frozen-food sector was opened up through the acquisition of an appropriate company.
At a time when increasing numbers of freezers were finding their way into households, Dr. Oetker launched the first frozen pizza in Germany in 1970. Shortly thereafter, the company also entered the field of chilled desserts. Crème fraîche products later completed the range.
Moreover, financial interests acquired previously by Rudolf-August Oetker were converted into entrepreneurial commitments, and the business fields expanded by acquisitions and the establishment of new companies. These post-war years saw the formation of the Oetker Group, which Rudolf-August Oetker also ran after his retirement from the operational business. As Chairman of the Advisory board he was involved in the Group until his death in 2007.
In the early 1980s, Dr. h. c. August Oetker, great-grandson of the company's founder, entered the management of the company as a personally liable partner. New business fields, such as the muesli market, were successfully opened up for the Dr. Oetker brand to take account of changing consumer tastes.
At the same time, a start was made in the 1980s to bring order into a product range which, having experienced powerful growth due to the increase in demand during the post-war years, had lost clarity. The company focused on its core competencies. In parallel, Dr. August Oetker drove forward the internationalisation of the branded food business. Strengthening and asserting the brands were now at the center of the business outside Germany too, and were directed at maintaining and enhancing competitiveness.
By focusing on the core lines while simultaneously enhancing its international engagement, Dr. Oetker had risen to become the European market leader in baking goods, baking mixes, dessert products and pizza. Organic growth and acquisitions at home and abroad contributed to this success.
Richard Oetker took over management from his brother Dr. h. c. August Oetker in 2010. Prior to this, he had successfully worked in the Oetker Group, being a member of the Executive Board of Dr. Oetker GmbH from 1996 to the end of 2009, where he held the Human Resources porfolio for ten years. Richard Oetker also made a significant contribution to the development of the sister companies outside Germany, his successes including the development of the eastern European markets from the mid-90s. Richard Oetker is continuing the focus on the core ranges and pursuing the international alignment of the company.