Dr. Oetker Stories

Dr. Oetker celebrates 130 Years of Backin Baking Powder!

With the baking powder Backin, the Bielefeld pharmacist Dr. August Oetker achieved an incredible success 130 years ago. It was the starting point for the meteoric rise of the Dr. Oetker company to become a well-known manufacturer of foods.

Dr. Oetker celebrates 130 Years of Backin Baking Powder!

4.9.2023 History

Eureka! After much trial and error, Dr. August Oetker had made it in 1893! Throughout his life, he always wanted to create something special. His baking powder Backin revolutionized home baking and took kitchens by storm. Thanks to this ingredient, the rising of the dough was guaranteed. Within a few years, the small pharmacy became a large food manufacturer.

The Fulfillment of a Dream

Dr. August Oetker was born in 1862 into a family of bakers. After graduating from high school, he began an apprenticeship in a pharmacy, which he completed in 1881. In 1888 he received his doctorate from the University of Freiburg. In 1889 he married Caroline Jacobi, who always supported him, devised the famous Dr. Oetker test kitchen, and later helped steer the company from the background. In 1934 she was also named the only female honorary citizen of Bielefeld to date.

The Oetkers in the 1890s

The young Oetker family in the 1890s.

In 1891 the couple moved from Berlin to Bielefeld with their son Rudolf. It was here that Dr. August Oetker fulfilled one of his two great dreams, the purchase of his own pharmacy. Initially, the range of goods consisted of the usual products of a pharmacy of the time.

Image of the Aschoffsche Pharmacy in 1891

The Aschoff Pharmacy in Bielefeld around 1891. Dr. August Oetker fulfilled a lifelong dream with its acquisition.

First Dr. Oetker logo in a newspaper 1892

The first Dr. Oetker logo in a newspaper advertisement from 1892. The product range still consisted of typical articles of a pharmacy of the time.

Backin Changed Everything

After taking over the pharmacy, Dr. August Oetker immediately developed new products that would fulfill his desire for something "special". In the back room of the pharmacy, which he christened the "secret chamber", he experimented with all kinds of substances and tried out many things – not always successfully. But one idea fascinated him.

Laboratory of the Aschoff Pharmacy 1937

The laboratory of the Aschoff Pharmacy, taken in 1937. This is one of the places where Dr. August Oetker experimented with his products.

As a baker's son, he was aware of how unreliable the usual baking powder worked. Either the dough did not rise properly, the dosage was too high or the taste suffered. Often it just spoiled very quickly. Baking soda wasn't really useful for home users, but something for professionals, like bakers. For baking at home, there were only yeast or baker’s ammonia.

Dr. August Oetker heard the lamentations of the women who complained about deficient baking soda. He saw this as a gap in the market. He set out to develop a successfully safe product. With a master baker friend, he was allowed to test various recipes in the bakery. His son, Eduard Müller, reported years later about Dr. August Oetker: "I can still remember the determination with which he tried to achieve an optimal composition of his baking powder. He was not discouraged by initial failures or by the skepticism with which my father and I initially followed his experiments in our bakery."

And success came. Dr. August Oetker found the perfect mixing ratio of the raw materials. But even more ingenious was the idea of selling the baking powder, which he affectionately christened Backin, in portioned sachets. Such a portion of Backin was enough for the guaranteed rise of 500 grams of flour. In addition, there was always a suitable recipe on the back, with which you could get started immediately.

The absolute success of the application and the neutral taste convinced the users. So baking was finally fun! Backin immediately was a bestseller.

The first bag of Backin from Dr. Oetker

The first bag of Backin from the holdings of the company archive. The first Dr. Oetker logo and the recipe for bundt cakes on the back, better known as Gugelhupf, are clearly visible.

Thanks to Backin Dr. Oetker rose to Industrial Scale

With his baking powder, Dr. August Oetker struck the right chord with customers. The classic pharmacy business quickly became a minor matter and was finally abandoned. In 1894, the range was expanded to include pudding powder and canning aids. This was followed in 1898 by the Gustin cornstarch. All these products were produced in the backyard of the pharmacy. The premises quickly reached their limits, so that in 1900 a new factory building was build. The company's headquarters are still located on the same site today.

Baking powder production in a Dr. Oetker factory 1906

Baking powder production in 1906 in the new factory. Even though a lot of production was still done by hand, automation was advancing rapidly at that time.

As early as 1900, 2.5 million bags were sold annually in Germany and by 1912 total sales had increased to an impressive 100 million units! In 1903, the "Process for the Production of Durable Baking Powder or Ready-to-Bake Flour" was patented by the Imperial Patent Office under the number 144289.

"Clear case, Dr. Oetker everywhere!"

Dr. August Oetker was more than just a brilliant inventor. He was also a gifted businessman. His products and his name were to become a brand. He was one of the first in Germany to recognize the opportunities offered by advertising. As early as 1908, a genuine advertising department was established. By this time, Dr. Oetker was already known throughout the country and was expanding abroad. The ever-new products were accompanied by elaborate advertising campaigns. Backin thus became a synonym for baking powder in Germany. Quite a few were later even convinced that Dr. August Oetker had invented baking powder.

Advertising poster for Dr. Oetker Backin 1920s

Advertising poster of the 1920s for Backin. Dr. Oetker was present everywhere in public space.

Backin as a Retro Edition

Such an important anniversary needs to be duly celebrated! The Dr. Oetker Original Backin will be available in Germany from September in a pack of 10 in the retro edition with seven packaging designs from 1893 to the present day. On the back of the packaging, you can read in which year the respective design was created. The Original Backin Retro Edition will be available from September to December 2023 in the "Christmas Bakery" theme display.

Dr. Oetker Backin Baking powder Retro Editions