It is golden brown, rectangular, crispy and has a striking border with 52 “teeth”. In 2016 the Leibnizkeks will be 125 years old. In 1891, Hermann Bahlsen probably never imagined that his cookie would become world famous. The merchant developed the idea for the biscuit after a stay in the United Kingdom, where he got to know and love English cakes. In 1889, following his return to Germany, he founded a factory for baked goods in Hanover, the Hannoversche Cakesfabrik.
“Cakes” became “Keks”
Biscuits and cookies were already available on the German market at the time, but Bahlsen achieved a true innovation with the creation of his Leibniz Cakes, which were prepacked in bags and could be eaten on the move. Accordingly, the 1898 advertising slogan for the butter biscuits was: “What does humanity eat on the road? Well, naturally Leibniz Cakes!” Incidentally, the product was named after one of Hanover’s most famous inhabitants: the philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Because German customers regularly mispronounced “Cakes” (as “Ka-kes”) Bahlsen decided to change the spelling to “Keks”, which rapidly established itself as the German word for biscuit or cookie.
Although the company has adapted to customers’ changing consumption habits over the years and broadened its product range to include numerous varieties of biscuits and cookies, the Leibnizkeks is and remains the flagship product of the German bakery giant – and a gilded 20-kilogram brass sign in its shape even decorates the facade of the company headquarters in Hanover. In 2013 the golden biscuit was stolen by anonymous pranksters. After Bahlsen pledged to donate 52,000 packets of biscuits to 52 welfare facilities, the sign reappeared. The identity of the criminal cookie monster remains unknown until today.
In 2014 alone the company produced 132,000 tonnes of baked goods and achieved a turnover of 515 million euros. As a result, Bahlsen is and remains number one on the German biscuit market. For Werner Michael Bahlsen, the grandson of the company founder and present-day company chief, however, that is not enough. “We are strong in Germany, but we still have a lot of potential in the Arab and Asian regions.” He has high hopes of China, in particular. Fruit fillings are popular there rather than chocolate or caramel. One thing doesn’t sell in the Middle Kingdom at all: dark chocolate.