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The 12 Best Brands "Made in Germany"

Updated on December 21, 2013
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We all know the “Made in Germany” label which indicates that a product has been manufactured in Germany. It stands worldwide for quality, high standards and innovative products that deliver what they promise and therefore boosts the country’s exports.

However, the term “Made in Germany” is by no means a German invention, nor is it very new. It was originally introduced by the British Merchandise Marks Act in 1887 in order to protect the British market from foreign products: “Most of these [inferior goods with the marks of renowned British manufacturing companies] were found to be originating from Germany” (Merchandise Marks Act – Oxford University Press).

Volkswagen T1
Volkswagen T1 | Source

Volkswagen

Volkswagen is one of the most classic examples of an internationally successful German car manufacturer (amongst Mercedes, BMW and Audi). It was originally founded by the German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront), the Nazi trade union, in 1937. Every German citizen should have access to a basic vehicle that was able to transport two adults and three children at a reasonable price. Due to that reason it was called the “People’s Car” (Volkswagen). VW, the third largest automaker in the world, has since then been creating classics such as the Volkswagen Golf, the Beetle or the Passat (3 of the best-selling cars of all time). Its current slogan is “Das Auto” (“the car”) which emphasizes its German origin.

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Beck's

Germany is commonly referred to as the land of the beer. With beer sold in nearly 90 countries, Beck’s Brewery is the world’s leading exporter of German beer. Founded in 1873 under the name Kaiserbrauerei Beck & May o.H.G., Beck`s exclusively exported its brew until 1949. Today, almost every fourth German beer being drunk abroad is a Beck’s. The beer is brewed according to the German purity law (Reinheitsgebot) and, except water, all its ingredients are grown in Germany.

Since 2002, the brewery belongs to a Brasilian-Belgian concern (Anheuser-Busch Inbev.) which also produces Franziskaner, Budweiser and Corona.

Jack Wolfskin store in Leeds
Jack Wolfskin store in Leeds | Source

Jack Wolfskin

The company, being one of the biggest suppliers of outdoor products, was founded by Ulrich Dausien in Frankfurt Nied in 1981. The first Jack Wolfskin store opened 12 years later (1993) in Heidelberg. The name of the brand is a fictional character: The company's website states its "name dates back many years to a campfire in Canada. It was inspired by the distant howling of the wolves, with a little bit of the spirit of Jack London's "Call of the Wild" thrown in for good measure." Jack Wolfskin is now owned by the Blackstone Group, the largest alternative investment firm in the world.

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Dr. Oetker

The first product that Doctor August Oetker, a pharmacist by trade, sold after he founded his company in 1891 was the “Backin”, a special baking powder that, when mixed with 500g of baking flour and other ingredients, would produce a perfectly baked cake every time. Today, the company sells everything from cake mixes, to yogurt, cake decoration, pudding and pizza. Its website states that the Dr. August Oetker KG has a wide range of different interests such as chemical companies, book publishers, four luxury hotels, a bank, a shipping company and several breweries.

The Heckler & Koch G3 battle rifle
The Heckler & Koch G3 battle rifle | Source

Heckler & Koch

The history of the German firearms manufacturer dates back to the year 1811 when Friedrich I of Württemberg signed the charter for the Royal Weapon Factory of Oberndorf am Neckar, a village in the German Black Forest. After World War II the French occupiers destroyed the then so-called Mauser-Werke. Former Mauser-Werke engineers Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch and Alex Seidel saved what they could from the dismantling of the factory and used it to found the Heckler & Koch GmbH in 1949. Since then they have been awarded for the creation of several firearms such as the G3, the G11, the MP5, and the G36, to name only a few.

NIVEA, 1924-2010
NIVEA, 1924-2010 | Source

Nivea

In 1911, "pharmacist and visionary entrepreneur Dr. Oscar Troplowitz recognized the potential in Eucerit, an emulsifier developed by the chemist Dr. Isaac Lifschütz", as Nivea's website states, and gave it the name Nivea, based on its snow-white colour (derived from the Latin word niveus, meaning snow-white). The global body-care brand is now owned by the Beiersdorf AG, founded by Carl Paul Beiersdorf in 1882 and taken over by Oscar Troplowitz in 1890. Since then, Nivea has been making shaving creams, shampoo and Labello, a lip care product, to name only a few of the wide range of the company's products..

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Haribo

Hans Riegel invented the world-famous gold bear, the little figure bear made from fruit gum, in 1922. He called it the "dancing bear" and it was a little bigger than the gold bear today, but slimmer. “The starting capital was a sack of sugar, a marble block, a stool, a brick oven, a copper kettle and a roller”, according to the Haribo website. The name is an abbreviation of Hans Riegel Bonn with Bonn being the city in which he founded his company. Haribo makes us of a simple, but excellent slogan since the 1930s: “Haribo macht Kinder froh” (Haribo makes children happy). All of its ingredients are grown and produced in Germany.

The Birkenstock Arizona
The Birkenstock Arizona | Source

Birkenstock

Being registered as a "subject and shoemaker" in church archives as early as 1774, Johann Adam Birkenstock is the oldest founder of a brand in this list. His children and grandchildren continued to make shoes until Karl Birkenstock created the sandal as it is known today in 1964. In 1966, Margot Fraser founds Birkenstock USA in California after having discovered the comfortable sandal in Germany while gaining relief from a foot condition. Since the 1970s the brand has become increasingly popular and enjoys high popularity to this day.

HUGO BOSS factory sign, 1933
HUGO BOSS factory sign, 1933 | Source

Hugo Boss

Founded in 1924, Hugo Boss (after whom the luxury fashion brand is named) first started making all kinds of garments by hand. When he joined the German National Socialist Party in 1931 he had to design uniforms for the Nazi troops. To keep up with the growing demand during that time he became entrusted 40 prisoners of war and 150 forced laborers. In 2000, the Hugo Boss AG joined the German Business Foundation initiative on compensation for forced labor. Until today, Hugo Boss remains Germany’s largest manufacturer of men’s and women’s wear with at least 6,102 points of sale in 124 countries, as Michel Cevalier writes in his book Luxury Brand Management.

Adidas Copa Mundial with the famous stripes, created for the FIFA World Cup 1982
Adidas Copa Mundial with the famous stripes, created for the FIFA World Cup 1982 | Source

Adidas

After having started making shoes in his mother's wash kitchen in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria, Germany, Adolf "Adi" Dassler registered his shoe factory "Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik" with his brother Rudolf in 1924. After having split up in 1948, Adolf founded Adidas and Rudolf Puma, another sport manufacturer, which would become the early rival of Adidas. In 1949, Adolf Dassler registered a shoe with the three parallel white stripes that have been famous ever since. When Germany won the World Cup final against the Hungarians in 1954, Dassler became world-famous because he made their lightweight football boots with screw-in-studs. Today, Adidas is the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe and the second biggest in the world with their highest revenue ever (€14.488 billion in 2012) and 46,306 employees, according to the "Annual Report 2012".

Werner von Siemens
Werner von Siemens | Source

Siemens

In a back building in Berlin in 1847, Werner von Siemens and Johann Georg Halske founded the Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von Siemens & Halske in order to produce electrical telegraphs. They built the world's first long-distance telegraph line in Europe, presented the first electrical railway with an external power supply and were involved in powering the world's first electrical street lighting in Godalming, United Kingdom. In the early decades of the 20th century, Siemens started to manufacture radios and television sets and after 1945 specialized in computers, washing machines and pacemakers. In 1966, Siemens & Halske, Siemens-Schukertwerke and Siemens-Reiniger-Werke (three separate companies that were formed after a series of mergers and divisions in the first half of the 20th century) are joined together legally and organizationally in order to establish the Siemens AG. "This create[d] the basis for a successful repositioning of the expanding electrical concern" (Siemens website). The company now was involved in a variety of fields such as engineering, power generation, defence and information/communication technologies.

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Ritter Sport

The Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG. was founded in 1912 by Alfred Eugen Ritter and his wife Clara. The chocolate square as we know it today was launched in 1932 after Clara wanted to create a chocolate bar that would fit into every sports jacket: “We’ll make a chocolate that fits into the pocket of every sports jacket, doesn’t break, and still weighs the same as a normal long bar of chocolate.”

Since then, Ritter Sport has come up with a variety of new flavors as well as techniques of opening the package: “The pack with the snap that’s the packet in the pocket” (“Der Trick mit dem Knick, und die Masche mit der Tasche”). This specially-sealed wrapper soon became the brand’s characterizing feature.

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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      I enjoyed learning what major brands are from Germany.

      Informative hub.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 

      4 years ago

      josters: You're very welcome.

    • josters profile imageAUTHOR

      Janik D 

      4 years ago from Dresden, Germany

      I'm glad you liked it, sheilamyers. I have to admit I didn't know the Mühlbauer AG before...I just looked them up and they've got some pretty interesting stuff on there, so thanks for pointing them out.

    • josters profile imageAUTHOR

      Janik D 

      4 years ago from Dresden, Germany

      Thank you very much. Definitely go for it, they're delicious!

    • josters profile imageAUTHOR

      Janik D 

      4 years ago from Dresden, Germany

      Hey Bob, no, this ranking is not supported by any "official" source. I called them 'the best' considering factors I reserached such as their international success, revenue and the time they've been around. Of course, someone else might choose a few different brands, but as I wrote in another comment, you could almost make a Top 100 list here...so it depends on the factors you're considering.

    • profile image

      Natasha Peters 

      4 years ago

      Great hub, josters, I can see you put a lot of effort and research into it! I'm going to have to try some Ritter Sport.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 

      4 years ago

      I knew there were a lot of German products out there, but you've pointed out some that are new to me. I also know that Germany is now producing a lot of manufacturing equipment. A lot of what we use at the printing company I work for is German - a company called Muehlbauer.

    • profile image

      Bobonthehob 

      4 years ago

      It is certainly true, that german products are considered high quality all over the world. Still, I don't really understand the way you're ranking these certain brands. You're talking about 'the best brands'. Is this supported by any kind of empirical data or any other numbers? If so, which?

      If not, are these your personal favorite brands?

    • josters profile imageAUTHOR

      Janik D 

      4 years ago from Dresden, Germany

      Thank you very much for your appreciation, Ghaelach. You are totally right, I could have made a Top 50 list, if not a Top 100, but I narrowed it down to 12, so it wouldn't be (as you said) a never ending story.

      I'm really glad you liked it!

      Cheers,

      Janik

    • profile image

      Ghaelach 

      4 years ago

      Morning Janik.

      An awesome hub.

      After living here in Germany for the last 25 years you tend to learn a lot. I knew most of what you say in your article, if not the dates. Germany has a lot of big names, which goes on like a never ending story. Mercedes, Bayer, BASF, Henkel, DT (telecom), and SAP to name but a few, all world gaints in their own field.

      Well researched.

      Take care on your journey through Aus.

      LOL Ghaelach

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