Folks usually end up in Heidelberg, Germany, in awe of the medieval castle looming over the city, tasting regional wines, and wandering narrow winding cobblestone streets. And we’re writing about a Packaging Museum?
Yup. You can read about all the other stuff someplace else. Add this Packaging Museum to your to-do list in the tiny tourist town of Heidelberg! But keep your eyes open or you’ll miss it since it’s at the end of a narrow alley off the main street (Hauptstrasse 22, to be exact). All that’s there is an arched opening and a sign, in German: Deutsches Verpackungsmuseum (German Packaging Museum – www.verpackungsmuseum.de).
It’s small but worth an hour of your time if you have any interest whatsoever in branding, marketing, retailing, logos and their development, consumer products, packaging or history. We wandered in on a whim at the end of a cool drizzly winter day, taking the dapper older man at the desk a bit by surprise she thinks. But we ended up with a personal tour of all the goodies in the cases in the old church building. Long story short, the museum is the only one of its kind in Germany or in Europe. It is supported by dozens of brands and used for school groups to show packaging and branding history over the last century-plus with brands most will recognize: Nivea, Bahlsen, Knorr, Nestle, Siemens, Dr. Oetker, Maggi, Brandt, etc. The brands also use the location as a place to bring guests, hold seminars and do business meetings.
There is old machinery that did the wrapping of chocolate squares – one that still works and is kindly demonstrated, with all getting a little chocolate afterward. There is a glass showcase with dollhouse-size store replicas that show how shops 100 years ago sold goods – to help youngsters understand the reasoning behind some types of packaging or how it developed.
One story the man told us: The German word for cookies is “Keks,” which is pronounced “cakes.” Turns out the cookie and baked goods company Bahlsen made up that word! In the early 1900s, German cookie packaging actually had the English word “cakes” on it, but then came the war and the Germans didn’t like the English very much. Bahlsen, in its wisdom, knew it could not totally change the word; instead, it created a new German word that was pronounced nearly the same. (Always skeptical, we checked out his story in the all-powerful German Duden dictionary and, lo and behold, there is the world, created in 1915 from the word “cakes!”)
Be sure to check the hours since they are limited. At the time of this writing in early 2014, the museum was closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and only open 1-6 p.m. Wednesdays to Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The man who is on site speaks some English although signage is all in German. No matter, you’ll still enjoy the exhibits.