The journey from Tianjin in China to Hamburg via Danzig

The story of how the family company Dohr was transformed from a sorting plant into a successful natural and textile casings company operating at a worldwide level


Over a period of just under 100 years, the family-owned company Dohr GmbH & Co. KG has gradually emerged as one of the world’s leading players on the natural and textile casings market. The company is now a fourth-generation business and traces its origins back to Tianjin in China where Gustav Dohr, the great grandfather of the company’s present main shareholder and managing director, set up a company on 1 January 1911 to prepare natural sausage casings primarily for the European market. Around the turn of the 20th century, Dohr – who had originally trained as a clockmaker – had been serving in the German Army alongside allied troops in China fighting to put down the so-called Boxer Rebellion. Once his time as a soldier came to an end, he decided to remain in the country and established a natural casings company with locations in Tianjin, Hankou and Chongqing. This became one of the first firms to ship washed, sorted and salted pig and sheep casings to Europe in wooden barrels.

At the end of the 1930’s, the war which ensued following the Japanese attack on China forced Gustav Dohr to relocate company headquarters to Danzig (modern day Gdansk in Poland). After the destruction of the Second World War, the firm was re-established in Hamburg by the founder’s son-in-law Kurt Köhnke and his partner Wilhelm Schulz. Under Köhnke and Schulz, the company flourished once more. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, a number of acquisitions were made which supported expansion. Having taken over the Hamburg-based natural casings import company Berthold W. Rolff GmbH & Co, Dohr later took a majority shareholding in the linen and textile casings manufacturer Ramsay GmbH + Co. KG located in the same city. In 1981, Kurt Köhnke handed over the reins to his son Dieter, who is still active in the company in an advisory capacity, and to his son-in-law Joachim Otte. Since 2004, Dohr has been under the joint management of the sons of Dieter Köhnke and Joachim Otte, Volker Otte und Cärsten Otte, who run the company together with Dietmar Huß.


One of Germany’s leading natural casings companies


Dohr is a major quality leader in the natural casings sector in Germany and is one of the country’s leading wholesalers in the branch. Its customers include companies from the sausage industry and the butchery trade as well as retailers. As well as focusing on the distribution of sheep, pig and beef casings of various qualities and calibres, the company has been successfully pursuing the further development of conventional technologies for many years. Dohr is a specialist manufacturer of gathered casings in soft tube and hard tube form (small tube), and this is an area in which the company is now a leading player both in terms of technology and of the market.

Dohr’s subsidiary Ramsey, which is a producer of A-tex and linen casings now based in Gehrde near Osnabrück, also provides the company with a unique position on the German market. The products manufactured by Ramsay provide an ideal supplement to Dohr’s range of quality natural casing goods.


High-quality natural and textile casings are distributed to customers in Germany and across the world from the company’s headquarters in Hamburg. Exports account for approximately 30 percent of sales.


Joint venture in China


Procurement of raw materials, which Dohr sources from around ten different countries, is just as international in nature as the company’s sales operations. Pig casings are primarily obtained from China and Europe, whereas sheep casings mainly come from China, the Far East, Turkey and Australia and beef casings form South America. The valuable natural casings are cured and submerged in brine in plastic barrels placed in refrigerated containers before embarking on their sea journey to Hamburg. At the company’s warehouse in Hamburg, the barrels are placed in interim storage in a well chilled environment before being sold on or tubed.

Dohr cooperates with selected long-standing partners in each of the countries of origin with which it does business. These partners are responsible for the sourcing, cleaning and sorting of the casings.

For the past several years, the company has once again been operating its own sorting and finishing plant in China together with its joint venture partner Jiangxi Dohr Casings Co LTD in Nanchang.


Delivering the highest quality to customers


Although the company, the market and customer product requirements have all undergone considerable change since the times of Gustav Dohr, Dohr’s traditional corporate philosophy and its formula for success very much remain in place. All activities undertaken by executive management and the firm’s well trained skilled workers are strictly aligned towards achieving consistent product quality. The great grandchildren of the company’s founder have now ensured the robust implementation of these high quality objectives by enshrining them within the framework of a documented quality management system.

Our motto is “only the best for our customers”. To this end, Dohr’s quality assurance process begins with our business partners abroad, who are required to fulfil strict conditions with regard to hygiene, quality, microbiological standards and chemical guidelines. This guarantees that all products brought onto the market comply with European laws and international norms.

In mid-2009, Dohr obtained certification in accordance with the International Food Standard (IFS) to add to the official EU certification the company already held. This makes it one of the few companies operating in the branch in Germany which is in possession of an IFS Certificate. A new quality concept chapter is about to follow. Completion of a new warehousing facility at Dohr’s Hamburg premises is scheduled for the autumn of 2010, the aim here being to enhance the hub of company operations still further.

As the company prepares to celebrate its centenary in 2011, Dohr continues to move ahead in dynamic fashion despite the global economic and financial crisis. We are in sound business health and well equipped to face the future challenges of a highly competitive market.