Jacobs Family

Klaus J. Jacobs 1936-2008

In 1989, Jacobs and his family established the Jacobs Foundation, a private foundation with an international orientation headquartered in Zurich. Its goal was to offer positive, sustainable support for the young people of future generations by providing opportunities for positive development and thus enabling them to become socially responsible members of society.

Founding father

Klaus J. Jacobs was born on 3 December 1936, into the well-known coffee dynasty in Bremen, Germany. After secondary school and vocational training, Jacobs went to Central America as a coffee trader. Returning to Europe in 1961, he assumed the leadership of the Austrian subsidiary of his family’s coffee company. In 1970, after earning an executive master’s degree at Stanford University, Jacobs took over the management of Johann Jacobs & Co., moving the company’s headquarters to Zurich in 1973. He acquired the Suchard and Tobler brands in 1982. Eight years later, he sold his majority share in Jacobs Suchard to the U.S. company Philip Morris. In 2001, Jacobs transferred his interests in Jacobs Holding AG to the Jacobs Foundation by means of a donation.


Jacobs received numerous honorary degrees in recognition of his exceptional efforts to promote education and youth development. In 2005, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Basel. In 2008, he was admitted to the Honorary Senate of the Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in recognition of his commitment to education.

That same year, Jacobs was awarded the Leibniz Medal by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities for his contributions to promote science and research. He also received the highest honor his home city of Bremen confers: its Gold Medal of Honor, recognizing his commitment to youth development and his exemplary philanthropic contributions to the cause of scientific progress.

Jacobs passed away in September 2008.

The Jacobs Haus

Jacobs Haus was built in 1913 in the style of a Bernese country estate.

In 1984, Klaus J. Jacobs opened the Jacobs Suchard Museum on the site. It documented the history of the Jacobs coffee empire, founded in Bremen in 1895 under the name “Specialgeschäft in Caffee, Thee, Cacao, Chocoladen und Biscuits” (specialty shop in coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate and biscuits).

The Jacobs Foundation was established at Jacobs Haus in 1989. Jacobs Suchard was sold to Philip Morris in 1990, and the museum’s holdings were transferred to the Jacobs Foundation. The museum was renamed the Johann Jacobs Museum in honor of the company’s founder. In 2013, after two years of renovations by the architectural firm Miller & Maranta, the Jacobs Haus opened its doors as a lively place for creative learning and dialogue. At that time the museum also shifted its focus, and until 2021, it shed light on the complex history of global trade routes.

In September 2022, the Johann Jacobs Museum reinvented itself. Learning and education are now at the heart of the new museum. As Global Education Museums Initiative the museum embarked on an exciting journey to discover the history and future of learning.

Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development

We all face challenges as we transition from childhood to adolescence and then to adulthood. These transitions are a focus of research at the Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

The Jacobs Center was established in 2003 as a joint venture of the Jacobs Foundation and the University of Zurich. In 2015, cooperation expanded as the Center became part of the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Information Technology at the University of Zurich.

Innovative and interdisciplinary research

The Jacobs Center is an innovative, interdisciplinary, and international institution. Researchers at the Center study the impact of social, psychological, and economic factors on the development of children and youth. Three professorships and three assistant professorships were established in the fields of psychology, sociology, and economics. The Center organizes international and national symposia to promote lively exchanges among the international scientific community

It would be nice if they said of me: He was an entrepreneur, not a bore.

I always felt driven to ensure that children have a good future ahead of them.

Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development

Johann Jacobs Museum