The Legacy of Johann Dähler: The Pineapple King’s Empire Lives On

2023-09-12 14:16:14

Published12. September 2023, 4:16 p.m

Johann Dähler: The Pineapple King is dead – his empire lives on

His life was characterized by ups and downs and yet he always acted according to the credo “when one door closes, another opens.” The Thurgau farmer’s son Johann Dähler, who made a name for himself as the pineapple king, has died at the age of 70.

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In the 1970s, Johann Dähler was the first to bring fresh pineapples to Switzerland. He had them flown from the Ivory Coast to Switzerland with what was then Swissair, making him the Swiss airline’s largest freight customer.


“That’s why the logo has wings,” says Stéphane Dähler, one of Johann Dähler’s sons, to 20 Minutes.

Thurgauer Zeitung / Obituary

The pineapple plantation was his life. But he was also a humanitarian and that is why he built a chapel that is unique in the world on his plantation in the Ivory Coast. The St. Albin Chapel is half Catholic and half Muslim, making it a place where people of different religions can come together.


That’s what it’s about

The pineapple king Johann Dähler has died at the age of 70.

In the 1970s he was the first to import fresh pineapple into Switzerland.

After his rise came the deep fall. But he got up again.

The Dähler family was part of various SRF documentary programs.

Pineapple as a thank you

The pineapple king Johann Dähler died on September 8th at the age of 70 after a short illness surrounded by his family, says Stéphane Dähler, one of his sons, when asked by 20 Minutes. On Tuesday, Stéphane is on his way to the Inselspital Bern, where his father died. “You have done a very good job, which is why I would like to thank you.” He probably does this in the spirit of his father: with pineapples as a gift for the employees.

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The Thurgau farmer’s son Johann Dähler was the largest plantation owner in the Ivory Coast for 20 years until he lost everything. With a bit of fighting spirit and the view that a no was just a “not right now,” he built an empire for himself. SRF-Dok reported regularly about Dähler and his family.

Dähler has lived farming on three continents

Johann Dähler felt at home in agriculture and lived it on three different continents until his death. His story began in Europe, more precisely in Fruthwilen TG, where he grew up as the son of a farmer. He probably inherited his fighting spirit from his father. “Giving up is the last thing and fear is the worst partner,” his father always said, as he did in one Documentary from SRF told.

After graduating from agricultural school and earning the military rank of sergeant, he traveled to Africa in the 1970s. There he pursued various activities and had no idea that Africa would one day make him great.

Johann Dähler was the first

By chance, he landed a job in a pineapple cannery in Ivory Coast, where he first came into contact with the fruit that would later make him famous. “When he traveled back to Switzerland, he noticed that there was no fresh pineapple on the market there,” says son Stéphane Dähler. “He then started flying Pineapple to Switzerland with Swissair.”

“Johann is like a father to me.”

Employees of a plantation

In 1977, Johann Dähler became Swissair’s largest freight customer and the largest plantation owner on the Ivory Coast. He was the first to deliver fresh pineapple to Switzerland and his empire continued to grow. In total, Dähler employed 1,500 locals with whom he also maintained personal relationships. «He gives us work and food. Johann is like a father to me. Instead of my real parents, he now solves all my problems,” said one of his favorite employees in the SRF documentary. It was all the worse for Johann Dähler when everything collapsed in 2000.

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“I cried through the night”

Dähler fought for his employees until the end, but had to leave the country in 2000 to escape the civil war. Back in Switzerland, Dähler was in constant contact with his employees and stood up for them.

Not thinking of giving up, he set up a new pineapple plantation with his wife Jolanda and four children in 2004, this time in Costa Rica – with success. “For the first time after the crisis, I’m happy again,” he says in the SRF documentary. But it was a rocky road getting there. “I cried all night long,” says Johann Dähler about the time when he had to leave his plantation and employees behind. Ten years after the crisis, he finally decided to go back to the Ivory Coast.

From the pineapple to the rubber tree plantation

Once there, he bought back his old plantation and enjoyed the rubber trees he had planted shortly before the political crisis. “If something didn’t work, he had another idea,” says Stéphane Dähler rightly about his father. Dähler then also worked as a rubber producer. However, Dähler decides to no longer have his permanent residence in Africa for health reasons. He had already suffered a heart attack and was living with his wife Jolanda’s donor kidney. “This is not a good climate for health,” says Dähler in the documentary.

He knew 20 years ago where he wanted to be buried

After his death at the latest, he would like to be able to stay in his adopted home forever. “I would like to be buried on the plantation next to my chapel,” said Dähler in the 1990s. In the chapel he built to bring together the Catholic and Muslim populations, equipped with a minaret and carpets on one side and benches on the other. This wish is now being taken into account.

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Johann Dähler was a true philanthropist who worked until his last day. “We are now continuing as a family what our father built up and did until the end,” says Stéphane Dähler, who lives in Costa Rica. There he works as a tour guide, thanks in part to a clever partnership his father entered into.

Are you grieving or mourns someone you know?

Offered handWorry Hotline, Tel. 143

Seelsorge.netOffered by the Reformed and Catholic Churches

Muslim pastoral careTel. 043 205 21 29

Jewish welfare,

Lifewith.chfor affected siblings


Rainbow Switzerland AssociationHelp for grieving families

For Youthadvice for children and young people, Tel. 147

For old ageadvising older people in difficult life situations

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