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Henkel's history

Around 140 years of brand success

At the beginning of the company's history in 1876, we meet a 28 year-old merchant who was interested in science – Fritz Henkel. On September 26, 1876 he and two partners founded the company Henkel & Cie in Aachen and marketed his first product, a universal detergent based on silicate. 

During the following years, this German family of entrepreneurs and thousands of their employees built Henkel into a global company.

Fritz Henkel founded the laundry detergent company Henkel 

On September 26 1876, the 28-year-old Fritz Henkel and his two partners founded the company Henkel & Cie in Aachen. The company’s product was a laundry detergent based on sodium silicate, which they named Universal-Waschmittel. Contrary to all similar products, which at that time were sold loose, this heavy-duty detergent was marketed in handy packets.

First success with a branded product: Henkel’s Bleich-Soda (bleaching soda)

In 1878, Henkel’s first branded product was launched. The result of Fritz Henkel’s own research, the bleaching soda, was made from readily soluble sodium silicate and calcined (water-free) soda. In the same year, Henkel also began exporting products abroad: 200 boxes of Henkel’s Bleich-Soda and 200 pounds of Universal-Waschmittel to Switzerland.

Relocation to Düsseldorf

Building on the success of his first branded product — Henkel’s Bleich-Soda (bleaching soda) — Fritz Henkel relocated his company to Düsseldorf in 1878. Initially, he rented a factory in the Flingern district, then went on to build his own factory in Düsseldorf-Oberbilk in 1880. In 1899, Fritz Henkel bought a piece of land in Holthausen, then a suburb of Düsseldorf. In the same year, he began building a bleaching soda factory, a sodium silicate factory, a boiler house with workshops, and an office building. In March 1900, Henkel was ready to start up production at the new site.

Foundation of Schwarzkopf

In 1898, the state-approved chemist Hans Schwarzkopf took over a dye, drug and perfumery business in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Schwarzkopf has been part of Henkel since its acquisition in 1995. Since 1898, the name Schwarzkopf has been synonymous with hair competence, and values such as modernity, high quality and innovative strength. This makes Schwarzkopf an ideal umbrella for a clearly differentiated brands portfolio serving both our consumer segment and our international hair salon business, Schwarzkopf Professional.

Shampoon – Germany’s first hair-washing powder

In 1903, Schwarzkopf launched Shampoon (price: 20 pfennigs), the first hair-washing powder on the German market. The packaging featured the now-familiar black silhouette logo, a black icon of a head in profile. The success of Shampoon encouraged Hans Schwarzkopf to give up his drugstore business in order to concentrate on production and marketing.


Persil – First self-acting laundry detergent

In 1907, Persil was launched as the world’s first self-acting laundry detergent, which has been the cornerstone for Henkel’s growth since then. The detergent, which cleans and bleaches laundry without chlorine, not only eliminated the physically strenuous task of scrubbing and washing by hand, which caused the fabrics to wear, but also improved household hygiene. These were directly tangible contributions that Henkel made to social progress. Today, Persil is Germany’s No. 1 laundry detergent and one of the top brands in the Laundry & Home Care business.

First production site abroad – in Switzerland

On January 29, 1913, Henkel founded its first subsidiary: Henkel & Cie AG in Basel-Pratteln, Switzerland. Until 1923, it remained Henkel's only subsidiary with a plant outside Germany. Henco und Persil were both produced there. Its site covered an area of 9,161 square meters. In its first year, it saw sales of about 1.5 million Swiss francs.


First Henkel adhesive 

In 1923, labeling of some of Henkel's consumer products was threatened due to an interruption in the supply of glue. This is why Henkel started the production of its own adhesives.

On June 26, a glue was sold to a neighboring company for the first time. Henkel ambitiously decided to conquer the interior decorating and wallcoverings markets, where Sichel was the market leader, in addition to the packaging industry.

First industrial cleaner P3

In 1929, Henkel extended its portfolio by including the industrial cleaner P3. P3 cleaners enable the removal of dirt or other contaminants from hard surfaces.

Poly Color hair colorant

1947: The image above shows a Poly Color package from 1950. TheraChemie began marketing these liquid hair colorants in 1947. Henkel entered the cosmetics business through the acquisition of TheraChemie in 1950.

First Loctite adhesive

In 1956, Professor Vernon Krieble presented his adhesive “Loctite, the liquid locknut.” Krieble promised that this adhesive would solve the problem of loose nuts and bolts in machinery. Together with his neighbor Paul G. Haviland, he founded the American Sealants Company in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. In 1963, the company was renamed Loctite Corporation. 

In 1985, Henkel purchased just over 25 percent of Loctite’s ordinary stock from the Krieble family. This participation was expanded in several steps to 35 percent by 1996. Henkel acquired Loctite entirely in 1997. Today, Loctite is the biggest brand in the Adhesive Technologies business. 


Acquisition of Schwarzkopf

In July 1995, Henkel acquired Schwarzkopf, which has been part of the company since then. With the acquisition, Henkel was able to double the sales of its Beauty Care business unit. Schwarzkopf is now one of the leading hair cosmetics brands in the world and is the largest brand in the Henkel portfolio.

Acquisition of Loctite

Henkel acquired Loctite entirely in 1997. In 1985, Henkel had already purchased just over 25 percent of Loctite’s ordinary stock from the Krieble family. This

participation was expanded in several steps to 35 percent by 1996. Today, Loctite is the biggest brand in the Adhesive Technologies business unit.

Acquisition of The Dial Corporation

2004: Henkel purchased the U.S.-based company The Dial Corporation, a manufacturer of laundry detergents, household cleaners and body care products. The product portfolio includes bar soaps, liquid soaps and shower gels in the body care business, as well as laundry detergents and air fresheners.

Acquisition of National Starch’s Adhesives and Electronic Materials businesses

In 2008, Henkel took over from Akzo Nobel the Adhesives and Electronic Materials businesses previously owned by National Starch. This made Adhesive Technologies the business unit with the largest share of Henkel’s sales. In the Adhesive Technologies business unit, the acquisition primarily strengthened the areas of Packaging and Wood Adhesives, and Electronics.

Presentation of new Henkel strategy and sustainability strategy 

2012: Henkel presented its new strategy and financial targets for the period up to 2016. The strategy centers around the strategic priorities of outperform, globalize, simplify, and inspire.

At the same time, the company published its new Sustainability Strategy 2030. At the core of this is the goal of achieving more with less and tripling its efficiency. The new sustainability strategy applies to all business sectors and the entire value chain.

Henkel announced two acquisitions

In June 2014, Henkel AG & Co. KGaA signed an agreement with funds advised by BC Partners to acquire all shares in the Spotless Group SAS, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. The transaction, including debt, is valued at 940 million euros and will be financed in cash. The Spotless Group mainly operates in the areas of laundry aids (laundry sheets, stain removers, fabric dyes), insect control and household care in Western Europe. Among the leading brands of the company are Eau Ecarlate, Dylon, Grey and Catch. In the fiscal year 2013, the company generated sales of about 280 million euros. The Spotless Group holds leading market positions in established European markets such as France, Italy, Spain, Benelux and the UK, and employs about 470 people.

Henkel also signed an agreement with TSG Consumer Partners, San Francisco/USA, to acquire the three US Hair Professional companies SexyHair, Alterna and Kenra for around 270 million euros in cash. These businesses will strengthen the Henkel US Hair Professional portfolio especially in the categories of Care and Styling. The acquisition will position Henkel as one of the leading companies in the world’s single biggest Hair Professional market. In the fiscal year 2013, the acquired companies generated sales of about 140 million euros.