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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 

Early in the year, in the cellar of the Holthausen packing department building, Henkel began to produce adhesives for captive use: Sula (paper adhesive) Desula (board adhesive) and Buba (packet adhesive). In the first year, a total of 123 tons of adhesives were produced for the company’s own use. 1923 glue was sold to a neighboring company for the first time. From 1928 Henkel started to export adhesives, especially to its European neighbors and from 1929 also to Australia & South America.

The first appearance of the “White Lady”

The first Persil advertising with the “White Lady” appeared.

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.

Dr. Hugo Henkel took over the company management

At the beginning of the year, the only 55-year-old Dr. h.c. Fritz Henkel junior died. A short time later also the company’s founder, “Kommerzienrat” Fritz Henkel senior died at the age of 81 years. Dr. Hugo Henkel took over the sole management of the company.


Business with hair salons

In 1930, Schwarzkopf started business with hair salons.

Dr. Jost Henkel joined the company

Dr. Jost Henkel, the eldest son of Dr. Hugo Henkel joined the company. From 1942 he lead the company through World War II and laid the foundations for the further growth of the company from a detergent company to a work of the chemical industry.

Third generation of the Henkel family took over the company management

The third generation of the Henkel family took over the management of the company. Dr. Hugo Henkel joined the newly formed Advisory Board and the Supervisory Board. His son Jost, his nephew Werner Lüps and Carl August Bagel, a son-in-law of Fritz Henkel junior became Managing Directors.

Changes in the Management Board

In 1939, Dr. Willy Manchot replaced Carl August Bagel, who was in poor health, taking over his offices as General Manager of Henkel & Cie GmbH and Management Board member of Henkel & Cie AG.

First Henkel plant kindergarten

Henkel organized a plant kindergarten in Düsseldorf-Holthausen (today Gerda-Henkel-KiTa).

Henkel in 1945

On April 16, US troops occupied the Düsseldorf-Holthausen site and seized a third of the work. On June 5, the British Military command took over. From July 20, the British military government issued a new production permit for various products.

On September 20, 1945, five members of the Henkel family and seven other members of the management and supervisory Board were arrested.

On October 18, the British military government set the Henkel chemist Dr. Paul Schulz as a trustee and CEO.

In Hamburg, at that time British occupation zone, Schwarzkopf started a makeshift production.

Reorganization of the Management and Advisory Board

On November 21, the Henkel family returned to the company and the former Management Board members were reinstated with full restoration of their rights. On December 10, Henkel implemented a reorganization of the Management and Advisory Board.


Poly Color hair colorant

The image 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.

Dr. Konrad Henkel joined the company

Dr. Konrad Henkel, the second son of Dr. Hugo Henkel, joined the company as a chemist.

Introduction of Pril Powder

Pril Powder, a household dishwashing detergent, was launched in 1951.

Reinhold Woeste took over the Presidency of the Council

In the end of 1952, the Senior Partner Dr. Hugo Henkel died unexpectedly. He worked for the company for 47 years. As his successor Reinhold Woeste took over the Presidency of the Council on January 1.

Dr. Konrad Henkel became General Manager and first German TV spot promoted Persil

Dr. Konrad Henkel became General Manager of Henkel & Cie GmbH.

The first advertising spot ever aired on German television promoted Persil.

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. 

Dr. Konrad Henkel became chairman of the Management Board

At the age of only 51 years the company director Dr. Jost Henkel died unexpectedly. His younger brother, Dr. Konrad Henkel, took over as chairman of the Management Board. From the 1960s, he developed the family business, which was up to this point mainly active on the German market, to a group of international standing.


Introduction of Henkel oval

The “Henkel Lion” disappeared from packaging, being replaced by the Henkel oval.

Launch of Pritt glue stick

Pritt, the first glue stick in the world, makes its debut. Under this brand, more products are introduced over time, which enhance the importance of Henkel in the market for stationery and office supplies. That same year, Henkel started the export of Pritt, thereby Pritt became Henkel’s most widespread global brand.

Henkel GmbH was transformed into Henkel KGaA

From January 1, Henkel GmbH was transformed into Henkel Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien (KGaA) [Limited Corporation based on shares]. The Shareholder’s committee was set up as the decision-making body of the Henkel family.

Changes in the Supervisory Board and the Shareholders’ Committee

Dr. Konrad Henkel became Chairman of the Supervisory Board and the Shareholders’ Committee of Henkel KGaA. He was the last member of the Henkel family, which held the Presidency of the Executive Management. Prof. Dr. Dr. Helmut Sihler became President and Chief Executive Officer.

Henkel went public

On October 11, the company went public and preferred shares without voting rights were issued. In this context, a Henkel worldwide financial statement was published for the first time.

First public Annual General Meeting

In 1986, the first public Annual General Meeting of the Henkel KGaA in Düsseldorf City Hall took place.
The first Information for our Shareholders was published.

Dr. Konrad Henkel became “Honorary Chairman of Henkel”

Dr. Konrad Henkel handed over the chairmanship of the Supervisory Board and Shareholders’ Committee to Albrecht Woeste, a great-grandson of the company’s founder. Dr. Konrad Henkel became “Honorary Chairman of Henkel”.


Entering new markets

Henkel started entering the Eastern European market with various investments and the creation of joint ventures in countries such as Russia, Poland, Hungary and Slovenia.

In addition to that, Henkel started its first joint venture in China with Shanghai Henkel Chemicals Ltd., a production facility in Gu Lang Lu.

Formation of Cognis

Cognis, a biotechnology and environmental technology company, was founded as a Henkel subsidiary (1994 integrated into Central Research).

Dr. Hans-Dietrich Winkhaus became CEO

Prof. Dr. Dr. Helmut Sihler joined the Shareholder’s Committee and handed over his office as President and Chief Executive Officer to Dr. Hans-Dietrich Winkhaus.

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.

New shareholders’ pooling agreement

Members of the Henkel family, as holders of ordinary shares in the company, concluded a new shareholders’ pooling agreement for an indefinite period, from which individual signatories cannot withdraw before 2016. The new agreement ensured that the Henkel family would retain long-term control of more than 50 percent of the voting shares.

For the first time, Henkel ordinary shares were traded on the stock exchanges in Frankfurt-on-Main, Düsseldorf (both in Germany) and in Switzerland. Ordinary shares could therefore be acquired by investors from outside the Henkel family. At the same time, the nominal share value was reduced from 50 to 5 DM.

Expansion of business in Asia-Pacific

Henkel expands the business, especially in the Asia-Pacific region with various joint ventures, start-ups and acquisitions. As a joined project of Henkel (China) Investment Co. Ltd. and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the Henkel Jiao Tong Management Training Center opened in Shanghai.


Acquisition of Loctite

Henkel acquired all the shares of Loctite Corporation. Loctite is next to craft and household adhesives the world's leading specialist for engineering adhesives, especially for miniaturization as Chipbonding and microelectronics.

With the integration of Loctite, Henkel achieved by far the world market leadership in adhesives and improved the sales structure in the US and worldwide. Today Loctite is the largest brand in the business unit Adhesive Technologies.

Dr. Ulrich Lehner became CEO

At the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders, Dr. Hans- Dietrich Winkhaus, retiring President and Chief Executive Officer of Henkel KGaA, handed over his office to Dr. Ulrich Lehner.

Sale of Cognis

Cognis was sold to a consortium of investors.

Acquisition of The Dial Corporation

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.

Company was renamed in Henkel AG & Co. KGaA

After the Henkel Annual General Meeting on April 14, the Henkel Management AG was appointed the sole personally liable partner of Henkel KGaA. Therefore the company was renamed in Henkel AG & Co. KGaA.

Kasper Rorsted became CEO

On the day of the Annual General Meeting Prof. Dr. Ulrich Lehner was retired as planned (after reaching the Henkel-internal retirement age) and handed over the office of Chairman of the Management Board to Kasper Rorsted. Since then, the Dane is Chairman of the Henkel Management AG.


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.

Dr. Simone Bagel-Trah became Head of a Supervisory Board

Dip. Ing. Albrecht Woeste handed over the chairmanship of the Supervisory Board and Shareholders’ Committee to his successor Dr. Simone Bagel-Trah. Thereby he accomplished the transition from the fourth to the fifth generation of the Henkel family. Dip.-Ing. Albrecht Woeste became “Honorary Chairman of the Henkel Group”. Dr. Simone Bagel-Trah is the first woman at the Head of a Supervisory Board of a Dax 30 company.

Further development of corporate culture

Henkel developed the corporate culture in order to resolve the growing internationality and diversity within the company. A clear vision and shared values should provide orientation, guidance and identification for the employees around the world. The vision of being “a global leader in brands and technologies” defines a clear ambition for every Henkel employee. And in striving to achieve this goal, everyone at Henkel is guided in their daily activities by five values: customers, people, financial performance, sustainability and family.

New Corporate Design

Henkel introduced its new Corporate Design in connection with its new claim: “Excellence is our Passion”.


Forscherwelt launched

Henkel launched the “Forscherwelt,” an educational initiative for children to foster interest in research and science.

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 family extended share-pooling agreement

At the beginning of 2014, the Henkel family extended its share-pooling agreement. The agreement was concluded for an indefinite term and can now first be terminated as of December 31, 2033.

Henkel announces 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 Spotless Group operates in the categories of laundry aid, insect control and household care and holds leading market positions in established European markets such as France, Italy, Spain and the UK.


Henkel also signed an agreement with TSG Consumer Partners, to acquire the three US Hair Professional companies SexyHair, Alterna and Kenra. The acquisition will position Henkel as one of the leading companies in the world’s single biggest Hair Professional market.


In September 2014, Henkel also signed an agreement to acquire The Bergquist Company, a privately-held leading supplier of thermal-management solutions for the electronics industry worldwide. The acquisition will strengthen the position of Henkel’s Adhesive Technologies business as a global leader.


Opening of largest automated storage facility

At the corporate headquarters in Düsseldorf, Henkel opened its largest automated storage facility. Built on an area the size of two football fields, its ten rack levels offer storage capacity for more than 25 million packs of laundry and home care products.


New global supply chain organization

In line with the implementation of its Strategy 2016, Henkel continued to standardize production and logistics activities across all business units, and consolidated them with its purchasing operations into a global supply chain organization. The new organization started operations in early November 2014.

Henkel entered Australia and New Zealand’s laundry market

Henkel has signed an agreement with Colgate-Palmolive Company to acquire its entire range of laundry detergents and pre-wash brands in Australia and New Zealand. With the acquisition of powder and liquid detergents as well as pre-wash brands, including the Cold Power, Dynamo, Fab and Sard brands, Henkel will become one of the largest players in the detergents category in the Australia/New Zealand region.