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Henkel's history

140+ Years of Brand Success

Henkel’s story begins in 1876 with a twenty-eight-year-old merchant who was interested in science: Fritz Henkel. On September 26, 1876, Fritz and two partners founded the company Henkel & Cie in Aachen, Germany and marketed their first product, a universal detergent based on silicate.

During the following years, the Henkel family and thousands of their employees built Henkel into a global company. Click through the timeline to explore our company’s history!

Foundation of Henkel

On September 26, 1876, 28-year-old Fritz Henkel and his two partners founded Henkel & Cie in Aachen, Germany. The company launched a laundry detergent based on sodium silicate, which they named “Universal-Washmittel.” Unlike other similar products on the market at the time, Henkel’s heavy-duty detergent was sold 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. The name Schwarzkopf has been synonymous with hair competence and values, such as modernity, high quality, and innovative strength.

Schwarzkopf has been part of Henkel since its acquisition in 1995. The brand’s successful history makes Schwarzkopf an ideal umbrella brand 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 (priced at 20 pfennigs), the first hair-washing powder in 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’s success was two-fold: it cleaned and bleached laundry without chlorine, eliminating the physically strenuous task of scrubbing and washing by hand, which caused fabrics to wear, and also improved general household hygiene. These are 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.

Switzerland: The First Production Site Abroad

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 of Germany. Henco and Persil were both produced there. The site covered an area of 9,161 square meters. In its first year, it saw sales of about 1.5 million Swiss francs.

The First Henkel Adhesive

Early in 1922, in the cellar of the Holthausen packing department building, Henkel began to produce ready-to-use adhesives: 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 personal use. In 1923, glue was sold to a neighboring company for the first time. From 1928, Henkel started to export adhesives, to its European neighbors and in 1929 expanded its reach to Australia and South America.


The First Appearance of the “White Lady”

The “White Lady,” who was designed and brought to life by Berliner artist Kurt Heiligenstaedt, appeared for the first time in 1922 and has been a part of Persil’s history ever since.

First Industrial Cleaner: P3

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

Company Management Change

In the beginning of 1930, at only 55-years-old, Dr. h.c. Fritz Henkel Jr. died. In the same year, “Kommerzienrat” Fritz Henkel Sr., also died at the age of 81. Following their deaths, Dr. Hugo Henkel was left to take sole management power over the company.

 

Hair Salon Business

In 1930, Schwarzkopf began distributing its products to hair salons.

Dr. Jost Henkel

Dr. Jost Henkel, the eldest son of Dr. Hugo Henkel, joined the company in 1933. From 1942, he led the company through World War II and laid the foundations for the company to grow from a simple detergent company to become pioneers in the chemical industry.

The Third Generation of the Henkel Family

The third generation of the Henkel family took over the management of the company in 1938. Dr. Hugo Henkel joined the newly formed Advisory Board and the Supervisory Board. His son, Jost; his nephew, Werner Lüps; and Fritz Henkel Jr.’s son-in-law, Carl August Bagel, became Managing Directors.

Management Board Changes

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

First Kindergarten at the Henkel Plant

Henkel opened a kindergarten at the Düsseldorf-Holthausen plant in 1940. Today it is known as Gerda-Henkel-KiTa.

Henkel Post-War

On April 16, 1945, US troops occupied the Düsseldorf-Holthausen site and seized a third of the production. On June 5th, the British military command took over. On July 20th, the British military government issued a production permit for various products. By September 20th, five members of the Henkel family and seven other members of the Management and Supervisory Board were arrested.

One month later, the British military government appointed Dr. Paul Schulz, a Henkel chemist, as the trustee and CEO of the company.

In the same year, in Hamburg, a British occupation zone, Schwarzkopf started a makeshift production of its products.

Reorganization of the Management and Advisory Board

On November 21, 1947, the Henkel family returned to the company and the former Management Board members were reinstated with their rights fully restored. On December 10, Henkel implemented a reorganization of the Management and Advisory Board.

  

Poly Color Hair Colorant

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

Dr. Konrad Henkel

The second son of Dr. Hugo Henkel, Dr. Konrad Henkel, joined the company as a chemist in 1948.

Introduction of Pril Powder

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

New President of the Council: Reinhold Woeste

At the end of 1952, Dr. Hugo Henkel died unexpectedly, leaving the President of the Council seat vacant. He dedicated 47 years of his life to the company. Reinhold Woeste was appointed his successor and took over the Presidency on January 1st.

Dr. Konrad Henkel & First Commercial on German Television

1956, Dr. Konrad Henkel became General Manager of Henkel & Cie GmbH.

In November 1956, Henkel set new advertising standards with the first commercial in the history of German television – in the evening program, TV channel ARD broadcasted the “Mahlzeit” spot with two famous German actors. Persil developed further legendary TV-commercial concepts in the years that followed. The famous television slogan “With Persil, you know what you get” is still remembered.


First Loctite Adhesive

Professor Vernon Krieble presented his adhesive, “Loctite, the liquid locknut” in 1956. 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. Through incremental steps, Henkel’s stakes in the company rose to 35 percent by 1996. Henkel acquired Loctite entirely in 1997. Today, Loctite is the biggest brand in the world in the Adhesive Technologies business.

New Chairman of the Management Board: Dr. Konrad Henkel

Dr. Jost Henkel died unexpectedly at the age of 51. Leaving the position of Chairman of the Management Board open, his younger brother, Dr. Konrad Henkel, took over. From the 1960s, Konrad developed the family business to have an international presence, which previously was predominantly focused on the German market.

 

Introduction of the Henkel Oval

The “Henkel Lion” disappeared from packaging in 1961 and was replaced by the recognizable “Henkel Oval."

Launch of Pritt Glue Stick

Pritt, the first glue stick in the world, made its debut in 1969. Under this brand, more products were introduced overtime, which enhanced the importance of Henkel in the market of stationary and office supplies. In the same year, Henkel started to export Pritt, making Pritt the most widespread global brand under the Henkel umbrella.

Henkel KGaA

On January 1, 1975, Henkel GmbH changed into Henkel Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien (KGaA) – a limited corporation based on shares. The Shareholders’ Committee was set up as the decision-making body for 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 to hold the Presidency of the Executive Management. Prof. Dr. Dr. Helmut Sihler became President and Chief Executive Officer.

Henkel Goes Public

On October 11, the company went public in the stock market and preferred shares without voting rights were issued. This was Henkel’s first worldwide financial statement.

First Public Annual General Meeting

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

Dr. Konrad Henkel: Honorary Chairman of Henkel

Dr. Konrad Henkel handed over  the chairmanship of the Supervisory Board and Shareholders’ Committee to Albrecht Woeste, whom is a great-grandson of founder, Fritz Henkel. This then made Dr. Konrad Henkel an “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

Biotechnology and environmental technology company, Cognis, was founded as a Henkel subsidiary in 1991. In 1994, it was integrated into Central Research.

Dr. Hans-Dietrich Winkhaus

Prof. Dr. Dr. Helmut Sihler joined the Shareholders’ Committee and handed over his office as President and Chief Executive Officer to Dr. Hans-Dietrich Winkhaus in 1992.

Acquisition of Schwarzkopf

In July 1995, Henkel acquired Schwarzkopf. 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 one of the largest brand in the Henkel portfolio.

New shareholders’ pooling agreement

As holders of ordinary shares in the company, members of the Henkel family proposed a new shareholders’ pooling agreement for an indefinite period, from which individual signatories could not withdraw from 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’s ordinary shares were traded in three stock exchanges: two in Germany (Frankfurt-on-Main and Düsseldorf) 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 Deutsche Mark.

Acquisition of Loctite

In 1997, Henkel acquired all the shares of the Loctite Corporation. Loctite is, next to craft and household adhesives, the world’s leading specialist for engineering adhesives, especially for miniaturization like Chip-bonding and microelectronics.

In 2002, Loctite India Private Limited (Incorporated in 1990) was renamed Henkel-Loctite India Private Limited.

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 Adhesive Technologies business unit.

Expansion of Business in the Asia-Pacific

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

New CEO: Dr. Ulrich Lehner

At the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders in 2000, Dr. Hans-Dietrich Winkhaus retired and handed over his position as President and Chief Executive Officer of Henkel KGaA to Dr. Ulrich Lehner.

Sale of Cognis

Cognis was sold to a consortium of investors.

Acquisition of The Dial Corporation

In 2004, Henkel purchased the US-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 Renamed Henkel AG & Co. KGaA

After the Henkel Annual General Meeting on April 14, 2008, the Henkel Management AG was appointed the sole personally liable partner of Henkel KGaA. Therefore, the company was renamed Henkel AG & Co. KGaA.
   

Kasper Rorsted As CEO

On the day of the Annual General Meeting, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Lehner was retired and handed over the office of Chairman of the Management Board to Kasper Rorsted. From then, Kasper Rorsted was Chairman of the Henkel Management AG.

  

Acquisition of National Starch’s Adhesives and Electronic Materials Businesses

In 2008, Henkel took over 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, Wood Adhesives, and Electronics.

Dr. Simone Bagel-Trah: Head of Supervisory Board

Dipl. Ing. Albrecht Woeste handed over the chairmanship of the Supervisory Board and Shareholders’ Committee to his successor, Dr. Simone Bagel-Trah in 2009. This transition marked the change of power between the fourth to the fifth generation of the Henkel family. Dipl. Ing. Albrecht Woeste became an “Honorary Chairman of the Henkel Group.” Dr. Simone Bagel-Trah is the first woman to become the Head of a Supervisory Board of a DAX 30 company.

Further Development of Corporate Culture

In 2010, Henkel defined a corporate culture in order to address the growing internationality and diversity within the company. A clear vision and shared values provided orientation, guidance, and identification for employees around the world. The vision of being “a global leader in brands and technologies” defined 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.

  

Forscherwelt launched

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

Find out more on the Forscherwelt website

Presentation of New Strategies

In 2012, Henkel presented its four-year strategy and financial targets to achieve by 2016. The strategy centered around the strategic priorities to outperform, globalize, simplify, and inspire.

In the same year, the company published its Sustainability Strategy 2030. The core of this strategy is to achieve more with less and tripling the company’s efficiency. The sustainability strategy applies to all business sectors and the entire value chain.

Henkel Family Extend Share-Pooling Agreement

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

Henkel Announces New 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; the group also hold leading positions in established European markets such as France, Italy, Spain, and the UK.

   

Henkel also signed an agreement with TSG Consumer Partners, to acquire three US Professional Hair Care Products companies: SexyHair, Alterna, and Kenra. The acquisitions positioned Henkel as one of the leading companies in the world’s Professional Hair Care Products market.

   

   
In September 2014, Henkel signed an agreement to acquire The Bergquist Company, a privately-held leading supplier of thermal-management solutions for the electronics industry worldwide. The acquisition strengthened 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 in Australia and New Zealand’s Laundry Market

Henkel has signed an agreement with the 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: Cold Power, Dynamo, Fab, and Sard brands. Due to these acquisitions, Henkel is one of the largest players in the Laundry Care market in the Australia/New Zealand region.

Management Board Changes at Henkel

On May 1, 2016, Hans Van Bylen succeeded Kasper Rorsted as the company’s new CEO. Hans Van Bylen previously served as the Executive Vice President for Beauty Care. Pascal Houdayer takes over as the new Executive Vice President for Beauty Care.

Acquisition of The Sun Products Corporation

Henkel acquired the US Laundry and Home Care Company, The Sun Products Corporation on September 1, 2016 from a fund of Vestar Capital Partners. The acquisition was an improvement for business in North America and secured Henkel the No. 2 position in the North American Laundry Care market. The acquisition included leading laundry care brands such as: All®, Sun®, and the fabric conditioner Snuggle®.

This acquisition complemented and strengthened the company’s existing Laundry & Home Care portfolio with well-known and successful brands in North America. With a transaction volume of around 3.2 billion Euros, the Sun Products acquisition is the second-largest acquisition in Henkel’s history.

New Strategic Priorities and Financial Ambition

On November 17, Henkel presented its new strategic priorities and financial ambition, with the objective to shape Henkel to 2020 and beyond – concisely named “Henkel 2020+.” Based on its strong foundation, Henkel aims to generate continued profitable growth by focusing on four strategic priorities: Driving Growth, Accelerating Digitalization, Increasing Agility, and Funding Growth.

Henkel Expands Corporate Venture Capital Activities

With investments of more than 25 million Euros in multiple start-ups and venture capital funds, Henkel decided to manage its venture capital activities in a dedicated unit: Henkel Ventures

 

Acquisition of Darex Packaging Technologies and Sonderhoff Group

With the successful acquisitions of the global Darex Packaging Technologies business and the Sonderhoff Group, Henkel strengthened its Adhesive Technologies business and complements its technology portfolio.

Henkel Acquires Nattura Laboratorios

Henkel strengthened its Professional Hair Care business unit and significantly expanded its market presence in Mexico and the US with the acquisition of Nattura Laboratorios. The transaction included a portfolio of major brands such as Pravana and Tec Italy.