Oct 15, 2015  Düsseldorf / Germany

The development of Henkel’s business outside Germany

A glimpse of history: The success of Henkel products abroad

One hundred and thirty years ago the first member of Henkel’s sales force traveled to Vienna on behalf of the company founded by Fritz Henkel – it was an important step for the young company which aimed to expand business beyond the national borders.

First production subsidiary in Basel-Pratteln, Switzerland

On January 29, 1913, Henkel built its first production subsidiary in Basel-Pratteln, Switzerland.

Henkel Waschmittelwerk im belgischen Herent

By 1937, Henkel had production sites in 11 European countries. Here for example a laundry factory in Herent, Belgium.

Henkel started selling its detergent abroad as early as 1878. “Henkel’s Bleich-Soda” product was so successful that it generated great interest and could sell itself. But soon, a sales force took over targeted sales distribution. In parallel, Henkel concluded contracts with foreign companies to import its products from Düsseldorf and bring them to the respective markets. For example, three years after its market introduction in 1907, Persil was made available in New York.

Persil ab 1910 auch in den USA erhältlich

Three years after its market introduction in 1907, Persil was made available in New York.

Werbeplakat für Henkel-Produkte in der Schweiz von 1920

Advertising poster for Henkel products in Switzerland from 1920

After setting up sales offices and agencies, Henkel started to also produce abroad. In January 1913, the company opened its first production site in Switzerland. After WWI, part of the company’s foreign assets and its trademark rights were lost. In the 1920s, Henkel started to push the internationalization of its business again: by 1937, Henkel had production sites in 11 European countries, for example in Belgium, Norway and Hungary.

WWII brought Henkel’s international business to a halt. The company did not recover its earlier market position until the end of the 1950s. That’s when its first activities in important strategic markets overseas began: In 1951, Henkel founded its first subsidiary outside Europe in South Africa. In 1955, the first subsidiary on the other side of the Atlantic followed in Brazil, in 1957 Henkel entered Japan and the company entered the US in 1960. Under the management of Konrad Henkel, uncle of founder Fritz Henkel, the international business systematically grew from 1961 to 1980.

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