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Reckitt & Colman


Passion to be the Best

Reckitt & Coleman productsToday, RECKITT & COLMAN is a world leader in the manufacture and marketing of household, toiletry, food and pharmaceutical products. Starting with only 25 employees the company now employs worldwide over 25,000 people. Reckitt & Colman's brands have become internationally renowned and are sold in over 40 countries. Its Canadian brands are not only familiar household names but many are also leaders in their categories. Examples include: Easy-Off Oven Cleaner, Zero Fine Fabric Wash, French's Mustard, Airwick and Wizard Air Fresheners, Sani Flush Toilet Bowl Cleaners, and Lysol Disinfectants. Of course, this wasn't always so...

It was over 150 years ago, back in 1840, in the city of Hull, in what is now the county of North Humberside, in England, that Isaac Reckitt founded what was to become Reckitt & Colman.

Isaac Reckitt himself, was born in 1792 and had in fact established two previous businesses prior to this, both of which had failed! He was, however, a very determined man and the fact that he had now lost all his capital did not deter him. He borrowed money from his relatives and with it purchased a starch factory. His first business card simply read "Isaac Reckitt Starch Manufacturer - late Middleton" for he had purchased the business from Charles Middleton. The factory was situated in Dansom Lane, which today remains the location for the company's U.K. pharmaceuticals factory as well as its main U.K. office. Its headquarters and Board of Directors are located in Chiswick, London.

Whilst Isaac started the business, there was no development until his four sons became old enough to help. Indeed, it was Isaac's son Frederick who become the company's first chemist and his other son, George, its first salesman. From this point on the business was known as Reckitt & Sons.

For the first nine years in the company's history, the only product sold was starch. But by 1854 Reckitt & Sons sold 22 products which competed in four product categories: starch, laundry blue, metal polish and washing paste. The company entered the pharmaceutical business in 1929 when they began the development of a liquid antiseptic that would not harm human skin. The leading brand on the market at that time was Lysol which was an excellent household disinfectant but was not designed to be used on skin. In 1932, Dettol antiseptic and disinfectant was launched and it became the company's biggest marketed in Canada. selling line. Little did they know that in just over 60 years the company would also come to own the Lysol brand!

During this time, the company began to expand its sales throughout England and to further diversify its product line into related areas. But despite this it took seven years for the company to make a profit! And it was a further eleven years before Isaac was able to pay off all his original loans. Unfortunately in 1862, only four years later, Isaac died at the age of 70.

Reckitt & Sons also grew through the development of new markets. Its first export to a Dominion took place in 1864 when it sent laundry blue to Montreal, Canada. The Canadian market was developed through agents until finally a branch was opened in Vancouver and in 1924 a factory was acquired in Montreal. Today, factories and offices are still located throughout Canada with the Canadian Head Office in Etobicoke, Ontario.

Competition in these new markets was fierce and it was because of it that Reckitt decided to join forces with a company based in Norwich, England, by the name of J&J Colman.

Keen's MustardJeremiah Colman, like Isaac, was also from a family of millers. Jeremiah began milling mustard and flour in 1814. His diversification into starch and laundry blue took him into direct competition with Reckitt both at home and abroad. However, in 1913, the two decided to join the forces of their South American businesses. The partnership worked well and by 1921 they were working together in all their export markets until eventually, in 1938, they formed Reckitt & Colman Ltd. Colman's expertise in the food industry was further enhanced by its purchase in 1903 of Keen, Robinson & Co. manufacturers of food and soft drinks. The acquisition of the RT French company based in New York, U.S.A., which made food, mustard and spices was appropriate and it strengthened the company's presence in North America.

Keen's Mustard was one of the original brands marketed in Canada.

Today, Reckitt & Colman continues to build on these solid foundations by concentrating on what it does best marketing a wide range of quality, strongly branded consumer products. Its vision is to be an outstanding global company with leading brands and exceptional people.

Reckitt & Colman has continued to grow both through internal development of new products and the continuous improvement of existing lines. In order to fulfil its vision it has also pursued a strategy of acquisition to both strengthen its portfolio and its presence around the world. More recent purchases include: The Airwick Company in 1986 and with it the famous "Magic Mushroom" and "Stick-Up" products, Boyle-Midway in 1990 bringing with it many leading household brands and most recently, Lehn & Fink in 1995 which added Lysol and Prosolve to the fold.

With these leading brands and Reckitt & Colman's passion to be the best, it is well prepared to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

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