Dr Oscar Troplowitz (1863–1918)

The pharmaceutical industry is often considered to be concerned primarily with drugs that combat disease, but it also encompasses skin care products, as well as bandages and plasters that intended for domestic use as well as for professional medical applications. The growth of companies specialising in these fields depended upon the development of strong brands, and on skilful marketing, in particular, on innovations in the ways in which products were presented to customers.

Oscar Troplowitz was born in Gleiwitz, then in Prussia (now Gliwice in Poland), and studied at the University of Heidelberg. In 1890 he purchased the company known as Beiersdorf AG, which had been founded in Hamburg ten years earlier by Paul Carl Beiersdorf (1836-1896). The company began as a group of chemists’ shops, but in 1882 Beiersdorf patented a new type of rubber-based medical plaster which he called Guttaperchapflastermulle, after which he began to market other branded goods.

Troplowitz expanded the company after the takeover, establishing a co-operation agreement with Lehn & Fink in the United States in 1892 and opening his first overseas branch in London in 1906, but continuing to work from a manufacturing base in Hamburg. He introduced a range of skin care products that became internationally recognisable. From 1900 the company manufactured Eucerit, a water-in-oil emulsion which was steadily developed, and from 1911 was marketed as Nivea. From 1909 Troplowitz produced a lap balm called Labello in 1909, which two years later became the first product of its kind to be marketed in a squeezable tube. Originally the tubes were made of tin, then, from 1922 of aluminium, and from 1953 of plastic. Nivea and Labello were sold in more than 30 countries by the 1930s. A new joint stock company, formed in 1922, was quoted on the Hamburg stock exchange from 1929.

During the Second World War the company lost brand names and trademarks overseas, and its Hamburg factories, were severely damaged by bombing, but the former were gradually recovered, the premises were rebuilt, and, while established brands were retained, research enabled the launching of a succession of new products.