1910 - 1919: A decade of change

The UK market for soap reaches saturation point, so Lever Brothers concentrates on acquisitions instead.

Image from a Dutch Blue Band advert from around 1910

Meanwhile demand for margarine continues to escalate and Lever Brothers, Jurgens and Van den Bergh increase their interests in the production of raw materials. Tough market conditions also lead to the further growth of trade associations. When new technology is invented to solidify whale oil, businesses join together in the Whale Oil Pool to regulate the distribution of this important new commodity.

But the clouds of war are gathering. The First World War is set to make a big impact, firstly through increasing demand for soap and margarine - vital wartime supplies - and secondly through the intervention of British and German governments, which effectively place the oil and fats industry under government control.



Lever Brothers buys its first company in West Africa, WB MacIver Ltd, to secure supplies of palm oil for Port Sunlight.


Lever Brother's first purpose-built research laboratory is constructed at Port Sunlight.


The first profit-sharing deal between Jurgens and Van den Bergh is terminated but the two companies continue to work together.


Leading businesses in Europe join forces to create the Whale Oil Pool.


In the year that war breaks out, companies controlled by Lever Brothers are making about 135 000 tons of soap a year, while in the Netherlands Jurgens and Van den Bergh have both acquired a number of smaller businesses and each also controls seven margarine factories in Germany.


Lever Brothers acquires Pears Soap, a company founded in 1789, and Jurgens forms an alliance with Kellogg's in preparation for expansion into North America. Around this time Jurgens and Van den Bergh both establish factories in England, with one in Purfleet, Essex still manufacturing margarine today. Lever Brothers also expands into the margarine market with the launch of Planters, increases operations in South Africa and sees its American business start to move into profit.

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