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Beiersdorf | Nivea (Germany)

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Beiersdorf may not itself be a household name, but its lead brand certainly is. Nivea claims to be the world's #1 personal care brand, sold in more than 200 countries and encompassing a vast range of products ranging from skin creams to deodorants, and from shampoo to cosmetics. It has a dominant position in its home country of Germany and a strong following throughout most of the rest of Europe as well as in selected other global markets. Beiersdorf's other leading brands include the Eucerin and La Prairie skincare ranges, as well as Labello lip balm, Atrix handcream, Hansaplast medical dressings, and Tesa adhesive tape. After several years as a potential takeover target, control of Beiersdorf was acquired in 2003 by the Herz family of Germany, also owners of Tchibo.


Who manages advertising for Beiersdorf? Click here for Agency Account Assignments from Adbrands.net. Beiersdorf declared marketing expenses including "advertising, retail marketing and other similar items" of €1.53bn in 2018.


See Personal Care Index for competitive companies.

Brands & Activities

The strength of the core Nivea brand (and also the support of controlling shareholder Tchibo) has allowed Beiersdorf to hold onto its independence at a time when many other medium-sized personal care marketers have been snapped up by the likes of P&G and L'Oreal. Assuming Beiersdorf's sales continue on their current path, there should be no need for the company to sell up, and it is protected from hostile takeover by its family-dominated shareholder structure. But the market is tough. Beiersdorf still relies on Europe in general and Germany in particular to provide the engine of its business, and it needs to broaden its profile, especially in the US and China. It may need to do this through acquisition, but the group has comparatively little past experience integrating anything other than very small purchases.

Beiersdorf's consumer division manufactures a small portfolio of personal care products including Nivea, Atrix, Labello, SBT and other brands. The group is the world #2 in global skin care as a result of its flagship brand, Nivea, the leading mass market skin care product, with worldwide sales of around €4.5bn. Beiersdorf claimed organic sales growth of 3.8% for 2016. In 2017, Kantar's Brandz ranking placed Nivea as the world's 5th most valuable personal care brand, with an estimated value of $6.8bn.

Nivea was one of the first personal care brands to extend itself into numerous different personal care segments, a process first begun in 1930s, and now copied by all of its competitors. The brand now operates across around 11 different segments, with an astonishing collection of well over 400 different products. (Several segments were consolidated in 2009 and 2010 and smaller product lines discontinued). Sub-brands include Nivea Visage (facial skincare), Nivea Soft (body moisturisers), Nivea Deo (deodorants), Nivea Haircare (shampoos, conditioners and styling products), Nivea Baby, Nivea Sun, Nivea for Men and so on. In some markets including Germany, the group markets a range of Nivea make-up and colour cosmetics. The brand's newest segment is anti-aging, with a Cellular Anti-Age variant gradually rolled out in major markets from Spring 2013.

There is hardly a single segment of the personal care market in which Nivea does not have a significant presence. This process has been assisted by a policy of gradually extending the Nivea umbrella to cover weaker group products in selected markets. For example, Labello lip cream was rebranded under the Nivea Lipcare logo in the UK and some other territories in the late 1990s, and French cosmetics brand Liliane was merged into Nivea Beauty. During the 1990s the brand's sales grew by an average of 15% every year, almost quadrupling in the course of a decade.

Nivea is now the #1 in general skin care care in 46 countries, in skin lotions in at least 25 countries, in facial cleansing in 27, in sun protection in 18, and in deodorants in 23. Its strongest region by far is Europe. In 2013, it was named the most trusted skin care brand for the 13th consecutive year in Reader's Digest survey of Europe's Most Trusted Brands, covering 12 countries in the region. It wholly dominates the German market, the #1 in virtually every segment in which it operates, with 38% of the local skin cream sector. The brand's values have also been supported with the launch of a small network of Nivea Haus health and wellness stores, which allow customers to test the full range of products and also offer spa-style health treatments.

Out of the major personal care markets, only the US remains a real challenge, with Nivea substantially outflanked by Olay, Dove and Ponds. The group has launched a major marketing push since 2004 with the aim of building Nivea's share of the market. That has had significant impact. US sales rose from $200m to $250m in 2007 alone, and the group claimed that awareness of the Nivea brand had risen from only 11% of US consumers in 2005 to 30% by 2008. However it still lags behind rival brands. Key areas for the company in the US include body and men's facial care. Nivea Lipcare launched in the US for the first time in 2008, followed by Nivea Body Care and Nivea Body Wash in 2009. The group launched a major promotional campaign to support Nivea's 100th anniversary in 2011, and also agreed a one-year promotional partnership with singer Rihanna, sponsoring her global tour and appointing her as brand ambassador. To support the Nivea For Men sub-brand, the group has signed up a number of footballers to appear as brand spokesman over the years. In Germany, it sponsors the national team. More recently it has aligned itself with the clubs as well, becoming the "official grooming" partner for Real Madrid FC of Spain, AC Milan of Italy, France's Paris St Germain and Liverpool FC from 2015.

Beiersdorf's consumer division is rounded out by a number of other brands, with combined sales of around €1bn. There are two leading secondary international brands. Eucerin is a more specialised medical skin care brand comprising cleansing, body care, facial skin care, sun care and bathroom products. It is being rolled out globally to serve as a supporting product to the main Nivea line. While Nivea and Eucerin are positioned firmly at the higher end of the mass-market segment, the group is also trying to build its presence in the luxury segment. Originally a premium-priced line of anti-aging creams, the La Prairie brand was extended into high-end colour cosmetics and fragrances in 2005.

There are also a number of other products, now grouped as "Pearl Brands". In the mass market hand cream segment, Atrix (known as Atrixo in some markets) is the #1 product in Portugal, Spain and Sweden, and #2 in Germany and the UK. 8x4 was the first ever German deodorant when launched in 1951, and now encompasses a range of products. It is a market leader in several territories, including Japan, where it is marketed along with Nivea through a joint venture with Kao Corporation. Other products include Labello lipcare, the world's first specialised lipcare product when first introduced more than 100 years ago; and eastern European skincare brand Florena. In 2007, the group considerable strengthened its position in China by acquiring one of the country's leading haircare brands, Slek, from local manufacturer C-Bons. Beiersdorf sold two of its more marginal brands, Juvena prestige skincare and Marlies Moeller haircare, to Troll Cosmetics of Austria at the end of 2010.

Beiersdorf also controls a important portfolio of consumer woundcare products, and is the market leader in that sector in Europe. The core brand is Hansaplast, which was the first adhesive dressing with a built in gauze pad when it was introduced by Beiersdorf in 1922. The brand has maintained a leading position through constant innovation. Among its more recent new products are spray-on plasters, condoms, moisturising active gel strips, and heated muscle relaxant pads. In 2000, the company took full control of its UK licensee Elastoplast. During the 1990s, the group moved into the US woundcare sector with the purchase of plaster brand Curad and Futuro support bandages. However, performance was disappointing, and Beiersdorf took the decision to quit that market. Curad was sold in 2007, Futuro the following year. A collection of professional woundcare brands, including Jobst, were transferred in 2001 into BSN Medical, a joint venture with Smith & Nephew. At the end of 2005, the two partners agreed to sell BSN to Montagu Private Equity for just over €1bn.

Beiersdorf reported total consumer sales from Nivea and other skin and wound care products of €5.89bn in 2018.

A separate division within Beiersdorf specialises in general adhesive tape, covering a wide variety of consumer and industrial applications from fastening tape to masking and packaging products. The core brand here is Tesa, which has effectively become the generic term for adhesive tape in several markets including Germany. This division went through a major restructuring process in 1997 to focus its international sales, and was spun out as a separate operating unit in 2001. Sales were €1.34bn in 2018.


Group revenues have bounced up and down for the past few years. Topline peaked in 2008 at just under €6.0bn before slipping back in 2009 to €5.7bn. The decline was mostly the result of disposals and exchange rate fluctuation. For 2010, reported revenues rose almost 8% to a new high of €6.2bn, but consolidation of the portfolio and restructuring caused the figure for 2011 to decline to €5.63bn. The group claimed a like-for-like increase of 2%.

Topline was back over €6bn for 2012, and has continued to rise steadily. Revenues for 2014 rose 2% to a best ever €6.29bn. (The organic increase excluding negative currency would have been closer to 5%). Net profit fell back from the previous year's record €543m to €537m, mainly as a result of an impairment charge against the Chinese division. Performance for 2015 got a positive lift from currencies, with revenues up over 6% to a record high of €6.69bn. (The organic increase was 3%). Net income soared by a quarter to €671m.

In 2016, revenues edged up by 1% (or 3% on an organic basis) to €6.75bn, while net profit rose 8% to a new high of €727m. Europe accounted for 51% of group revenues, with Germany the group's single biggest market by far, accounting for around 20% of the group total (or €1.38bn). It is followed by Italy, France and the UK. The Africa/Asia/Australia region contributed a further 30% and the Americas almost 19%. North America alone contributes only around 7% of revenues or around €475m. Revenues topped €7bn for the first time in 2017, at €7.06bn. Net profit slipped 5% to €689m.

For 2018, topline edged up to €7.23bn, while net profit rebounded to €745m. Europe accounted for 51% of group revenues, with Germany the group's single biggest market by far, accounting for around 20% of the group total (or €1.46bn). It is followed by Italy, France and the UK. The Africa/Asia/Australia region contributed a further 32% and the Americas almost 19%. North America alone contributes only around 7% of revenues or around €460m.

Control of Beiersdorf was split for many years between insurance giant Allianz, with a 44% investment stake, and diversified holdings company Maxingvest, with 31%. Allianz's wish to exit the business led to several years of on-off negotiations. Finally Maxingvest acquired almost all of its partner's stake in 2003. A rival bid from Procter & Gamble, expected by many observers, did not materialize. Maxingvest retains a majority stake of 51% of Beiersdorf (and around 61% of voting rights), but sold back another 10% to the Beiersdorf pension fund, and a further 10% to the local government of the state of Hamburg. The remaining shares are publicly held.


Thomas-Bernd Quaas stepped down as executive chairman of the group's management board in April 2012 after seven years, transferring to a non-executive role on the group's supervisory board. He was succeeded by Stefan Heidenreich, previously CEO of Hero Group. Heidenreich has additional responsibility for major markets including Germany, Switzerland and Japan. However, he too announced plans to step down at the end of 2018. His successor is Stefan de Loecker, previously executive director for Americas & Near East, and group planning, strategy & corporate development. Reinhard Pollath is chairman of the Supervisory Board.


This Hamburg-based company was founded in 1882 when pharmacist Paul Beiersdorf applied for a patent for a new kind of flexible medical adhesive dressing made from plaster gauze and Gutta percha rubber. No businessman, he sold his invention eight years later to Dr Oskar Troplowitz, who kept the Beiersdorf name but set about about branching into other products. One of the first of these, launched in 1897, was an adhesive he named Cito. Too powerful to be used on human skin, it was marketed instead for the repair of bicycle punctures. Four years later, using a gentler adhesive, he launched Leukoplast, the first adhesive dressing to also prevent irritation of the skin by incorporating zinc oxide into the adhesive compound. (It was superseded by Hansaplast in 1922). In 1907 Troplowitz introduced Labello lipcare sticks.

However, the company's most important discovery came in 1911. That year, the Beiersdorf research department perfected Eucerite, the first emulsifier which allowed water and oil to be permanently combined. This was a huge improvement over most other creams, which were created from animal or vegetable fats and quickly went rancid. Troplowitz added a few other ingredients and a mild fragrance, and named his new product Nivea (from "nivius", the Latin word for snow). Originally marketed as a cosmetic product, the Nivea concept was completely overhauled in the 1920s by new chairman Willy Jacobsohn. The famous blue tin with a white logo was introduced in 1924, and the product was retargeted as a general purpose family skin cream. Sales rocketed, and the group quickly expanded its business into other countries in Europe and even Latin America. During the early 1930s there was further diversification with a range of sun creams, shaving creams and shampoos. At the same time insurance company Allianz bought a large stake in the business.

By now however, the shadow of Germany's new National Socialist government had begun to fall over the company. Executive chairman Jacobsohn, a Jew, was forced out in 1933, along with several other Jewish board members. He fled to the Netherlands where he took over management of the group's international operations. However, the Second World War brought major problems for Beiersdorf. New chairman Carl Claussen attempted to maintain a distance from the Nazi regime, but during the war, foreign rights to the Nivea brand were seized by local companies, which then marketed the product as their own. Throughout this period, all of the brand's advertising in Germany was overseen by Elly Heuss-Knapp, a staunch opponent of the Nazi government. After the war, her husband Theodor Knapp was appointed as the first president of the new Federal Republic of Germany, and she became first lady.

Although it retained ownership of Nivea in Germany after the war, Beiersdorf was obliged to devote a good deal of the next 50 years to the repurchase of international trademark rights to the brand. In the UK, for example, the trademark had become the property of Smith & Nephew. Beiersdorf bought it back in 1992 for £46.5m, although Smith & Nephew retained distribution rights, as well as a handsome royalty on sales. The final stage in the worldwide buyback was completed in 1997 when Beiersdorf acquired control of Pollena-Lechia, the holder of the trademark in Poland. In the mean time, Beiersdorf had formed a strategic partnership with Japanese manufacturer Kao Corporation to launch Nivea in Japan in 1971, and raised further funds through the sale of a large minority shareholding to coffee and tobacco group Tchibo in 1977.

The company took a strategic decision in the 1990s to focus its principal attention on its core brand. The Nivea name was successfully spun off into a number of other sectors, with launches in the Nivea Baby, haircare and men's markets, as well as further development of long-established Nivea Suncare range. Nivea Beauty products were launched successfully in France in 1997, and were rolled out in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the spring of 1998. The rest of the portfolio was bolstered with small acquisitions. To establish a presence in the luxury skin care segment, the group acquired Swiss cosmetics brand Juvena in 1990, followed by La Prairie a year later. In 1996 it bought US bandage brands Curad, Futuro and Curitas from Colgate-Palmolive. In 1998 the group announced an agreement with Kao to market the latter's Biore skin cleansing strips in mainland Europe under the Nivea Visage label. The strips debuted in France, before launching in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal and Greece. Beiersdorf also took a 10% stake in Kao's hair care marketer Guhl Ikebana.

In 2001 the group restructured its relationship with Smith & Nephew, taking back distribution rights to Nivea and buying the British company's leading woundcare brand Elastoplast. In return the two companies formed a joint venture, BSN Medical, to market more specialised woundcare dressings. Also in 2001 the group acquired French shaving foam brand Nobacter and cosmetics line Onagrine from Boots, as well as an initial minority stake of under 25% in former East German cosmetics manufacturer Florena. A year later, Beiersdorf bought out the shares in Florena it didn't already own in order to take full control of the business.

In 2002 it was reported that insurance giant Allianz had put its 44% stake in the company up for sale, sparking interest from a number of potential bidders, not least L'Oreal, which reportedly offered €10bn for the whole company. Those negotiations subsequently stalled, and later that year Procter & Gamble was also rumoured to have begun talks. However, the German Herz family, who controlled a 31% stake through their holding company Tchibo, were also keen to take full control of the business. In October 2003, a consortium led by Tchibo and members of the Herz family acquired the Allianz stake for €4.4bn. Rolf Kunisch, CEO of Beiersdorf for several years, retired in 2005, as did Uwe Woelfer, the board member with responsibility for brands, sales and marketing.

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Last full revision 24th October 2017

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