So who makes best-selling laundry detergent Persil? Unilever. No, Henkel. No, both of them, actually. The answer depends on where you live. Unlikely as it may sound, the rival household marketers from the UK and Germany actually split ownership of the trademark between them. It is Unilever's lead detergent brand in the UK, Ireland, France and New Zealand. Just about everywhere else in the world the company packages a similar product under a different name, usually Omo or Skip or Via. All four brands are marketed under the same global "Dirt is Good" banner. Meanwhile Henkel operates the Persil brand everywhere else, not just Germany and Austria (where it is undisputed market leader) and most of the rest of Europe, but also the US where it was officially launched for the first time in 2015 and is now one of the main challengers to P&G's Tide. Neither company relishes the split ownership but occasional attempts by either one to buy out the other have regularly led to a polite but firm refusal. At least both are united in their opposition to US giant Procter & Gamble. Henkel declared combined global sales of €1.2bn from the Persil brand in 2015. In the UK, Persil is still the top-selling detergent brand but sales have been falling steadily, down again in 2019 to around £180m (Nielsen figures in The Grocer) from over £240m four years earlier. In both of its main markets, the Persil brandname is held in enormous affection by consumers, and regarded with a considerable degree of trust that has, for the most part, not been extended to more recent launches. Much of this relies on the brand's strong heritage, dating back before World War II. Persil was in fact invented by Henkel in 1907, combining active ingredients perborate and silicate (hence its name). Unlike any previous laundry soap, this product was "self-acting", in that it cleaned by itself without requiring the traditional scrubbing associated with washing. British company Crosfields acquired the rights to market Persil in the UK and France, and was itself acquired by Unilever's forerunner Lever Brothers in 1919.
Capsule checked 7th July 2020
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Historical profile information for Persil
Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Jun 2017: Unilever unveiled what it claims is the biggest innovation in laundry technology for more than a decade in the form of Powergems, lentil-shaped crystals which are said to be twice as concentrated as existing powders or liquids and more effective than capsules at cleaning. The technology is being launched first in the UK under the Persil banner, and if successful will be rolled out globally to other brands under Unilever's "Dirt is Good" umbrella.
Adbrands Weekly Update 19th Mar 2015: P&G's all-conquering Tide laundry detergent has a new competitor in the US. Persil is a familiar brand in Europe, where it is marketed by Unilever (in the UK and France) and by Henkel (in Germany and most other countries). Now, under the name Persil Proclean, it has arrived in the US in an exclusive partnership between Henkel and local retail behemoth Walmart, which is positioning the brand as a premium-priced competitor to Tide. That move is designed at least in part to redress the balance of power between the retailer and P&G, whose products otherwise dominate the laundry sector with as much as 60% market share. By providing a viable alternative, Walmart can regain some negotiating power with P&G over pricing and promotions.
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