unilever, lever rexona, lever and kitchen

Unilever was formed when the British soapmaking firm, Lever Brothers, merged with a Dutch margarine company in 1930.

Its most recognized skincare brands include Dove, Sunlight, Lux, Vaseline Intensive Care and Pond's.

Lever Rexona is a division of Unilever Australia Limited in Australia and a division of Unilever New Zealand in New Zealand.

sunlight soap

William Hesketh Lever is credited with being the first person to imprint a brand name on a bar of soap and wrap it before sale, in 1885, with the now famous Sunlight soap.

Although Sunlight soap was originally made in the UK, Lever soon targeted other countries in which to market Sunlight soap.

In 1895, Lever Brothers introduced Lifebuoy, an antiseptic soap. In Australia, the first Lever Brothers factory was established in Balmain, a suburb of Sydney, in 1899, and it produced the first bar of Sunlight soap in 1900.

mergers and acquistions

Two other soap manufacturers later merged with Lever Brothers. J. Kitchen and Sons Ltd, first produced the widely known Velvet soap, in 1900 at their factory in Port Melbourne, and they were one of the largest soap manufacturers in Australia by 1914.

Another soap manufacturer, William Burford, began to produce soap and candles at an Adelaide factory in 1840, and by the 1880's, his company purchased other soap factories in South Australia and Western Australia.

By 1914 Burford's company dominated the soap and candle market in the western parts of Australia.

Lever Brothers, J. Kitchen and Sons and W. H. Burford merged in 1924 under the name Australian Producers Partnership Pty Ltd.

Lever Brothers purchased a local candle company in New Zealand in 1913, and began making Sunlight and Lifebuoy soap at a factory near Wellington.

The company began making Lux Flakes so that by 1930, it was producing large volumes of soap and soap powder for the New Zealand market.

Dishwashing products were being made by the late 1950's, detergents and shampoo by the 1960's, and toothpaste in 1976.

In 1993, production capacity was trebled to enable the factory to produce detergent powders for the Australian market as well as New Zealand.

J. Kitchen and Sons bought the trademark and goodwill of Rexona soap from the Sheldon Drug Company, and formed Rexona Pty Ltd.

Sheldon had developed soap, ointment and shaving cream in 1908. The soap and personal products companies merged under the one banner, Unilever Australia Pty Ltd, in 1956, and in 1962, J. Kitchen and Sons and Lever Brothers formed Lever and Kitchen Pty Ltd.

The two companies owned leading brands including Lux Flakes, Lux soap, Solvol, Rinso, Persil, Surf and Omo detergents, and Handy Andy.

A site was opened at North Rocks in 1969 to manufacture personal products, while the Balmain factory manufactured soaps and detergents.

Production at Balmain ceased in 1988, and the new factory was located at Minto.

Lever and Kitchen, which manufactured soaps and detergents, and Rexona, which manufactured personal care items, merged in 1989 to form L&K Rexona, and the head office was located at the North Rocks site.

In 1993, Lever Brothers New Zealand and L&K Rexona merged to form one company for all detergents, soaps and personal care products, under the name of Lever Rexona.

Manufacturing facilities were reorganised, and the detergent plant at Minto was closed, as was the soap factory at Port Melbourne. Most products are now manufactured at either the Wellington, New Zealand site, or at North Rocks, Australia.

Redgum Soaps is in no way connected with any of the companies we have featured on these pages. We have included the information for the purposes of soapmaking history only, in an attempt to preserve some of the information that is rapidly being lost.