Reckitts – Made In Yorkshire | Volume 18

What is Reckitts?

Reckitts is a well known company that provide us with health and hygiene products. Find out how a starch manufacturer from Hull became one of the biggest names in health and hygiene.

The Beginning

A man called Isaac Reckitt was born into a Quaker family where they lived in the Boston area of Lincolnshire. In 1840, Isaac married a lady called Ann and they both moved to Hull.

On the 1st October the same year they moved, Isaac opened a Starch Works. He did this with the help of his friends and his brother John who gave them loans.

Isaac began producing a starch made from wheat flour. He added a blue pigment called smalt which helped to whiten their Reckitt’s Blue.

In the early years of their business, they couldn’t travel. Instead they sold their product only in the Hull area.

Issac and Ann’s son George joined the business in 1843 when he was just 18 years old. George was a travelling agent for the company.

In 1844, they sold Soluble Starch. George extended the company’s distribution area to places as far as Newcastle in the North and London in the South.

Reckitt Blauw Packaging, Photo Credit, Reckitt Henk Albert Deklierk, Wikipedia, Creative Commons
Reckitt Blauw Packaging, Photo Credit, Reckitt Henk Albert Deklierk, Wikipedia, Creative Commons

They tried to find a new source of farina, a cereal similar to semolina, in 1846. Instead, they created a formula for obtaining starch from sago flour.

In 1848, George became a partner to the business. They decided to rename it Reckitt & Son.

George’s brothers Francis and James later joined the company. They both joined George on the road travelling the country to sell their product – Reckitt’s Blue.

The three brothers understood the power of advertising. However they couldn’t cover the full country.

They persuaded their father to produce framed show cards. These were to be displayed in shops that sold their product, including handbills that could be delivered door-to-door.

In 1851, they also took a stand at the Great Exhibition. A year later, they began to introduce new lines such as Laundry Blue and Black-Lead.

Isaac has paid off all of his original debts in 1858. This included being able to buy the factory outright.

When Isaac died in 1862, he the business passed down to all three sons. They became equal partners of Reckitt & Sons.

Then, in 1879, the business became a limited company. It was now called Reckitt & Sons Ltd.

Becoming what it is today

The company became a household name in Britain. It started to see big export sales particularly from Canada and New Zealand.

In 1873, they introduced Paris Blue. It was a great success internationally.

Their rivals Yorkshire Dolly Blue were in the South of England. Although Reckitt & Sons were successful, their rivals were still more popular in Reckitt’s native county.

To turn this around, they introduced a new product. This was Bag Blue which became their signature product.

In 1879, they changed their name to Reckitt and Sons. This was when family joined the business.

Their product ranges were also expanding. In the first half of the 20th Century, households were using well known items that we still use today.

Brasso was created in 1905. People used it as a polish in its native Australia.

The disinfectant called Dettol was introduced to the Reckitt’s range in the 1930’s. Lemsip was also added to the range as a cold remedy made by the company along with many others.

In 1938, Reckitts and Sons merged with Colman’s – the mustard maker from Norwich. This meant another name change for the business – Reckitt’s & Colman’s.

1999 saw the biggest merger for the company. They teamed up with the Dutch company Benckiser – now called Reckitts-Benkiser or ‘RB’ for short.

RB made several acquisition throughout the 2000’s. They even added several familiar brands to their roster such as Nurofen, Strepsils, Clearasil (2005), Scholl footcare and Durex condoms (2010).

The merger led them to move their head quarters to Slough. However, their original factory remains on Dansom Lane in Hull.

The company announced an investment of £100 million into building a new research and development facilities at their Hull premises. This safeguarded 1,200 and also created new ones.

This investment allowed Reckitts to stay in their home city. They continue to develop these brands.