1920 - 1929: Unilever is formed

By the end of the 1920s Jurgens owns margarine factories in Scotland, Ireland and England and Lord Leverhulme controls 60% of the output of UK soap manufacturing.

Vintage Lifebuoy advert

But during the decade the margarine market suffers declining demand as butter becomes more affordable.

Before his death in 1925, Lever Brothers founder Lord Leverhulme builds up a private portfolio of companies that include some dealing with produce from his newly acquired estate in Scotland's Western Isles. Many of these, including Mac Fisheries Ltd, will eventually be bought by Lever Brothers.

At the end of the decade alliances reach their ultimate conclusion and the official history of Unilever begins. First, Jurgens and Van den Bergh join together to create Margarine Unie. Then two years later - in one of the largest mergers of its time - Margarine Unie teams up with Lever Brothers to create Unilever.



Lever Brothers gains control of the Niger Company, which later became part of the United Africa Company.


Lever Brothers buys Wall's, a popular sausage company which is beginning to produce ice cream to sell in the summer when demand for sausages falls.


The collapse of the German economy creates even harsher trading conditions for Jurgens and Van den Bergh.


Lever Brothers buys British Oil & Cake Mills, one of its major competitors and the manufacturer of New Pin Soap.


Lever Brothers launches its Clean Hands Campaign. Part of its child health policy, it educates children about dirt and germs and encouraging them to wash their hands 'before breakfast, before dinner and after school.'


Jurgens and Van den Bergh, who have already teamed up with two European businesses, Centra and Schicht, join forces to create Margarine Unie - the Margarine Union. The union quickly gains new members, creating a large group of European businesses involved in the production of almost all goods created from oils and fats.

Planters Ltd, a Lever Brothers company, launches the first vitamin-enriched margarine - Viking.


Margarine Unie acquires the French-Dutch Calvé-Delft group with factories in the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Czechoslovakia. The following year the Union also acquires the firm Hartog's.


On 2 September Lever Brothers and Margarine Unie sign an agreement to create Unilever. The businesses initially aim to negotiate an arrangement to keep out of each other's principal interests of soap and margarine production, but ultimately decide on an amalgamation instead.

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