1900 - 1909

In the early part of the 20th Century, margarine and soap producing businesses start to move further into each other's markets.

Old print of Lever Brothers factoryNew focus on raw materials

Competition and a sudden sharp rise in the cost of raw materials leads many to set up associations, promoting their interests and defending themselves against supplier monopolies.

With supplies of oils and fats struggling to meet the demand created by fast growing soap and margarine production, the companies that will one day become Unilever focus on securing stable sources of raw materials.

Highlights

1904

In the UK, Lever Brothers launch another product to make housework easier - Vim, one of the first scouring powders.

The company is incorporated in South Africa. 

1906

By now Lever Brothers has a thriving export trade and factories in three European countries as well as one each in Canada, Australia and the US. It has also started enterprises in the Pacific.

The same year Lever Brothers comes to an agreement with three other manufacturers to limit competition for raw materials, but is attacked by the press who, dubbing them 'The Soap Trust', accuse them of driving up prices. Lever Brothers subsequently sues the Daily Mail and in 1907 wins £50 000 damages – a massive settlement by the standards of the time. 

1908

Jurgens and Van den Bergh strike a deal to form an association and share profits while continuing to compete against each other. 

1909

Lever Brothers develops a palm plantation in the Solomon Islands and at the same time Jurgens and Van den Bergh set up a joint palm-planting venture in German Africa.