Few companies survive a century, and fewer still have made significant contributions as ours.
Meet the Murrays
The public didn’t know much about bleach when Clorox® liquid bleach made its debut as an institutional product in 1913. Company founders knew how to manufacture it, but not how to market it. The young venture was near collapse when William and Annie Murray came to the rescue. This canny Scots-American couple had bought shares in the start-up, originally called the Electro-Alkaline Company, and they couldn’t afford to lose their investment. More importantly, the Murrays believed in the product and couldn’t bear to see it fail.
Today we’d call Bill a turnaround artist. He streamlined operations and arranged new financing. Annie, who ran a thriving grocery store in the company’s home city of Oakland, California, had the brilliant idea to market Clorox liquid bleach to homemakers. She gave away free samples and talked up the product’s benefits as a ”bleacher, germicide, cleanser and disinfectant.“ Consumers loved Clorox and told their friends.
Diligence, innovation and social networking are in the DNA of The Clorox Company, thanks in large part to the Murrays.
On May 3, five businessmen invest $100 each to found America’s first commercial liquid bleach factory, the Electro-Alkaline Company.
- The company begins commercial production of a concentrated industrial-strength bleach with 21 percent sodium hypochlorite.
- An initial stock issue of 750 shares raises $75,000 in start-up capital. First-year sales are $7,996.
- The Clorox® brand name is registered and the diamond trademark is adopted. The creative mind behind both was Abel Hamblet, an engineer at the company that supplied electrolytic cells for bleach making.
- William Murray, an early investor, becomes the first general manager of the Electro-Alkaline Company. His wife, Annie Murray, prompts the creation of a less-concentrated liquid bleach for home use. She builds customer demand by giving away 15-ounce sample bottles at the family’s grocery store in downtown Oakland.
- The company selects the Kelley-Clarke Company of San Francisco as its exclusive broker for household bleach.
Clorox’s exhibit at the California State Fair introduces the household bleach product to thousands of farmers and other consumers.
Three years before Los Angeles developers erected the famous HOLLYWOOD sign, a giant CLOROX billboard greeted thousands of Bay Area ferry riders. Finally we could afford to pay real money ($75 a month!) for a bold, can’t-miss-it advertisement. We began shipping boatloads of bleach from the Port of Oakland to the East Coast via the Panama Canal, too, with the word CLOROX proudly painted on the side of the vessels.
We were still The Electro-Alkaline Company then, hardly a catchy handle. Everyone called us “Clorox.” So we renamed ourselves after our popular product. By 1928 the company was ready to go public on the San Francisco Stock Exchange. Fifteen years earlier, almost no one had heard of bleach. Now thousands of investors clamored to buy shares in Clorox. The country’s growth helped us grow. Embracing multiculturalism, we gave out pamphlets that explained the home uses of Clorox bleach in French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Yiddish.
Vendor loyalty is important to Clorox. In fact, some of our relationships with food brokers are more than 90 years strong.
In its first recorded act of corporate giving, the company donates funds to the Boy Scouts of America.
The Electro-Alkaline Company reorganizes as Clorox Chemical Corporation.
The company reorganizes in Delaware as Clorox Chemical Company and goes public. It issues 200,000 shares of common stock, traded on the San Francisco Stock Exchange.
Not even the Great Depression could stop the growth of the Clorox Chemical Company, as we were known then. An early believer in equal opportunities, we welcomed women workers not just in the office but on the manufacturing line. LouLou Johnson, a single mother hired in 1933, personified the loyalty that still characterizes our associates. She claimed that she corked bottles even in her sleep! (Our namesake product was bottled in glass containers until the early 1960s.) Long retired at age 98, LouLou declared: “I still don’t associate with people who don’t use Clorox bleach.”
A talent for working in teams has always been a company asset. As president William Murray liked to say, “It is close cooperation and the everlasting teamwork of everyone which wins the day.” We didn’t have to lay off any workers during the Depression. In fact, we expanded nationally by opening plants in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Chicago, Illinois.
Clorox became such a firmly established brand that companies all over North America tried to piggyback on the name’s popularity. Company lawyers successfully demanded the renaming of copycats such as Chlorox, Chlor-Sol, Klorax and Lurox.
The Clorox Company survives the Great Depression with strong sales, new plants and no layoffs.
Clorox® liquid bleach for home use achieves national distribution in a quart-sized container.
Company advertising proudly begins featuring the Good Housekeeping magazine seal of approval.
The company establishes its first East Coast plant and distribution center in Jersey City, New Jersey.
A new plant in Chicago solidifies the company’s presence in the Midwest.
Clorox was a model corporate citizen in World War II. Our employees worked 48-hour weeks to help the war effort. A Clorox job meant a military deferment for male workers who wanted it, because bleach-making was an essential industry. Bleach was so valuable that it was rationed. The U.S. government was a major customer.
Bleach earned its exalted wartime status because it could disinfect wounds, neutralize enemy gases and purify water — the same timeless usages that apply in all disaster scenarios. The company produced a public service film, “What to Do in a Gas Attack,” shown in local theaters nationwide.
William Roth guided the company through wartime and beyond. When he became president upon Bill Murray’s death, Roth was 44 and had worked for Clorox for more than half his life. He politely refused to water down Clorox bleach when the government allowed manufacturers to do so. He preferred to sell fewer bottles and “have the housewife get the full strength she paid for.” And when chlorine prices shot up, we didn’t hold our suppliers to favorable terms negotiated before the war. We chose to pay market price instead. These moves strengthened Clorox and further solidified our relationships with suppliers and consumers.
- A patented “ultra-refined” Clorox® liquid bleach is introduced.
- The original amber bottle with rubber cork is replaced with a more slender version featuring a threaded neck and plastic screw cap.
The U.S. enters World War II. During the war, the company earns respect from customers and consumers when it refuses to dilute Clorox® liquid bleach despite government urging to do so. It also plays fair by not enforcing prewar contracts that would have spared it from price increases in raw materials.
Clorox introduces its second product, Boon household cleaner. Boon does not catch on with consumers and is withdrawn in 1948.
Post World War II inflation leads to a 7.5 percent wholesale price increase, the first in the company’s history.
Still a single-product company in the postwar boom years, Clorox sought a merger partner. To keep growing, we needed new products and broader marketing — goals that were tough for a 370-employee organization to attain. Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble was in acquisition mode. It had no bleach products in its extensive portfolio. The deal closed in 1957, and P&G renamed its subsidiary The Clorox Company. Almost immediately, a rival bleach company filed a federal antitrust suit.
The case moved slowly through the courts. Until it was resolved we couldn’t add products, but otherwise it was business as usual. P&G and Clorox benefited from each other’s strengths. P&G honchos were amazed that they couldn’t find any excess staff or costs to cut. Indeed, Clorox was such a successfully focused brand that our home office (which remained in Oakland, California) became a training ground for rising talent. Under P&G, we went beyond magazine advertising to TV, then a newfangled presence in American households. Our commercials were a perfect fit for the soap operas that P&G sponsored.
Ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that P&G had to divest The Clorox Company. Along the way, however, we blossomed — and more than doubled our sales.
- The aluminum screw cap is introduced.
- The first local television commercials for Clorox® liquid bleach appear.
- Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) acquires Clorox Chemical Company and operates it as a wholly-owned subsidiary, The Clorox Company. The company remains headquartered in Oakland.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that P&G’s acquisition of Clorox might substantially lessen competition or create a monopoly in the production and sale of household liquid bleaches.
- Dechlorination replaces the original bleach-making process of electrolysis (which used electricity to convert salt brine to bleach).
Innovation in Plastics
Clorox® liquid bleach wasn’t the first consumer product sold in plastic. That distinction went to competitors with smaller volumes who could convert faster. We took a little more time to switch from glass to plastic bottles because we insisted on sustainability over speed.
Bottle-makers said it was impossible to fabricate plastic bottles any bigger than quart size. That was a huge problem, because half-gallons and gallons accounted for two-thirds of Clorox bleach sales. Scientists solved the puzzle in time for a 1961 national rollout. Buyers happily paid a bit more to bid farewell to breakage. They labored less at laundry time, too, because the bottle revolution cut the weight of an empty gallon container from 3.5 pounds of glass to 3.5 ounces of plastic.
Environmental responsibility has always been a company priority. From day one, Clorox used recycled glass in all of its bottles. In 1991 we became an early adapter to the use of post-consumer recycled plastic. Today, 90 percent of our U.S. product cartons are made from 100 percent recycled content and most of our U.S. retail display materials are made from 100 percent post-consumer waste. Over 85 percent of the packages that house our products are recyclable.
A white polyethylene plastic “safety bottle” with plastic cap is introduced. By 1962, it replaces the amber glass container with the aluminum cap.
The FTC rules that P&G must divest The Clorox Company, triggering another four years of litigation.
The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the FTC ruling and P&G begins the process of divesting The Clorox Company.
Clorox common stock, previously traded over the counter, begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
- The Clorox Company returns to independence on Jan. 2 and undertakes a strategy of rapid growth through in-house product development and acquisitions.
- Clorox 2® color-safe bleach becomes the first successful internally developed product.
- Liquid-Plumr® drain opener is acquired.
Trajectory of Growth
The newly independent Clorox Company launched Clorox 2® color-safe dry bleach, created in our own R&D lab. Releasing a second product had taken a mere 56 years, but there was no stopping us! Through acquisitions and in-house development, our portfolio embraced such iconic brands as Liquid-Plumr® drain cleaners, Formula 409® spray cleanser and Kingsford® charcoal briquets. Our scientists developed Twice as Fresh air freshener and Soft Scrub cleanser, which created a new category in household products. We didn’t keep every brand we added, but these moves laid the foundation for the strongly diversified company we are today.
How we acquired Hidden Valley® Ranch dressings is a great story that illustrates our ability to spot a diamond in the rough. There really was a Hidden Valley Ranch in California, and owner Ken Henson really did serve an unusual buttermilk-based dressing. When guests clamored to take some home, he started selling powdered mixes by mail and opened a small manufacturing facility. Distribution spread regionally. During a Colorado field visit by Clorox executives, a food broker suggested we buy the product because consumers couldn’t get enough of it. Ranch dressing became a flavor that salad lovers can’t live without, and the rest is history.
Formula 409® cleaner is acquired.
Kitchen Bouquet® browning and seasoning sauce is acquired.
- Hidden Valley® ranch salad dressing mixes are acquired.
- The Clorox Company of Canada, Ltd. is formed.
- The company establishes a research and development (R&D) function and builds a technical center in Pleasanton, California.
- The East Oakland Youth Development Center, opens its doors. The Clorox Company is instrumental in its start-up funding.
- The Kingsford Company is acquired.
The company makes its first appearance on the Fortune 500 list.
The first offshore plant for Clorox® liquid bleach opens in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Since the day we were founded, The Clorox Company has been proud to call Oakland, California, our home. When other U.S. corporations were fleeing troubled downtowns in the 1970s, we moved our main offices from the outskirts to the city center as part of a major urban renewal project. We’ve since brought our headquarters up to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum “green building” status, a rare achievement for a building of that era.
Another tangible symbol of our commitment: Our steady involvement with the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC). Anchored financially by a solid endowment spearheaded by Clorox, the EOYDC is a national model for community action—and a place that Clorox associates love to volunteer.
Our bottom line isn’t just economic and environmental. We also measure ourselves on a social responsibility scorecard. In every location where The Clorox Company does business, we work to make everyday life better, every day. And in times of disaster, we rush to help. Clorox® liquid bleach was a humble but effective soldier in World Wars I and II. Around the world, when earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes strike, we’re there with donations of bleach and other products to aid in recovery.
- The company increases its international presence with joint ventures in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Yemen Arab Republic, Colombia, Argentina and Southeast Asia.
- The Clorox Company Foundation, a private, nonprofit entity, is established. It administers most of the company’s annual contributions to qualifying civic, charitable and community organizations.
- The company introduces a “splash-less” bottle for liquid bleach. Tilex® instant mildew remover is developed internally.
- The company returns to the Fortune 500 list after a three-year absence.
Fresh Step® cat box filler, developed internally, is launched.
The Clorox Mexico Company is incorporated in Delaware as a wholly owned subsidiary of The Clorox International Company.
Ayudín® bleach and cleaning brands are acquired.KC Masterpiece® barbecue sauces are acquired.
- The company buys a 24-story building located at 1221 Broadway in Oakland, California, which serves as its headquarters.
- The company signs agreements with Germany-based Brita GmbH and Canada-based Brita International Holdings to market Brita® water filtration products in the U.S.
As early as 1919, Clorox® liquid bleach began to win fans in faraway places. The first exported bottle was sold in Hawaii, then a U.S. protectorate. By our 75th anniversary, consumers in 60 countries relied on dozens of Clorox Company brands. Global citizenship really took off in the 1990s, thanks mainly to local partnerships.
Latin America is a good example. We formed affiliations with leading local bleach and cleaning products manufacturers. Beloved household names such as Argentina’s Ayudín and Poett brands and Chilé’s Clorinda brand became bright stars in the Clorox universe. We introduced brand expansions, too, with development teams getting new products onto shelves in a matter of months. Sometimes the innovations were as simple as packaging Clorox® liquid bleach in single-use pouches that were more affordable for lower-income consumers.
Today The Clorox Company manufactures products in more than two dozen countries and markets them in more than 100 countries. Around the world, we’re a valued employer and a trusted household name.
Pine-Sol® cleaner is acquired.
Clorox® liquid bleach and selected cleaning products are manufactured and sold in the Dominican Republic, Perú and Costa Rica.
- The company expands its presence in Korea through a joint venture with Yuhan-Clorox Co., Ltd.
- The company is named among the U.S.’s top 10 environmental leaders by Fortune magazine.
- S.O.S® steel wool soap pads and cleaning products are acquired.
- Clorox.com, the company’s first website, goes live on Dec. 11.
- The Poett® product line is acquired in Argentina.
- Lestoil® heavy-duty cleaner is acquired.
Numerous Asia-Pacific acquisitions include Bluebell® floor cleaner, Gumption® paste cleaner, Mono® aluminum foil, Prestone® brake fluid, Chux® cleaning products and Handy Andy® cleaners.
Through a merger with First Brands Corporation, Glad®, Scoop Away®, Ever Clean®, Handi-Wipes® and Wash’n Dri® brands join the product portfolio, nearly doubling the size of The Clorox Company.
The Clorox Company leapt onto the Fortune 500 list of top U.S. companies in 2000, boosted by a merger with First Brands Corporation and acquisition of its signature brands Glad, STP, Scoop Away and Jonny Cat. To keep pace we adopted World Class Manufacturing (WCM), a system for plant efficiency that originated at Toyota. WCM proved to be a win-win for the environment and the economy, allowing us to buy significantly fewer replacement parts for plant equipment, reduce utility use by 25 percent and eliminate scrap in raw materials. Best of all, the people who implemented it and use it daily are the ones who understand Clorox manufacturing better than anyone: our own front-line workers.
Moving ahead, we walked our talk with the development of Green Works, the first national brand of naturally derived cleaning products in the mainstream cleaning aisle. We upped the ante for sustainability when the Burt’s Bees business joined the Clorox family. Like our Brita® water filtration products, Burt’s Bees® natural personal care products enjoy a passionate following among environmentally aware consumers. To sustain the momentum, we recently launched the internally developed line of güd™ personal care products.
The company returns to the Fortune 500 list after a six-year absence.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, the company donates to United Way’s September 11th Fund and ships truckloads of Glad® food bags and Clorox® liquid bleach to aid in cleanup.
The company enters into a joint venture with Procter & Gamble to create food and trash bags, food wraps and containers under the Glad®, GladWare® and related trademarks.
The company continues to expand its Latin American presence through the acquisition of Agua Jane®, Bon Bril®, La Negrita®, Lemon Tok®, Los Conejos®, Nevex®, Oxi Magic®, Pal®, Primor® and Sani Pine® brands.
The Clorox Company Foundation aids in relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, a South Asian tsunami and a typhoon in Malaysia.
Clorox earns 100 percent ratings on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, a nationally recognized measure of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality in the workplace, and will maintain its perfect score in subsequent years.
Burt’s Bees is acquired.
The company becomes the first U.S. marketer to develop and nationally launch a natural cleaning line, Green Works, into the mainstream cleaning aisle.
Clorox becomes the first major CPG company to voluntarily disclose cleaning and disinfecting product ingredients in the U.S. and Canada.
Thinking Outside the Bottle
Clorox is the first U.S. consumer packaged goods company to publish an integrated annual report of its financial, environmental, social and governance performance. The people who built our company would probably be amazed at our growth. Yet they’d be right at home here today.
It’s easy to imagine William Murray, who saved the company in its start-up years, trading in his Ford Model T for a hybrid. The logo on the doors of his company car would be the newest one: still a diamond, but with two sides now green and open, symbolizing sustainability and diversity. His wife Annie Murray, the grocery keeper who envisioned Clorox® liquid bleach in every home, would be right at home on Facebook and Twitter. She knew how to talk with consumers in real time. Bill Roth, the jack-of-all-trades who steered the company through World War II and the fast-growth 1950s, would tip his green eyeshade to the unwavering focus on shareholder value and business integrity.
Our first charitable donation supported the local Boy Scout fund. Today The Clorox Company Foundation donates some $19 million a year in monetary and product donations to civic, charitable and community organizations across the world.
You know a relationship is strong when it spans decades and generations. We look forward to our second 100 years with you.
- The company acquires Caltech Industries, a maker of hospital germicides and disinfectants.
- The company sells its global Auto Care business.
- Clorox unveils a new corporate logo, replacing the blue diamond logo that has been in use since 1987.
- Clorox acquires Aplicare, Inc. and HealthLink, leading providers of infection control products for the health care industry, expanding the company’s ability to fight the spread of health care-associated infections.
- The company debuts güd™ natural personal care products from the Burt’s Bees® brand.
- Clorox acquires Soy Vay® marinades.
- New Smart Tube® “spray every drop” technology debuts. Clorox® liquid bleach moves to a concentrated formula in the U.S.
- The company celebrates its 100-year anniversary.
- The company launches its 2020 Strategy.