From Soap to Coconut Oil—Dr. Bronner’s products carry a message of peace on earth


Our supplement and health and beauty market teams have been in Wichita the last two days listening to educators and product formulators tell their story.

Bonnie, a lead supplement team member at our Bradley Fair store, was taken with the story of Emanuel Bronner, a pioneer in the natural cosmetics business, whose love of Fair Trade and sympathy for his fellow man led him on a mission to spread peace and love throughout post World War II America.

Originally from Germany, he fled his homeland as the Nazis were beginning to wreak havoc over Europe. Readers can find his extraordinary story by following this link:

Suffice it to say, Bronner’s journey from the son of a soap maker, to his years proselytizing about his religious and political ideas to the place his soap and coconut oil has in natural health food markets today is remarkable.

The Dr. Bronner company is a testament to what was once a preference for a simpler way of doing business–one in which marketing was not embraced (in order to spread the Bronner “gospel”)–to finally capitalizing off the energy, ideas and education of several generations of Bronner relatives responsible for bringing the company into its present revered state. (Bronner, though not a medical doctor or even a PhD, referred to himself as “Doctor,” and thus the name of his company.)

Bronner’s company grew with the advent of television. He wasn’t advertising, of course, (he didn’t believe in it) but, in the ‘60s, Bronner seized upon the growing trend of consumer activists, feminists and environmentalists who were criticizing the health and beauty industry for injecting health risks into their products and deceiving consumers about such practices for profit. Dr. Bronner shared their concerns and offered them the pure product he was already creating.

From the early years, Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap had a big following. Bonner sold his soap by “personal contact.” It gave him face-to-face contact with the consumer who was then bombarded with his personal world-view philosophy. He did this by printing his address and phone number on his bars and bottles of soap, and then installing a phone in every room in his house.

When asked about Bronner’s soap marketing techniques, daughter-in-law Trudy Bronner said: “The phone number was the marketing. He was always on the phone.”

Bronner’s head of public relations, Adam Eidinger, explained retrospectively in 2012:  “Originally we were distributed by people, who were selling the soap out of the back of a Volkswagen bus. . . [So] the first distribution channels were hippies with VW buses driving across country.

Emanuel Bronner’s grandson, Michael, later identified this period as the turning point in the company’s history: “The product became successful for all the reasons that it wasn’t successful before. The quality was always good, but you had this packaging that included my grandfather’s spiritual message that was completely anti-corporate.”

And from the Dr. Bronner website: “With his anti-corporate and pacifist ideology, which the company published on every bottle of soap, Bronner was especially popular with the American counterculture movement and its supporters. His unique label, overflowing with religious, ethical, and personal hygiene statements, became iconic over the years and added to the high recognition value of the soap bottle.”

Today, succeeding family members continue Bronner’s mission to advance positive social change, creating Fair Trade projects, maintaining a commitment to progressive business practices and giving profits to worthwhile causes throughout the world.

A key example is the Sri Lanka tsunami catastrophe which took place in December, 2004 triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of India. According to accounts at the time, The tsunami left tens of thousands dead, many more homeless, and caused widespread chaos throughout the island. In addition to the human impacts, the tsunami had widespread effects on Sri Lanka’s environment and ecosystems. It is still too early to express the long-term effects caused by the tsunami, but short-term effects are clearly evident.”

The Dr. Bronner’s company came to the rescue of many by setting up a Fair Trade company manufacturing coconut oil, which we proudly sell at GreenAcres. If you’re in any of our eight stores that sell the oil, be sure to pick up a coupon attached to the shelf next to the product.

GreenAcres always has been partial to our Fair Trade vendors and Dr. Bronner’s is one of them.

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