Unilever was formed in 1930 when Dutch firm Margarine Unie (Margarine Union) merged with the UK’s Lever Brothers. The British-Dutch entity assumed a new name that’s a portmanteau of Unie and Lever.
As its name suggests Margarine Unie made margarine. The company traced its roots back to the Jurgens and Van den Bergh margarine factories, which date back to 1872.
Lever Brothers started in 1884 as Lever & Co, and was primarily involved with producing soap. The two companies came together, initially, to keep out of out each other’s turf, but eventually decided to merge as both were large users of palm oil.
Unilever may not be a household name, but the company owns many, many household brands, including everything from Axe and Lynx deodorant, Dove and Lux soaps, Hellman’s mayonnaise, Lipton tea to Marmite spread, and Wall’s and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
Header image: Unilever building in Helsinki by Sean Biehle on Flickr.