Top Companies Report

3. Reckitt Benckiser

August 6, 2009

United Kingdom
Sales: $11.2 billion

Key Personnel: Bart Becht, chief executive officer; Adrian Bellamy, chairman; Javed Ahmed, executive vice president, Europe; Colin Day, chief financial officer; Rakesh Kapoor, executive vice president, category development; Rob de Groot, executive vice president, North America and Australia; Amedeo Fasano, executive vice president, supply; Freddy Caspers, executive vice president, developing markets; Gareth Hill, senior vice president, information services; Frank Ruether, senior vice president, human resources.

Major Products: Household and personal care products. Brands include Vanish, Calgon, Woolite, Lysol, Dettol, Bang, Harpic, Air Wick, Mortein, Dettol, Veet, Clearasil.

New Products: Air Wick Freshmatic and Air Wick Mini Freshmatic, Harpic Liquid with Max Coverage.

Comments: For 2008, Reckitt Benckiser recorded total net revenue growth of 13% (at constant exchange) with like-for-like growth of 10%. The company’s corporate sales were $12.1 billion, which includes its food business. The company’s sales in household and personal care topped $11 billion, which includes products sporting highly recognized brand names like Lysol, Air Wick, Woolite, Veet and Clearasil.

Reckitt remains smitten with its powerbrand concept, but in 2008 the company refined its stable to 17 (down from 18 in 2007) by transitioning other brands with the same footprint into them. For example, in the U.S., the company eliminated the Electrasol and Jet Dry brands, rolling them into the Finish range.

While some companies may have scaled back advertising budgets in 2008, Reckitt kept its budget intact even as ad rates were falling. According to chief executive Bart Becht, the company benefitted as a result.

“Our growth has been achieved by ensuring that consumers know about our products and the reasons to buy them,” he stated in the company’s 2008 annual report. “In harder market conditions, we think it is more important, not less, to invest in keeping our brands at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Media deflation has enabled us to get more value…We remain amongst the highest investors in media in the industry, with 12.4% of net revenue ploughed back into advertising our brands.”

With some of the most recognized names in the business, Mr. Becht doesn’t fear house brands. In February, he told The Financial Times, “Private label may be gaining market share, but we are not interested. What is interesting to us is that we are gaining share. Of course it is worrying that supermarkets are trying to get customers to switch to their brands, and that is why we will continue to emphasize the quality that they are getting when they buy our stuff.”