Vorwerk (company)

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Vorwerk & Co. KG
limited partnership
Industryretail, electronics, textiles, chemistry, services
FoundedWuppertal, Germany (1883)
HeadquartersWuppertal, Germany
Key people
Rainer Christian Genes (Managing Partner), Reiner Strecker (Managing Partner), Frank van Oers (Managing Partner)
Productshousehold appliances, fitted kitchens, cosmetics, services, carpets
Revenue3.05 billion €
(Group Sales 2016)

Vorwerk is an international diversified corporate group headquartered in Wuppertal, Germany. The main business is the direct distribution of various products like household appliances (e.g. Kobold vacuum cleaners), fitted kitchens or cosmetics. Vorwerk was founded in 1883.

The family enterprise, which is operated as a limited partnership, has 12,000 full-time employees and over 590,000 self-employed sales representatives in over 70 countries worldwide (as of 2014). The largest proportion of sales representatives (546,000) work for the US-based subsidiary JAFRA Cosmetics. For the year 2014, the company posted revenues of €2.8 billion.


The beginnings — Barmer Teppichfabrik Vorwerk & Co[edit]

In 1883, the Barmer Teppichfabrik Vorwerk & Co was founded by the brothers Carl (1847–1907) and Adolf Vorwerk. That very same year, the brothers parted ways again and Carl Vorwerk continued to run the company. The firm initially manufactured high-quality carpets and upholstery fabrics, and later also the looms used to make them – first under an English patent, and then under an improved proprietary patent.

Carl Vorwerk’s son, Carl jr. (1878–1904), was to be his successor as company director, but he died just a few months after taking the helm in 1903. Thus, upon the death of the company founder in 1907, his son-in-law, August Mittelsten Scheid (1871–1955), became sole managing partner. Under his leadership, the company diversified following the First World War, taking up the production of gear units and electric motors for gramophones as its military research efforts halted.

Kobold and direct sales[edit]

Early vacuum cleaner Vorwerk Kobold, about 1950.

As radio grew in popularity in the 1920s, gramophone sales dropped precipitously. This dire situation gave rise to the birth of the “Vorwerk Kobold” in 1929: chief engineer Engelbert Gorissen developed out of a gramophone motor a high-performance electric upright vacuum cleaner. On 25 May 1930, a patent was granted for the Kobold “Model 30”. At first, sales of what was at the time a completely unknown appliance in Germany were very poor, despite the relatively modest price of 20 Reichsmarks. Only when direct sales were launched in 1930 – the brainchild of Werner Mittelsten Scheid (1904-1953), a son of the company founder – did the product meet with success. By 1935, 100,000 “Kobolds” had been sold, by 1937 half a million and by 1953 one million. Already before the Second World War, in 1938, the first foreign sales organization was established: Vorwerk Folletto in Italy.

During World War II, the main plant in Wuppertal-Barmen was severely damaged in a May 1943 bombing, after which August Mittelsten Scheid’s sons, Werner and Erich Mittelsten Scheid, jointly took over management of the firm. The sales organization, which had held the company above water during the war years by selling various products, discontinued operations that year.

After the war was over, production and sales were rebuilt, first in Germany, and then in Europe and overseas. By 1955, 2,000 Vorwerk sales representatives were once again underway. Sole managing partner – following the death of his brother in 1953 – was Erich Mittelsten Scheid.

Further diversification[edit]

In 1969, Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid, Werner’s son, succeeded his uncle as head of the family business. Three years later, Günter Busch and Bernd Balders became the first managing partners who were not members of the founding family.

While up to the end of the 1960s the company focused mainly on the production and sale of vacuum cleaners, carpets and upholstery fabrics, ever since that time it has continually diversified, initially into the services sector. Vorwerk was co-founder of the akf bank in 1968; in 1970 the in-house data processing department brought forth the ZEDA Gesellschaft für Datenverarbeitung und EDV-Beratung mbH & Co. KG; and the founding of Hygienic Service Gebäudereinigung und Umweltpflege GmbH in 1974 was the germ cell that led to the Hectas Facility Services division. At the same time, the company was also expanding its range of household products. This included the launch of the Thermomix food processor in 1971, followed by Vorwerk Fitted Kitchens in 1974.

The company kicked off the 21st century with a number of new acquisitions and restructuring projects. In 2001, Vorwerk purchased the Lux Asia Pacific direct sales organization from the Swedish Electrolux group, thus consolidating its position on the Asian market. The next year saw the introduction of the “Feelina” ironing system, and the year after that the spin-off of the company’s data processing services: ZEDA was sold to T-Systems in 2003. The final coup was the acquisition of American cosmetic manufacturer Jafra Cosmetics in May 2004.

At the end of 2005, Jörg Mittelsten Scheid left the board. Since January 2013, corporate management at Vorwerk has been in the hands of: Walter Muyres (Managing Partner), Reiner Strecker (Managing Partner) and Frank van Oers (Managing Partner).

In 2017, Vorwerk acquired robotic vacuum manufacturer Neato Robotics.[1] With Neato's robotic technology, Vorwerk seeks to improve its position as a producer for technology products for the home.[2]

Company overview[edit]

Current company structure[edit]

The consolidated Vorwerk group encompasses over 27 companies worldwide, which are divided into eight main fields of business.

Main fields of business[edit]

  • InDirect sales
Division Kobold
Division Thermomix (multifunctional kitchen appliance)
Division Jafra Cosmetics (cosmetics, skin and body care products)
Division Lux Asia Pacific (household appliances in the Asia-Pacific region)
  • Division Vorwerk Carpets
  • Division Vorwerk Facility Management Holding KG (infrastructural facility services)
  • Division akf group (financial services)

Important companies and locations[edit]


as well as sales companies in Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Portugal, China, Taiwan, Mexico, Japan, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Hungary, United States of America, Brazil, Dominican Republic, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia.

Vorwerk production sites[edit]
  • Vorwerk Elektrowerke GmbH & Co. KG, Wuppertal (research of household appliances)
  • Vorwerk Semco S.A.S., Cloyes-sur-le-Loir, France (Thermomix production)
  • Vorwerk Folletto Manufacturing S.r.l., Arcore - Milan, Italy (production of accessories and ironing system)
  • Vorwerk Household Appliances Co., Inc. Shanghai, China (production and sales)
  • JAFRA Cosmetics International, Inc., Westlake Village, California, USA (headquarters, research and development)
  • Cosmeticos y Fragancias S.A. de C.V. Naucalpan de Juárez, Mexico (production)

as well as additional sales companies in Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, Indonesia

Lux Asia Pacific[edit]
  • Lux Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd., Singapore (headquarters)
  • Lux Manufacturing Corp., Makati City, Philippines (water filter production)

as well as additional sales companies in Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia.

Vorwerk Carpets[edit]
  • Vorwerk & Co. Teppichwerke GmbH & Co. KG, Hamelin
Vorwerk Facility Management[edit]
  • Vorwerk Facility Management Holding KG, Wuppertal

as well as additional subsidiaries in Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland, Belgium, Greece

  • akf bank GmbH & Co. KG, Wuppertal

as well as additional subsidiaries in Spain

Corporate management[edit]

  • Dipl.-Ing. Rainer Christian Genes (Managing Partner)
  • Reiner Strecker (Managing Partner)
  • Frank van Oers (Managing Partner)

Advisory board for the managing partners:

  • Rainer Baule (Chairman)
  • Dr. Jörg Mittelsten Scheid
  • Prof. Dr. Ing. Pius Baschera
  • Dr. Rainer Hillebrand
  • Dr. Axel Epe
  • Daniel Klüser
  • Dr. Timm Mittelsten Scheid
  • Sabine Schmidt

Key figures[edit]

The Vorwerk group is reflecting on a satisfactory business year in 2011. For the year, the company posted, revenues of EUR 2.367 billion. So they could improve both its revenue and its earnings in 2011. The direct sales companies proved to be the main drivers with an increase in revenue worldwide of 5 percent. The share of business volume outside of Germany is given as 67 percent. In direct sales it was even as much as 83 percent.[3]


After Vorwerk had abstained from classic advertising until 2001 – with the exception of the carpets division – it launched that year a broad-based image campaign based on the so-called “Family Concept” under the slogan “Vorwerk – Our Best for Your Family”. According to Vorwerk, the aim of the campaign was “to raise public awareness for a neglected area in social policy, i.e. the lack of recognition for work within the family”[4] or “to promote greater recognition for the achievements represented by childrearing and housework and to stand up for better public acceptance of these activities”,[5] in this way increasing the awareness of and popularity of the company – particularly among the relevant target group of housewives and househusbands. A central component of the “Family Concept” was the TV commercial first broadcast in 2003: “I run a very successful, small family business”, as well as the competition for “Family Manager of the Year” co-organized with the magazine Hörzu from 2004 till 2011. The concept also includes the support of SOS Children's Villages by the Vorwerk Family Fund, established in 2002, as well as the financing of demoscopic studies on the recognition of housework.


The most tradition-steeped products in the range are the carpets and carpeting, the only business field in which Vorwerk has been active consistently since its founding in 1883. But Vorwerk is known chiefly for the production and sales of vacuum cleaners and accessories, and Division Kobold is the company’s biggest moneymaker today. Vorwerk Fitted Kitchens, the Thermomix[6] kitchen appliance and the Feelina ironing system round out the portfolio in the household realm. New since the takeover of Jafra in 2004 are skin and body care products as well as cosmetics and perfume.


The Vorwerk Family Fund collects donations worldwide. The money went to SOS Children's Village in Hyderabad and two houses in the SOS Children's Village Moin in Costa Rica. To mark its 125th anniversary in 2008, Vorwerk decided to build an SOS Children's Village in Quy Nhon, Vietnam which was opened in October 2012.



  1. ^ "Neato Robotics Acquired by Vorwerk Group". Smart Robotic Home. 2017-09-22. Retrieved 2017-09-22.
  2. ^ "Vorwerk acquires home robot vacuum maker Neato Robotics | VentureBeat". venturebeat.com. Retrieved 2017-09-22.
  3. ^ Annual report 2011
  4. ^ Annual report 2005, p. 10.
  5. ^ Annual report 2004, p. 26.
  6. ^ Thermomix

External links[edit]

Company sites:

Other sites:

Coordinates: 51°16′26″N 7°12′01″E / 51.27389°N 7.20028°E / 51.27389; 7.20028