After 2022, which ended as a transitional year with a slight increase and a revenue of 363.8 million euros (357.2 million in 2021), Bielefeld-based Dr. Wolff Group continues its positive trend in the current fiscal year with its pharmaceutical and cosmetic divisions. Revenue has grown by four percent in the first five months compared to the same period last year. Thanks to further innovations, a growth of up to ten percent is expected for the year 2023.
The strongest revenue drivers in the current fiscal year (as of 31 May 2023) are the oral care brands Karex and Bioniq® with a 20 percent growth thanks to internationalization and new products, as well as the gynaecological sector with the Vagisan brand. This segment has grown by ten percent compared to the previous year. “Especially in the United States, Canada, and Europe, we see a growing awareness of fluoride-free oral care,” explains Eduard R. Dörrenberg, managing partner of the company. Meanwhile, the already strong sectors Alpecin and Plantur which accounted for 50 percent of the revenue last year continued to grow until the end of May 2023. Currently, the company distributes its brands in over 60 countries. “Research is in our Dr. Wolff DNA, and we develop products to solve hair, skin, and dental problems to improve people’s quality of life,” describes Dörrenberg the explicit focus and adds: “In the current year, we expect another milestone in the company’s history which is a caffeine moment with a new, even more potent caffeine shampoo.”
Oral care becomes established internationally – latest publication on caries prevention
In the field of oral care, the company is growing with its brands Karex and Bioniq®. The pursued course of internationalization and new solutions for fluoride-free products in the German market are increasingly contributing to the business. After Dr. Wolff introduced the ‘tooth enamel repair’ category based on hydroxyapatite to drugstores, the current activities are again positively reflected in the figures of the oral care division. After two years of double-digit growth, 2022 remained constant. In the current fiscal year, Dr. Wolff Group’s oral care segment has grown strongly again with an increase of 20 percent. “The consistent expansion of fluoride-free, hydroxyapatite-based oral care is one of the top goals for 2023,” emphasizes Dörrenberg and points out: “The non-inferiority of hydroxyapatite to fluoride in caries prevention was demonstrated for the first time in a comprehensive clinical double-blind study conducted on adults. The results will be published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. This is the third clinical study that unequivocally confirms the non-inferiority of hydroxyapatite to fluoride, following two previous clinical studies conducted on children and adolescents. Hydroxyapatite is thus an effective and safe anti-caries agent in toothpaste. This is another important scientific evidence of the effectiveness of our products.” Caries remains one of the major health problems worldwide. Studies such as the 5th German Oral Health Study show that the past five decades with fluoridated oral care served their purpose but only had limited overall impact on the development of caries in children and adolescents. In the past 20 years, dental professional societies focused on recommending increasing fluoride concentrations in children’s toothpaste up to quadrupling, depending on the product. Meanwhile, nearly one in four children in Germany is affected by fluorosis. Another ongoing scientific debate currently taking place in the United States and other countries discusses the influence of fluoride on children’s development and IQ. In May, international scientists from the USA, Canada, Asia, and Europe gathered in Bielefeld to find ways how to facilitate an internationally unified knowledge transfer regarding alternative biomimetic approaches, such as the use of hydroxyapatite in dental care. One focal point of the event was the potential of hydroxyapatite in the deep remineralization of tooth enamel. With over 200 international studies and scientific publications in recent years, the significance of this modern alternative active ingredient is clearly growing.
Remineralization and the previously unknown cause of chalky teeth (MH)
Current media reports call it a new widespread disease. The cause is scientifically still unclear. Teeth affected by MH (hypomineralization) show a high mineral deficiency and break like chalk. US scientists talk about effective remineralization by using hydroxyapatite toothpaste, such as Kinder Karex, Junior Karex, or Bioniq®. Several scientific publications show similar study results.
New medication Axhidrox® against underarm sweat
The pharmaceutical manufacturer believes in the high potential of its new medication against excessive sweating under the armpits. After more than ten years of development, the prescription-only drug entered the market in Germany in August 2022, and has so far already been approved in 17 European countries – further approvals are expected this year. It is the world’s first anticholinergic cream formulation. The anticholinergic agents can inhibit the effect of the sweat-inducing neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This topical application offers an alternative therapy option for those affected, in addition to local high-dose aluminum salts, injections with botulinum toxin, taking anticholinergic tablets, and sweat gland suction.
Treatment for inflammatory skin without cortisone
The dermatological sector around the Linola brand ended 2022 at previous year’s level. In particular, the pandemic-related special effects in the hygiene sector have subsided. However, two innovations in 2023 indicate new potential. There are new solutions for people with itchy skin. With Linola Duo, medical skin care focuses on a cortisone-free combination of active ingredients levomenol and heparin sodium. The medication counteracts inflammatory and allergic processes of the skin and alleviates associated itching. The product has been on the market since April and is experiencing a very promising launch. In addition, the newly introduced Linola Forte product range for medical skin care demonstrates that people suffering from itching feel relief with powerful products such as skin milk and cream.
Breaking taboos with a day cream for the genital area
Having grown by a total of four percent last year, the entire gynaecological range of Vagisan has increased by more than ten percent in the current fiscal year. With the VagisanCare range, Dr. Wolff openly addresses cosmetic care in the genital area. With this idea, the manufacturer meets a demand in the growing self-care category.
The health and quality of life of women, considering an aging society and changing needs, are at the center of several brands within Dr. Wolff Group. This applies not only to gynaecology but also to the hair care sector.
Women affected by hair loss get a chance to speak in a campaign and have been causing a stir in the United Kingdom since February. “We deliberately chose to involve those affected and want to make these topics publicly known in an authentic way,” Dörrenberg describes the situation in England. Menopause is currently being discussed in the media with unprecedented openness. “This is not just a trend. It’s rather a societal taboo that is being broken and about to turn into a new normality,” the managing partner assesses. Plantur 39 has been benefiting from this and is currently experiencing a highly dynamic growth across all sales channels in the UK, its strongest international market. The new communication is also expected to give Plantur 39 an additional boost in the domestic market later this year.
Researchers experience a new caffeine moment
Alpecin caffeine shampoo, which is popular among men, continues to gain momentum. Additional distribution channels, new packaging units, and newly developed e-commerce activities contribute to the positive trend internationally. In China sales tripled over the past four years, with a 55 percent increase in the first five months of this year. Overall, the brand’s international activities continue to contribute to its growth, with a global increase of over six percent this year.
An international network with Dr. Wolff’s research in its center achieved a milestone with a new solution for androgenetic hair loss. Results from a study recently concluded in Rome demonstrate reduced hair loss, improved hair density, increased hair growth during the growth phase, and more hair following active application in the course of the study. The background of this breakthrough is the use of a previously unknown cosmetic active ingredient, a patented combination of caffeine and the agent DMG (dimethylglycine), which enhances the effects of caffeine. The promising results will be presented to the international scientific community at the European Hair Congress in Sheffield in mid-June and will be introduced to the market later this year in the form of an even more potent Alpecin caffeine shampoo.
Innovation for gradually darker men’s hair
In the second half of the year, the Bielefeld-based company will introduce Alpecin Grey Attack, a new shampoo for men with a color effect for whose mode of action a patent was already applied for. For the first time, a color formula that reacts to atmospheric oxygen will be used in a shampoo. What makes this shampoo unique is that it gradually darkens the hair, as the formed color is of permanence.
Increasing global brand awareness of Alpecin through sports sponsorship and streaming service Netflix
The consistent expansion of Alpecin’s sports sponsorship strategy is expected to yield sustainable results. The focus of further sponsorship activities for Alpecin is particularly on major cycling nations such as Spain, Italy, France, the UK, and the Benelux countries. With the Alpecin-Deceuninck racing team around superstar Mathieu van der Poel, Alpecin actively associates sports and caffeine shampoo through huge cycling events and exclusive testimonial activities.
The international cycling community is currently anticipating a multi-part documentary series on Netflix. Following the success of “Drive to Survive” about Formula 1 racing, the streaming service has deliberately chosen professional cycling and will release the documentary ahead of the Tour de France, which begins on 1 July. The Alpecin-Deceuninck team will play a prominent role as their victory in last year’s prestigious final stage in Paris is prominently featured in the teaser video already released. The documentary is expected to have significant international impact and reach. Eduard R. Dörrenberg is excited about the format, stating: “If professional cycling achieves even a fraction of the success of Formula 1, this documentary could mean millions of new fans for the sport.”
Positive development in the hairdressing business with Alcina
After cuts due to pandemic-related salon closures and lockdown measures, sales of the Alcina hair salon brand have recovered. Already in 2022, further growth and a jump to 38.5 million euros led to a return to a pre-Corona level. The recovery is visible in all markets despite uncertainties in the hairdressing market due to rising energy prices, among other things. Alcina is increasingly focusing on Europe in order to expand its market share there. In the current year, the focus in the core hair color and styling business will be on the development of new colors and care products. The B2B media campaign currently underway, “Coloring the future together”, is drawing attention to the brand’s high level of expertise in hair colorants. As a result, the hair salon business again developed positively in the first five months of 2023, growing by more than five percent in the established home market. In particular, the hair color sub-segment, which is important for the salon business, is a significant pillar of the beauty segment with a growth of around seven percent.
Taking a special stock of 25 years
Dr. Wolff Group achieved a turnover of approximately 100 million euros in 1998. On 1 April, more than 25 years ago, Eduard R. Dörrenberg joined the management as the great-grandson in the fourth generation. Later, his cousin Christoph Harras-Wolff (since 2006) and Dr. Christian Mestwerdt (since 2016) joined, forming the current leadership trio. “We have succeeded in sustainably developing the company through innovative and effective products as well as high patient and consumer satisfaction,” says Dörrenberg.
In the beginning, the first projects focusing on implementing IT-based processes were followed by a milestone: the development of the world’s first Alpecin caffeine shampoo against hair loss, which needed to be internationalized and extended to new target groups with the brand Plantur. The company has also worked on developing the category of fluoride-free oral care with hydroxyapatite and expanding the gynaecological division. The parameters for the strategy include scientifically validated product development, market-changing innovations, global activities, entrepreneurial courage, fast decision-making, and digitization. The strategy is adjusted to changing conditions and aligned for the upcoming years.
Setting the course for the future
As part of the strategic planning and ambitious goals for the next years, Dr. Wolff Group is expanding its structure. Dr. Andreas Jacobs assumed the chairmanship of the board of directors from Richard Oetker at the end of 2022. Mr. Frank Petzold also stepped down from the board of directors after more than 20 years. A decision regarding his successor will be made soon. The shareholders expressly thanked both of them for their outstanding contributions and their significant role in the current success of Dr. Wolff Group.
In the future, the management board will reorganize themselves. Dr. Christian Mestwerdt will continue to be responsible for finance, controlling, administration, and regulatory affairs. The managing partner Christoph Harras-Wolff will be in charge of legal affairs, associations, and sustainability. The managing partner Eduard R. Dörrenberg will oversee research and development, marketing, sales, and human resources. The management will be expanded with a fourth member for the supply chain and IT departments. Until then, Christoph Harras-Wolff will continue to oversee the supply chain, and Dr. Christian Mestwerdt will handle the IT department.
April 2023 marked 25 very successful years in a leadership position for Eduard R. Dörrenberg who has assumed the position of CEO to strengthen strategic leadership.
Jörn Harguth, as a member of the executive team, will continue to support him successfully as he has done before, overseeing sales, media procurement, sports marketing, and digital operations. Alexander Krümke joins as Vice President for consumer crands marketing (hair care and oral care), Guillaume Gauthier becomes Vice President for the gynaecology and dermatology business unit (Vagisan, Linola), and Dominik Heitmar takes on the role of Vice President for new business, business development and strategy. Christian Schwarze assumes the position of Head of the Alcina business unit, overseeing the hairdressing business.
Within the context of further internationalization plans, new future markets such as India or Brazil may represent the next step. “We will continue our globalization course with high-performance products. We will develop products that genuinely benefit people and gradually expand our international teams. In the future, we will focus more on global Dr. Wolff hubs to bring our products faster and more effectively to where patients and consumers are looking for them,” describes Eduard R. Dörrenberg the course the company is to take.