- New drug “Axhidrox®” against pathological sweating in the armpits available in Germany as of August
- New studies in caries- & hairloss research
Also, in the second Corona year Bielefeld-based Dr. Wolff Group accomplished stable growth. Strong brands, innovative products, ongoing internationalisation, and further digitalisation formed the foundation in turbulent times. As in the previous year, the focus in 2021 was on the following topics: employee health, supply chain, cash management as well as research and development of new products. Thus, in 2021, Bielefeld-based Dr. Wolff Group recorded the highest turnover to date in the company’s 117-year history at 357.2 million euros (2020: 341.1 million euros), achieved a plus of almost five percent and increased turnover despite Corona in the past two years.
Expansion of international locations
Exports also continued to grow worldwide despite Corona. Finland was added as a new international location, while the teams in the USA, in Singapore and in China were further expanded. In total, the company now globally operates 12 locations for marketing and sales in the regions. “We are focusing on further very dynamic growth. To achieve this, we will continue to expand our markets, consistently defy possible crisis scenarios in the coming years and actively invest in research and in our brands,” says Eduard R. Dörrenberg, Managing Partner of Dr. Wolff Group.
Potentials of innovative products and progressive digitalisation
Due to the outbreak of war in Europe, the consequences of emerging inflation, increasing cost pressure and a still unstable Corona situation, the challenges have grown significantly. Nevertheless: “We will remain optimistic for the long term, and we will continue to globalise our successful and evidence-based products, and further expand our team, too, which today consists of 785 employees. Furthermore, we have made great progress with our digitalisation strategy, which we started back in 2014, and will continue to expand it,” Dörrenberg stated at the annual balance press conference. In general, the company is focusing on research for new innovative products. At the top of the agenda are continuing internationalisation in the cosmetics sector, and expansion in the oral care division. In the pharmaceuticals sector Dr. Wolff Group has opened another business area with the EU-wide launch of the new “Axhidrox®” drug.
Product from Bielefeld supports virus prophylaxis
From the beginning of the pandemic on Dr. Wolff’s maxim has been to complement existing Corona protection measures in the best possible way, and to make an effective contribution. In 2021, the oral care segment developed a concept to support virus prophylaxis based on an antiviral mouth and throat rinse. Most recently, a group of 13 scientists1 confirmed its effectiveness in reducing the SARS-CoV-2 viral load in the mouth and throat area. A special mention was made of the surfactant-based efficacy concept used by Dr. Wolff, while in particular antiseptic agents showed hardly any effects. “We do not replace any vaccination or any of the established hygiene measures. We complement them. It is remarkable that especially consumer protection centres publicly doubt the work of respected scientists and university clinics and sometimes even fight it legally,” describes the 54-year-old managing partner the current discussion about the antiviral mouth and throat rinse.
Research success and new therapy option: drug against excessive sweating
After about ten years of research and development, Dr. Wolff launched a new drug against excessive sweating in the armpits in 2022. Following approval, the drug named “Axhidrox®” is already available in Austria. The launch in Germany is scheduled for August. In Germany, at least four million people suffer from so-called primary hyperhidrosis, a chronic disease with a high number of unreported cases. Those affected sweat excessively without any recognisable cause. With the development of the cream containing 1% glycopyrronium bromide (GPB), the dermatology division at Dr. August Wolff has succeeded in providing patients with so-called severe primary axillary hyperhidrosis with a new treatment option.
“Our preparation is the only anticholinergic cream in Europe to date that allows for the external treatment of severe primary axillary hyperhidrosis with the active ingredient GPB. We are convinced that with this drug we can also help patients who have not achieved satisfactory results with previous treatment options so far,” says the family businessman. Data from several clinical trials provided the basis for the approval in eleven European countries. The data of the phase 3a trial relevant for approval were already published in 2021 in the highly respected “British Journal of Dermatology”.2 The publication of the phase 3b research data is expected shortly. In Germany, the preparation will be presented to dermatologists for the first time in mid-July at a scientific congress. Dr. Wolff will gradually put the preparation on the market in the eleven EU countries directly or via partners.
“Hardly anyone could or wanted to imagine that the pandemic would be immediately followed by another crisis. We know that we need to adjust to a ‘life with crisis’ and therefore remain very flexible,” says Dörrenberg with regard to the current circumstances. Overall, the situation in the entire supply chain is tense. For Dr. Wolff as a manufacturer of high-performance products the challenges are increasing, too, but so are the opportunities. The management consultancy McKinsey, e.g., recently provided data3 on consumer attitudes and buying behaviour that confirmed the importance of developing innovative products with real benefits. In addition, further internationalisation is to ensure independence for the Bielefeld-based company. On this path, Bielefeld-based Dr. Wolff Group is planning on further growth in the current financial year. With the launch of the “Axhidrox®” drug against heavy sweating in the armpits, we want to add company locations throughout Europe and also bring this drug to Asia as quickly as possible,” Dörrenberg states. The shampoo manufacturer also takes advantage of the start of this year’s Tour de France in Denmark and the attention given to their own professional cycling team to actively enter the Danish market with Alpecin, and from there the entire Scandinavian market. In addition to strong brands and products with a great performance promise, Dr. Wolff continues to focus on digitalisation. The eWolff business unit currently employs more than 30 digital specialists and is expected to have grown to 50 employees by the end of the year. The office space of this unit got doubled within the Dr. Wolff headquarters and the internal exchange on digital topics has been significantly increased. “Overall, we are very well prepared to tackle the upcoming challenges as well as the upcoming opportunities,” says Dörrenberg.
Business areas in detail
One-off effects of the pandemic that occurred in 2020 and early 2021, especially due to the intensive corona-related use of hand disinfection as well as antiviral mouth and throat rinses, were not repeated due to the easing of measures in 2021. With a total of 57.5 million euros, turnover was nevertheless around 7 million above the “pre-Corona result”. In 2019, dermatics sales amounted to about 50 million euros.
There have never been more women in Germany going through menopause. Changing demographics also lead to changing communication. “We see a new openness to address things,” Dörrenberg says and identifies further potential in this division. Dr. Wolff’s gynaecological products have been making a major contribution for years, e.g., in hormone-free therapy, which is particularly important according to the guidelines of many international markets. In the past year, the Vagisan brand again grew by 4 percent in Germany and abroad. Sales amounted to 38.6 million euros. Apposite to the new openness, sexologist Ann-Marlene Henning, who openly addresses difficult issues such as vaginal dryness, continues to be the brand ambassador.
With sales of over 33 million euros, Dr. Wolff’s fluoride-free products in the oral care category (+16 percent) are growing many times more dynamically than the market. According to the German Cosmetic, Toiletry, Perfumery and Detergent Association (Industrieverband Körperpflege- und Waschmittel – IKW), the entire oral care sector is stagnating at around 1.6 percent. Dörrenberg also sees great future potential in the oral care segment. The company is expanding international activities with their Bioniq® brand. In addition, the Karex brand is extremely successful with children’s toothpaste and almost doubled in sales. In June 2022, the new Junior Karex toothpaste was added to the portfolio. As a consequence, investments in infrastructure and organisational structures at the Bielefeld company headquarters were made. In the oral care area, research with far-reaching studies on modern caries prophylaxis and education about European regulations on the dosage of fluoride-containing toothpaste is a focal point. For years, international scientists have been actively working on the evidence of the active ingredient complex around the ingredient hydroxyapatite. The Canadian organisation Health Canada officially listed Kinder Karex in 2022 and recommends the fluoride-free toothpaste from Germany to all Canadian dentists. In the past ten years, more intensive research on hydroxyapatite and its positive influence on dental health has been conducted worldwide than on any other oral care ingredient. Numerous studies and publications show that hydroxyapatite is a real alternative to fluoride4.
Due to strong one-off effects caused by the lockdown measures, especially in the field of colour effect products, the Plantur range grew again by 19 percent in the previous year. With total sales of almost 85.5 million euros, the products of the female caffeine shampoo range almost reached the level of the men’s brand Alpecin. For many women as well as men, the decisive purchase criterion still is being able to actively do something about hair loss. Caffeine is the means of choice. The Bielefeld scientists have repeatedly been acknowledged by international experts, e.g., by the conclusion of a British research group led by Dr. Gil Westgate (University of Bradford), whose publication confirms that caffeine is the best-researched active ingredient of plant origin against hair loss.
About one in two men is affected by hair loss in the course of his life. The cause of hair loss is hereditary in 80 percent of cases. Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo stands for slowing down the process and providing effective prevention. Education and awareness, especially of young men, is important for the Bielefeld-based company. According to IKW, the entire market for hair care products lost 2.4 percent in 2021. Alpecin, however, is a driver in this segment. The brand grew by over 5 percent in Germany. Internationally, the caffeine shampoo from Bielefeld even gained 27 percent. The cumulative turnover thus amounts to 93.4 million euros.
With all in all two lockdowns, the hairdressing business was compromised by the pandemic until 2021. Alcina managed to respond to this due to company-wide digital activities. The new “diversity” collection and all corresponding seminar and workshop series were presented digitally, and the content was deepened in weekly online presentations. Nevertheless, personal engagement and advice in the B2B segment came up short. With sales of 37 million euros, Alcina did not reach the “pre-Corona level” with hair-, skin care- and decorative cosmetics. For the current year, the goal is to revive business with seasonal editions and especially with hair colours.
1Meister T. L. et al. Mouthrinses against SARS-CoV-2 – High antiviral effectivity by membrane disruption in vitro translates to mild effects in a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial”. Elsevier, 2022 July. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.virusres.2022.198791
2Abels C, Soeberdt M, Kilic A, Reich H, Knie U, Jourdan C, Schramm K, Heimstaedt-Muskett S, Masur C, Szeimies RM. A 1% glycopyrronium bromide cream for the topical treatment of primary axillary hyperhidrosis: Efficacy and Safety Results from a Phase 3a Randomised Controlled Study. Br J Dermatol. 2021 Jan 14. doi: 10.1111/bjd.19810
3McKinsey & Company Europe Consumer Pulse Survey, 4/12-4/18/2022 n= 5.075 (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK) sampled to match European general population 18+ years
4among others: Meta-Analyse Limeback et al.2021: Limeback, H., Enax, J. & Meyer, F. Biomimetic hydroxyapatite and caries prevention: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Can J Dent Hyg 55, 148-159 (2021); v55n3.pdf (cdha.ca)