Bon Ami - The Natural Cleanser
We've weathered the Great Depression, the chemical revolution and an endless stream of fads. We've kept it simple for 120 years.
A simple story, starting with simple ingredientsWe've weathered the Great Depression, the chemical revolution and an endless stream of fads. We've kept it simple for 120 years.
view slide show Mom really was right
How did Nancy Beaham know it made sense to avoid adding chemicals to Bon Ami products? She read the letters. So did her daughters.
view slide show Before green was hipThere weren’t many Kansas City companies that advertised in the early Whole Earth Catalogs. Looking back, we’d like to say it was an obvious choice. But it wasn’t.
view slide show The little chick that couldOur story hasn’t changed much. Neither has the chick.
We like it
from the very beginning
In the late 19th Century, quartz was a key ingredient in scouring soaps. In New England mines, quartz was entwined with feldspar. After the minerals were separated, the feldspar was discarded.
J.T. Robertson saw that the softer feldspar could be used to create a less abrasive soap. The process would be cheaper (the feldspar was trash, after all), and the product would be better. Working from a gristmill on property owned by Gurdon Hicks Childs, Robertson ground feldspar to a fine powder, mixed it with liquid soap in wooden troughs, cured and cut it into cakes – and gave his soap a name: Bon Ami.
Child’s son and nephew formed the firm of Childs and Childs in 1890, becoming the exclusive sales agent for Bon Ami.
Sure it works, but how will people remember it?…
From fine art,
to a fine polish
Within ten years, Bon Ami was a success in the Northeast. One reason was obvious: The product worked. There was another reason, of course: People remembered the cute little chick on Bon Ami labels. She peeped one of the most famous early American trademarks: Hasn't Scratched Yet!® (Newly hatched chicks do not scratch for food because they are still living off the nutrients of the yolk.)
When artist Ben Austrian, whose lithographs of woodland and barnyard scenes were sold across the U.S. and Europe, painted her, she took on a depth of character that made her memorable – and has kept her alive for more than a century.
When times got rough…
Great value in the
One way to gauge a product’s value is to see how well it does in times of recession. Strong products with obvious value tend to survive. To actually thrive in the Great Depression, a product needed to offer extraordinary value.
Bon Ami was one of a small number of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange that never reduced its dividend during the 1930s. It was cheap. It worked. During the Great Depression, Bon Ami had the most complete distribution to grocery stores of any point in the company’s history. It was a product grocers knew they could sell.
Losing market share when the chemical revolution started…
Resisting change –
and looking like new
After the war, a time of rapid change, our products stayed largely the same. When others added chemicals, bleaches and whiteners, our products started to look old fashioned. Even boring. As the chemical revolution raced ahead, Bon Ami stood still. We lost our spot on most grocery shelves. In 1971, the Beaham family (owners of Faultless Starch) stepped in to rescue Bon Ami.
In the 1970s, a steady stream of letters reached our Kansas City headquarters. We heard from people who were tired of (and in some cases sick from) the new chemicals. We heard from people who wanted simple and products. Something was happening.
More to offer…
It has taken some time, but we have the sense that the market has caught up with us. After almost disappearing from stores altogether, we’ve become a product that people have been seeking.
Countless new brands are emerging to promise old-fashioned cleansers. Established companies are redesigning processes to rediscover products abandoned long ago. But here we are, right where we’ve been all along. We use simple processes and natural ingredients – with names you can actually pronounce!
To meet this new and growing demand, we’ve introduced a full line of healthier cleaning products. The products may look different. But the values, and the approach, are the same. Standing still turned out to be the right move.
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