In the 60s, Heinz Hankammer founded the company BRITA, inspired by his daughter’s name. The idea behind it: optimise tap water. First for car batteries and soon after for home use. In 1970, he launched the first water filter jug and patented it. What started as production in his own garden developed over the course of 50 years into an international company.
The first water filter jug – officially named Haushaltswasserfilter I (household water filter I) – was a funnel that was placed on a transparent vessel. Simple and functional. The funnel’s shape and bright orange colour embodied the style of the 70s. But the filtration principle was visionary. Hankammer used an ion exchange resin and active carbon to reduce limescale along with taste and odour-impairing substances. The result was softer, better-tasting water. Then and now.
BRITA: A 50 year history
A German success story: From the first water filter jug to award winner.
Tea tester, recycling pro and design award winner
The challenge: Heinz Hankammer knew tea made with filtered water tastes and looks good – but how did he convince others? By developing the tea test. He made two cups of tea: one with normal tap water, one with BRITA filtered water. After cooling down, unpleasant streaks floated on the tea made with tap water, while the other was clear with a fine aroma. Impressive to all who saw it.
Tirelessly, Heinz Hankammer improved his product’s technical details without losing sight of topics like sustainability and responsibility. Initially, only the filter material was available as a refill. In 1979, refill filter cartridges were added to BRITA’s portfolio.
Since 1992, the company premises in Taunusstein, Germany, have been home to an in-house recycling facility for used filter cartridges. Here, BRITA separates the mix of active carbon and icon exchange resin the cartridges contain. The next step takes place in the regeneration room where the ion exchange resin is given new life before being used in a blend for new filter cartridges.
In addition to conducting engineering research and expanding the product range to include professional-grade filters for commercial use, BRITA has long focused on design. Heinz Hankammer’s motto of “clear, useful, and economical” is something BRITA designers follow to this day with great success. The water filter jug Navelia was awarded the Japanese Good Design Award in 2008 and the renowned Red Dot Award in 2009.
Quality made in Europe
After launching professional-grade filters in 1980, baristas and restaurant owners flocked to BRITA. Filtered water simply tastes great. Able to develop their full aroma, coffee, tea and food became delicacies. The sector grew quickly, especially because BRITA filtered water protects expensive equipment. Machines and devices no longer require costly maintenance and repair caused by limescale deposits. Today hospitals, nursing homes, schools, kindergartens and offices can also be fitted with their own BRITA water solution.
Markus Hankammer, CEO of the BRITA Group since 1999, is still amazed by his father’s foresight. How at the time he “realised an unfamiliar technology with confidence, without suspecting he was developing a global niche market.” A market BRITA created and continues to lead today.
Worldwide 1,827 employees at 28 national and international subsidiaries and branches in 66 countries work for BRITA, including 942 at the headquarters in Germany. The family-run company maintains production sites in Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland and China.
Expanding the business across the globe is a key strategic objective. The first markets were Spain and France. In the 80s, Great Britain, still an important market today, joined in. Currently, BRITA operates Asian subsidiaries in Japan, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. BRITA also recently opened an office in Turkey, the gateway to Asia.
Getting to know other cultures’ drinking habits and improving people’s water are huge drivers for the development of innovative technologies and modern products. That’s how the world discovers BRITA, which stands for “trust and expertise”, according to Markus Hankammer.