Business booming for Escondido soap company

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps founded in 1948

10News got a look inside the factory of a little-known local soap company that is growing fast.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps had more than $44 million in sales last year and is known for making the best-selling organic liquid and bar soap in North America.

"Liquid soap is our most popular by far," said David Bronner, who runs the Escondido-based company with his mother and brother.

His grandfather Emanuel Bronner – a master soapmaker from Germany – founded Dr. Bronner's in 1948, beginning a unique tradition that includes no advertising.

"We've always relied on word of mouth," said Bronner." Our customers become our ambassadors."

Those customers are behind the company's 1,000 percent growth in the past decade. Their secret: be true to yourself.

"The money's important but that helps us with our activism which is really what we're about," said Bronner.

That activism includes paying a fair price to farmers in Third World countries and making sure their suppliers engage in fair labor practices, which starts with them.

Fran Pitrone, 91, has worked part-time at the soap company with full benefits for more than 50 years.

"I don't think there are many companies out there that handle employees the way they do," she said.

Everything from the soaps to the skincare is vegetable-based and certified organic.

But Dr. Bronner's Soap is not just about cleaning. It is also the inspiration behind a substance that is now used to protect people and property.

The foam used to fight wildfires was developed by Bronner's father, who ran the company until his death in 1998. A version of the foam is also used to make movie snow.

When asked what his father and grandfather would think now, Bronner responded, "I think they'd be pretty psyched. I mean, we're doing it the right way."

Dr. Bronner's products have already expanded into Target and are poised to more than double in revenue in the next five years, all with just 80 employees.

Bronner says unlike Burt's Bees or Tom's of Maine, which were bought up by big corporations, Dr. Bronner's will stay family-owned.

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