S. C. Johnson now owns the Kiwi black shoe polish. Originally manufactured by an Australian business, which initially marketed the product in Australia in 1906, it was distributed in about 180 countries as of 2005.
William Ramsay created the polish in Australia and called it “Kiwi” after the flightless bird unique to New Zealand, the home nation of his wife, Annie Elizabeth Meek. Its success in Australia was mirrored by its adoption by British and American soldiers during World War I.
History of the company
In 2008, a can of Kiwi shoe polish was owned by several businesses over the years. For the first six decades of its life, it was one of many Australian corporations with the name Kiwi, all of which were situated in Victoria, including Kiwi Boot Polish Co. (1913-1916) and Kiwi Polish Co. (1916–1971).
The firm later merged with Nicholas International Ltd., a Melbourne-based pharmaceutical company that manufactures international names, including “Aspro” and Rennie. Nicholas Kiwi was given the name of the new firm.
In 1984, it was purchased by American-based Sara Lee, then called Consolidated Foods Corporation, which later transferred the Nicholas medicinal items to Roche of Switzerland while keeping the Kiwi range.
Then came World War II. The Blitzkrieg was unleashed on Poland, the Warsaw branch was destroyed by fire just days after the war began, and the manager and his whole family were killed during the German occupation. The occupying army took over the French plant, but the manager and his wife escaped to England.
While there were several older leather-preserving products available, such as the Irish brand “Punch,” which was introduced in 1851, and the German brand “Erdal,” which was Kiwi, initially produced in 1901, was the first shoe polish to resemble current types, largely geared at producing shine.
In 1904 Ramsay and fellow Scottish expatriate Hamilton McKellar established a small business in Melbourne to manufacture boot polish and other items.
Ramsay and McKellar modified the mixture and marketed it as “Kiwi Boot Polish” in Melbourne. Ramsay placed boxes of the substance onto his horse and cart and marketed them to farmers as a boot protector.
The Scottish ex-pat was selling his boot polish all around Melbourne. Kiwi not only polished but also cared for the leather, restored color, and was waterproof, providing an advantage over competitors.
Ramsay began selling the product to Europe two years later, and color variations like dark tan and oxblood, as well as a patent leather polish, were added to the line. Other leather products, such as saddles, were also treated with polish.
It was evident that a victorious war conclusion, along with enormous social, economic, and political transformations, would undoubtedly be followed by great difficulties and significant potential in peacetime consumer economies.
Kiwi was well-positioned to capitalize on this trend. Under the guidance of John and Tom Ramsay, plans for development and extension were formed in 1946.
- 1878: The Ramsay family, including a young William, relocated to Australia and succeeded in the real estate industry.
- Ramsay met his future wife, Annie Elizabeth Meek, in New Zealand in 1901 and named the shoe polish after the flightless bird associated with that region.
- William Ramsay died in 1914, and his father, John, took over the firm, followed ten years later by William’s sons.
- In 2006, the company gathered and delivered 100,000 shoes for Africa as part of the Malaki project to commemorate Kiwi’s 100th anniversary.
- SC Johnson purchased Kiwi for an estimated $328 million in 2011.
Kiwi Shoe Polish was not the first boot polish on the market but what differentiated it was that it also preserved and restored the colour of leather and made shoe ware water resistant. Ramsay began marketing his product in Melbourne. He would load boxes of his polish on his horse and wagon and hawk it to the ranchers in the surrounding countryside. So successful was KIWI, that its popularity spread throughout Australia, based solely on its superior performance.
The Warsaw branch was destroyed by fire just days after the war began, and the manager and his whole family were killed during the German occupation. The occupying army took over the French plant, but the manager and his wife escaped to England.
Kiwi shoe polish is normally supplied in 60-gram (2-ounce) flat, round tins with an easy-open facility. Because the amount of shoe polish required is minimal, and the shoe polish would desiccate owing to volatile substances such as naphtha, a big container would dry up before being used completely.