Looking to the future: the world-class Chorley soap company which survived the Russian Revolution, the Nazis, and Covid-19

It’s not often that a once-in-a-century pandemic isn’t the most tumultuous event in a company’s history, but then again, there aren’t many companies like Chorley-based Droyt Soap Makers.

By Jack Marshall
Thursday, 14th April 2022, 4:55 am

Founded in 1893 in Minsk, Belarus as ‘The Victoria Fine Soap Works’, the company was forced to relocate to Berlin in the 1920s due to the Bolshevik uprising before, barely 15 years later, being forced to move again because of the rise if of the Nazis. Thankfully, they found a more permanent home in Chorley.

Now a manufacturer of world-class soaps, Droyt makes products for a global market of supermarkets, retailers, and independent customers. Using the best vegetable and mineral ingredients, they offer everything from traditional and liquid soaps to shampoo bars and vegan products.

“We make all our soap from scratch, which is quite unusual these days,” says Director Alistair McCracken, who joined the company in 1991. “We manufacture, process and cut the soap, stamp it, and then package it.

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Droyt Products Ltd director Alistair McCracken (left)

“When Covid hit, my first thought was ‘how are we going to make it,” he adds. “There was extra demand, but all non-food retailers shut, so our only customer was Waitrose. I was also worried about getting raw materials - everybody suddenly wanted things like alcohol, which we use in soap, for hand sanitiser.

“We limped along because we had a lot of stock but, after a few months, orders stopped coming in because everybody had bought as much soap as they could use, so we furloughed everyone but a skeleton crew,” Alistair, 63, from Scotland, continues. “Government funding really helped - it was a tricky time.”

In March 2020, Rachelle Bell was considering opening an eco-shop with Green Living Chorley, a green community group which she helped found with her friend Emma Kilburn, but the impact of Covid scuppered her plans. Having been in touch with Droyt about products already, she decided to reach out again.

READ MORE: https://www.lep.co.uk/education/green-living-chorley-i-want-to-be-able-to-look-my-kids-in-the-eyes-in-30-years-1386065

Droyt soap

“I’d been chatting to Alistair about stocking locally-made vegan soaps, so I started working for Droyt part-time,” explains Rachelle, 31, the company’s marketing and social media manager. “Prior to working here, I was at the Body Shop for 10 years, so I had a background in cosmetics and to be involved with the company which made Vegatas, the first vegan eco-friendly product on the market in the ‘80s, is really cool.

“Through other projects, I’d always pushed shopping locally, especially during the pandemic, so I brought that across to Droyt,” adds Rachelle, 31, from the Lake District. “To see that push translate into people coming in to buy stuff was amazing. We’re naturally a very green company and we’re always keen to collaborate with local businesses looking to stock our products or get specific products made.”

Having emerged from the worst of the pandemic, Droyt is now looking to the future.

“A lot of companies failed during the pandemic and we didn’t want that,” says Alistair. “We’re really proud of the quality of product we make, so to keep that going for the future is important.”

Droyt soap
Droyt's fragrances
Droyt employees during the interwar period