Since the Speick plant was placed under protection in 1936, Walter Rau GmbH from Leinfelden-Echterdingen is the only company in the world permitted to use the plant for commercial purposes. For 87 years now, the company has been using it to produce an absolute classic in the world of natural cosmetics: Speick soap with its memorable orange colour. What was once a soap manufacturer has now become a producer of natural cosmetics with a range that also includes creams, shampoos, shower gels and deodorants.
All of the products are based on a plant that grows above the tree line at an altitude of 1,800 metres in the Austrian state of Carinthia. In the Nock Mountains Biosphere Reserve, alpine farming families with harvesting licenses are permitted to harvest the valerian plant. The dried plants are subjected to in-depth laboratory analysis in the company headquarters in the Stuttgart Region and distilled to produce the precious raw material. The essential oil is contained in the roots in particular. It cannot be manufactured artificially. "Artificial production would not be acceptable to us anyway", emphasises Wikhart Teuffel, grandson of the company founder and CEO of Speick Naturkosmetik.
His grandfather Walter Rau ventured to found the company in 1928, in the midst of the global economic crisis. As an offshoot of the Stuttgart-based family business "Vereinigte Seifenfabriken", he wanted to carry on his parents' soap-making tradition, but as a dedicated anthroposophist he did not want to make "just" a product. His idea was to create a gentle and natural soap for body care. He rediscovered Speick, which had all but been forgotten. The plant is said to have a calming effect on the central nervous system while simultaneously stimulating the vegetative nervous system.
Rau provided further training for his employees, set up a company crèche and put local recreational facilities in place for his employees. The company still operates according to these sustainability principles today, and with its 50 staff is in a very strong position. The body care products are exported to 34 countries, but Germany still represents the mainstay of sales. Speick products are available not only in chemists and health shops but also in drug stores and in supermarkets. The company has now also established online shops, and was awarded the CSR Award by the German Federal Government in 2014.