Only available as health food product.
Salus expands production
To this conclusion came the physician and medical practitioner Dr. med. Greither after he became severely ill himself. Throughout his life Dr. Greither was curious and thirsty for knowledge. Soon after his promotion in 1896 he trained further as neurologist and learned under eminent doctors. But that’s not all: He also studied veterinary medicine and in Berlin he added another field, that of dentistry.
"That led me to learn about the importance of natural nutrition and the correct use of teeth when chewing the food as a prevention against the countless illnesses, which start in the digestion and the intestine."
This knowledge helped him later, when he, who had never been sick before, became ill at the age of 30. "I became nervous, suffered from physical weakness […]. I felt miserable and could only recover slowly due to my chronic weakness."
When his condition deteriorated, his doctors decided on a stomach operation. But, while preparing for the planned operation, the "miracle" happened, because enemas with water dissolved the blockages. However, the illness returned after a short while with a vengeance. Confined to bed again, he thought a lot about his illness. His extensive medical knowledge helped him in this regard. His experience with the previous illness made him believe that there must be a connection between his nutrition and his poor health. He did not rule out the possibility that inadequate digestion might also have triggered the illness.
Therefore he restricted his diet and further developed the self-massage against constipation, which also life-reformer Viktor Prießnitz had used. Greither coined the term "abdominal thrusting", meaning the upwards thrusting and bulging out of the stomach in rhythmic movements.
After he succeeded in healing himself by a restricted diet and the technique of abdominal thrusting, he set out on a migratory life as physician and researcher. He substituted in colleagues’ practices throughout Germany to study regional differences in their food habits. For six months he studied technical books and travel reports in the Prussian State Library in Berlin about the nature of nutrition all over the world. Later on, he travelled to far-distant countries. The stomach muscle training of an Indian tribe using a stone placed on the stomach, inspired him to develop his abdominal thrusting belt.
Because of his previous illness Greither developed the Salus cure and founded the Salus works in 1916 in Munich on the Türkenstraße. The cure is based on the two principles: "Healing means cleansing" and "Healthy by yourself". A cure pack consisted of 900 grams of Salus oil for cleansing the intestines and two packets of Greitherna pastilles for purification. Sometime later came healing peat and healing clay for disinfection of the intestine, "Dr. med. Otto Greither's Munich health tea" to stimulate the metabolism and dissolve uric acid and Salus herbal drops as well as the abdominal thrusting belt, to intensify the stomach "thrusting".
They contrasted conventional medicine with naturopathy, chemical pest control with ecological agriculture, increasing meat consumption with the vegetarian lifestyle - the "life reform", the concept surfaced for the first time in the 1890s, was a reaction to the changed life conditions and social grievances, which arose with urbanisation and industrialisation.
Terms such as "natural lifestyle", "the art of healthy, sensible human life", "dietetics" were terms used as synonyms for life reform. Core of the movement were vegetarianism, the naturopathy movement and naturism. This epoch also brought wholefoods and muesli to the fore. Known proponents of naturopathy were the agriculturists Vinzenz Prießnitz (1799-1851) and Johann Schroth (1798-1856) as well as the priest Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897).
Products of the reformers were first offered for sale by the Berlin merchant Carl Braun (1858-1943) in a special department. This was the ancestor of all health food shops: In 1887 he opened a health food shop at Potsdamer station in Berlin, which he called "Health Centre". The first health food shop to bear this name was opened by Carl August Heynen in 1900 in Wuppertal. In this way, distribution and sales of the products was no longer by the manufacturer direct to the end customer but through the health food shop (department store) as a specialist line. Over the decades, a "health food shop network" developed and expanded all over Germany. By 1925, there were already 200 health food shops across the country. In 1925, a number of them decided to form a union of German health food shop owners, out of which grew a cooperative in 1927, which in 1930 assumed the name "Neuform Vereinigung Deutscher Reformhäuser e.G." (Neuform cooperative of German health food shops).
Also Salus founder Dr. med. Otto Greither opened his own health food shops: the "Salus sales and information sites". The company successfully expanded, and by 1928 there were already 50 shops.
To document the connection with the Salus health food shops to the public, Otto Greither renamed the "Salus Werk" [Salus works] to "SALUS Haus" [SALUS house]. On 15 February 1929, he opened the "Salus health resort for natural healing methods, diet and massage, and healthy life reform" in Munich on the Bavariaring, which was later continued at Tegernsee.
The organisational expenditure increased, so the company management decided to dispose of the health food shops. Subsequently the health food shops became Salus' most important customers. For 100 years SALUS Haus has been part of the life reform and a reliable partner of the health food shops. The company grew together with the health food shops and today it is one of the largest health products manufacturer in Germany.
At the end of the Second World War, in Munich about half of the entire city area had been destroyed; and 90% of the old city lay in ruins. SALUS Haus had not been spared, either. Dozens of bomb attacks affected the production. "But something remained standing, with which we could restart after the war", remembers Otto Greither, eldest son of company founder Dr. med. Otto Greither.
He took care of reconstructing the tea production. Little by little he and his colleagues succeeded in creating a room again for a mixing facility in the remaining buildings at Schönstraße 10. "And then we just started to make tea."
Otto Greither assumed the role of the head of the family - for his brother Hans, but also for his friends. For the 20-year old orphan the employees of SALUS Haus became a surrogate family.
"Of course we made sure that they all had something to eat. I never ate bread alone, if someone hungry was sitting next to me." At an early stage he also adopted the clause "Property entails obligations" from the Bavarian Constitution as the guiding principle of his actions. "I can do what I want with my property and I do, of course, but I must share it if I can. This is how our society functions."
Otto Greither did not need to advertise his teas. "The customers grabbed everything that we produced." More difficult than selling was production. In order to be able to manufacture tea in the winter as well, he needed firewood and matches, which he got - like many other everyday things – for "compensation". Barter trade blossomed. "Now no one can imagine how difficult it was to get a bag of cement." Greither needed cement to reconstruct the buildings on the company premises. Through "agents" he could exchange, for example, 100 packs of tea for a bag of cement.
At the age of 20, Greither was not yet an adult in those days, with the age of majority not being until 21. He was therefore not permitted to lead the company. But a notary confirmed that - because of his military and entrepreneurial experiences - he could be regarded as an adult, so he was finally registered as the managing director of SALUS Haus.
After the first year of reconstruction, Salus was able to enter production again, things were looking up. More and more employees returned home from the war. They all needed work, they wanted to be involved. At that time, SALUS Haus had already taken on 20 employees. The experience and worldly wisdom from this time of need after the war continue to influence Otto Greither’s philosophy to this day and form the basis of the Salus company culture.
The employment of a pharmacist in 1962 for the company's laboratory opened a new chapter in the Salus history. Otto Greither had hired the talented young pharmacist, Prof. Dr. Heinz Schilcher from the Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU), Munich, as head of the scientific department. The young scientist, who was the first to succeed in analysing all the important chemical constituents of a plant from an extract in his thesis, was to put this analytical instrument for quality control into practice at Salus for the first time.
Despite concerns expressed by his authorised representative, Otto Greither spared no expense for this project. Because neither the existing inspection and research laboratory nor the analytical equipment were sufficient for the requirements of the ambitious young scientist. Without further ado Greither arranged for the employee canteen to be rebuilt into a spacious laboratory with the most modern analytical equipment. Apart from modern facilities for Greither also a professional team under the leadership of Schilcher was very important. Therefore he hired a biologist with a doctorate, a pharmacist and three chemical technicians.
Schilcher set completely new standards with his purity regulations for plants. In 1963, Schilcher introduced a flying insect test to detect pesticides. For purity regulations of plant specimens, he developed a series of 82 thin-layer chromatograms.
This was followed by 46 more work specifications for the so called fingerprint chromatograms and other quality tests. In 1967 he finally established gas chromatographic determination of pesticides. His scientific publications were published in numerous professional journals and so he was dubbed the "father of herbal medicine standardisation" and "residue Schilcher". His strict guidelines were quickly adopted in the Salus philosophy and guarantee the top quality of all Salus products.
Today, the Salus laboratory still works according to the latest state of research, with the most modern equipment and under strict controls, complying with the official pharmacopoeia and internal test specifications. Nowadays the scientific department consists of 51 employees, thereof 18 university graduates. Many of the self-imposed quality standards exceed the legal requirements by far.
At the end of 1962, Otto Greither bought the Floradix pharmaceutical factory in Wiesbaden from the Wilhelm Blumenthal company that, inter alia, manufactured products such as Energetikum and Kindertrunk, as well as Floradix. It could not have been imagined at the time that Floradix would become the highest revenue-earner for Salus and probably the best-selling alcohol-free tonic to prevent iron deficiency the world over.
"One hundred millilitres of the tonic contained just two to three milligrams of bivalent iron", remembered Professor Dr. Heinz Schilcher (deceased 2015), former manager of the Salus scientific department. The present-day Floradix contains, by comparison, 82 milligrams of bivalent iron per 100 ml. The pharmacist found a natural source with high iron-II content, the yeast fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The yeast could be "fed" with a bivalent iron compound. In an experiment, Schilcher was able to prove that 30 percent of this iron contained in the yeast could be absorbed by the human body. He developed a new recipe for Floradix based on iron-containing fruit juices and "iron-yeast" that contained 45 mg of bivalent iron in 60 ml of tonic. At the same time, through pasteurizing – the process also used to increase the shelf life of milk - he introduced a technological innovation for bottling. The scientists at SALUS Haus have continuously improved the composition of the iron tonic; the current recipe was formulated in 2008.
In most export countries Floradix® became a bestseller. Christel Gursche, who distributed the Salus products in Canada together with her husband, said that her husband successfully launched Floradix onto the Canadian market with tremendous passion and also relished drinking it.
Also top athletes discovered the effect of Floradix. At a meeting of the health food industry in Sankt Moritz, a ski race was once organised with a prominent participant - the skier Christa Kinshofer, who used to reside in Rosenheim at the time. Kinshofer was to hold a brief presentation in front of 200 participants, after she had won the race. Spontaneously, she decided to speak for half an hour on how much Floradix had helped her win. "I was completely speechless" remembers former sales manager Richard Mayr.
It turned out that many other winter sports athletes use Floradix, too. And so between 2006 and 2010 Salus became an important sponsor for Magdalena Neuner, Martina Beck (née Glagow), Verena Bentele, Martin Braxenthaler, Theresa Kempfle, Andrea Rothfuss and Gerd Schönfelder. At the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Vancouver, Canada, these athletes sponsored by Salus won 21 medals, including 14 gold. The athletes advertised Floradix not only on posters and advertising spots, but even at autograph signings.
At an early stage Otto Greither recognised the changes in the market and knew that the marketing channel through the health food shops alone would not be sufficient to secure the long-term existence of his company. The sale of Salus products in pharmacies and drug stores was out of the question in the post-war era out of consideration for the health food shops. Otto Greither, therefore, decided to export his products. "This really was the key to the strong development of SALUS Haus", says the former managing director, Hans-Joachim Sutter.
Otto Greither, who is as fond of voyages of discovery as his father, gets to know keen followers of life reform abroad, who are interested in launching his Salus products on the market. This included many German expatriates who carry the idea of health food shop to their new home and spread the word there, but also the native residents who attach great importance to healthy living.
Nowadays, Salus delivers to more than 65 countries and has own subsidiaries in Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Chile. In all countries, Floradix is the Salus bestseller.
Salus products are supplied in North America through the Canadian company Flora. About 20 years ago, Pierre Martineau, journalist and publisher, reported extensively on the history of Salus and the factory in Bruckmühl in two of his health magazines, in French and English, spreading the word across the whole of Canada. Contact with and an invitation to Salus was arranged in 1996 through Thomas Greither, son of Otto Greither and managing director of Flora. Martineau was impressed by the high standards of quality in the production at Bruckmühl and even today has fond memories of the Bavarian hospitality.
Also on the other side of the Pacific, in New Zealand, Salus products represent an important part of the health product range. Rolf Hilke and his wife Rosemarie took over the long-established Red Seal Laboratories in 1991 and expanded it to become a major provider of health products. In 2012 the company was awarded "Salus export customer of the year".
In England, where the export subsidiary Salus UK Ltd was established in 1981, the Salus products became indispensable as well. "At first, Salus products were a new experience for many of our customers. But after they recognised their potential effectiveness, the products became widely accepted," says Harry Littlewood, office manager of Salus UK. Something similar reports Isabel Blanco, manager of Salus Floradix España SL. "In Spain, SALUS Haus has always had a reputation for manufacturing high quality products. This was so even before the Salus subsidiary was founded."
At SALUS Haus, the points were still set to growth. In 1966, Otto Greither took over the Pullach company Alpenländisches Kräuterhaus that manufactured medicinal herbal tea blends under the "Wurzelsepp" brand name. The rooms in Schönstraße 10 in Munich were bursting at the seams. The urgently needed expansion was not possible due to a construction restriction by the city planners, so Greither started to search for new premises for the company. A few years beforehand he had acquired a house in the idyllic Bruckmühl, just an hour's drive away from Munich where he spent weekends with his family. Encouraged by his wife, in 1967 he purchased the lot below the house from the Henkel company, where the former sawmill belonging to Holzwerke Zapfendorf AG was located.
Step by step, they relocated to Bruckmühl. First, the existing buildings were thoroughly renovated. The tea department was able to start work at the new location in the autumn of 1967. The buildings for galenics (liquid production) were rebuilt one hundred metres away.
The business was opened in August 1968. No one left and no one was laid off due to the change of site. Greither arranged a transport service for employees who continued to live in Munich.
He initially provided four VW buses for this purpose. The transport service continued until the last driver retired in 2000.
Bruckmühl stood for growth. But SALUS Haus was certainly not immune from setbacks. The first one occurred in 1974, when a fire in the finished goods warehouse destroyed all produced teas and liquid products. But since neither the raw materials nor the machines were affected, production was able to resume immediately.
The second fire in March 1986, however, was disastrous for the company. It destroyed the entire tea production – raw as well as finished materials. Even worse: the fire also destroyed all machines for tea production.
Hans-Joachim Sutter, managing director and Otto Greither's right-hand man, immediately rented the neighbouring empty building of a former blanket making factory. "The roof was dilapidated, many windows smashed and there were holes in the ground where the machines had once stood which we had to fill in." To bridge the temporary bottleneck, all the staff helped and packed tea by hand in the canteen at weekends. As he was so impressed with his employees' willingness to help, Otto Greither took out life insurance for each one, in which he paid in 30 D-Mark for every hour's overtime.
The founder of Salus was a physician. The founder of Schoenenberger, Walther Schoenenberger (1901- 1982), was a pharmacist. There are many similarities between these two companies. That was also one of the reasons why Salus took over one of its largest competitors in 1991.
Walther Schoenenberger had already worked with plant juices during his pharmaceutical studies. He was convinced that a plant can only achieve its full healing effect through the interaction of the various ingredients such as phytochemicals, vitamins or trace elements. These substances are only present in the highest concentration in fresh plants. In his mother's kitchen, he was experimenting with the careful production of freshly extracted fresh plant juices without alcohol or preservatives in the1920s. In 1927, he began with the first production in Cannstatt, which he moved just one year later due to capacity constraints to a former brewery in nearby Magstadt near Stuttgart – where the company is still based today.
The acquisition of the Schoenenberger company made the Salus group market leader in the health food store business. Both companies complemented each other very well, not just because of a similar corporate philosophy, but also because there was little overlap in their products. Schoenenberger's strength – the fresh plant juices – were unique in their quality and range. The company had - like Salus - purchased several companies such as, for example, the foodstuff manufacturer, Hensel, or the cosmetics company, Extracta, today called Schoenenberger Naturkosmetik, which complemented the company's range very well.
The acquisition came about because Dr. Hanns Schoenenberger, the son of the company founder, retired and there was no successor in the family.
Schoenenberger also owns the trademark rights of "Labiosan" for Germany and Switzerland. Even the South Tyrolean alpinist legend Luis Trenker (1892 – 1990) advertised for the zinc balm. When he was on his way to a 8.000 meters high mountain he was able to treat a Sherpa's poorly healing leg wound with "Labiosan", the only remedy against glacial sunburn on the lips at that time. The letter is still kept in the Schoenenberger archives.
In the 1970s, Schoenenberger developed the Olbas Sports Line, together with the then doctor of the German national football team. Of all years, Schoenenberger wanted to discontinue this sports line in 2006, the year that the World Cup was being held in Germany. The outrage of the national team was so great that Olbas Sport was continued. Since then, Schoenenberger has been the official supplier for the DFB (German Football Association). The players do not just use the Olbas active spray for bruises, but even spray it on their skin under their shirts. The evaporating essential oils ensure that the players can breathe more easily through the nose. Olbas Sport was also there in 2014 for the German team’s fourth title win in Brazil.
Otto Greither, the founder's eldest son, has been leading Salus for more than 70 years now. He is one of the eldest still active managing directors in Germany and he remained true to his demands on quality, his bond with nature and not least his employees. Greither built a company group with more than 400 employees which produce around 1.500 different products based on plants, ranging from teas through tonics and drops to tablets and capsules. Salus has a turnover of around 100 million euros per year.
The magnitude of the leap from the modest conditions after the war and the present can be seen best using the example of tea: nowadays a total of 300 tons of herbs, fruits and spices are processed at Salus every year to produce tea. Only the filter bags produced in this period brewed as tea would fill up 97.000 bath tubs.
Since the middle of the year 2015 Otto Greither has been supported in the management by his successor Dr. Florian Block. The business economist and lawyer wants to continue the company philosophy: "Practical innovations, a sustainable approach, social corporate responsibility and consideration for the environment are the cornerstones of a history of success."
In 2016 Salus celebrated its centenary. As part of the celebrations, on 23 July 2016 Salus opened the doors for the public for the first time in history at the premises in Bruckmühl: More than 10.000 visitors accepted the invitation and used the opportunity to gain insight into how teas and medicines from healing-plants are produced. There was much to discover at the information booths: from tonic tasting to information about training at Salus.
The premises filled up with people shortly after the opening at 11 o'clock. With best weather the interested visitors could taste many products, get information about topics like career and sustainability and do tours in the production areas to see how Salus produces the teas and tonics. In the herb garden children did handicrafts and made soaps from natural materials. There was also plenty to eat and drink – everything from vegan Bratwurst to fruit cake was served. The run on the factory sale, especially built up for this occasion, was huge.