The beginningsThe Eckert family founded Proderma in 1965.
Lorenz Eckert developed packaging concepts for industrial customers. Proderma was located on the Luzernerstrasse in Malters. The building and the warehouse were relatively small and could accommodate four machines. The primary activity was citrus-scented towelettes which were packed and sold to the food industry. Business was running well and later refreshing towelettes – based on a personal recipe - completed the range. At the end of the 1980s, Lorenz Eckert died; his wife and son took over the business until they decided to sell it.
1990 to 1994Meanwhile, Pius Niederberger, a young and enterprising cheesemaker, was taking his Master's and pondering on how he wanted to shape his career.
He learned of Proderma's situation from his girlfriend Luzia Müller's brother and decided, together with Hansjörg Müller, to take over this interesting venture. It soon became clear to him that the future was not just about refreshing towelettes. He had Proderma audited for the GMP Pharma certificate and at the same time renamed the company Proderma Betriebs AG. The beginnings were labour intensive. Fortunately, Pius Niederberger was able to count on the help of the existing production manager and his successor, Toni Scheuber, as well as on the cooperation of his father. When necessary, Pius operated the machines himself and acquired a great deal of knowledge.
Often, he and Luzia browsed pharmacies and department stores to get inspiration for new products and markets. Pius was in his element when it came to acquiring new customers. With a healthy dose of perseverance and tenacity, he worked his way up to the decision-makers at large corporations, was able to present his products and ideas, and most of the time won contracts. The three-person team was no longer able to handle the work alone and resorted to homeworkers and a workshop for the disabled to package the filled sachets in boxes.
1995 to 1999Proderma developed a special wipe for cleaning computer screens and a refreshing alcohol-free towelette with aloe vera.
These products were sent for sampling to potential customers - many did not respond. Pius Niederberger was not discouraged went on to celebrate a great success when he convinced Swissair of the quality and reliability of Proderma. From 1996 onwards, Proderma was awarded the contract to deliver refreshing wipes for the airline and its affiliates - really flying high! This laid the foundation for rapid growth. As the premises in Malters became too small for the booming business, Pius Niederberger went in search of a suitable new site and found what he was looking for in Schötz. He bought the land as well as the buildings of Ritex AG (men's clothing manufacturer). In the new Proderma “plant 1”, the premises were remodelled to adapt to the company’s needs. "Plant 1" passed the Pharma GMP certification and Proderma was allowed to mix and package a new hydrogel for wound care. Innovation came through contoured bags (cut to the shape specified by the customer). With the expansion and conversion of machines, the packaging range was extended and new customers, especially abroad, won. In 1999, exports accounted for about 70% of total sales. The number of employees had now grown to six.
2000 to 2004Growth continued and at the beginning of the new millennium around 65 people were already working at Proderma.
In 2000 "plant 1" was extended to include an additional production area and a warehouse was built. In addition, two rooms for the packaging of medical products were installed in the production hall.
Meanwhile production had been switched to a two-shift operation. The latest innovation concerned stick packs, some of them in jumbo format, that could be filled with powder or liquid. Pius Niederberger and his team realised the potential of stick packs. Other machines were purchased or converted. In the preparation area, a gluing unit and a cartoner were purchased, which are used to this day to enable individual bags to be packed automatically in small boxes.
And so it came, as it had to: the premises were too small again. There was no room for offices, especially for project managers who had the ever more important task of looking after customers. In 2002, the former Schötz civil protection building was acquired (15,000 m² of land with a larger administration building). Unfortunately, during the year 2002, Pius Niederberger became seriously ill. He lost the fight against cancer on 05.04.2003. During this difficult period, Luzia Niederberger became more and more involved in the company. She took over the Human Resources and also accompanied the conversion and the move into the former civil protection facility. This new “plant 2” was successfully GMP audited by Swissmedic. In 2004, the construction of the new warehouse and assembly hall ("plant 3") was carried out near "plant 1".
2005 to 2009New types of machines appeared on the market and Proderma was thus able to offer filling in pyramidal bags, doypacks (bags with resealable spouts), side-closure stick packs and oshibori (rolled up refreshing towelettes of high quality).
An important step was the organic certification as well as the ISO 9001 (2000) and ISO 13485 (2007) certifications. In 2007, Proderma was also registered for the production of animal food. In the following year, "plant 3" was successfully GMP-audited and received the approval to fill medicines in plastic bottles. In 2009, a competitor, Swiss Copack AG, had to file for bankruptcy. Proderma took over six employees, some equipment and part of the stock. Over the weekend, the transfer was organised so that production could continue to run on the following Monday for orders in progress. A memorable moment that employees present at the time still remember today! Ever since, the ex-Swiss Copack workers commute daily from Horgen to Schötz. This testifies to the good working atmosphere at Proderma!
2010 to 2014Coincidentally, Hilge Pumpen AG, which was located in Schötz next to Proderma, had to close its doors
Proderma bought this neighbouring property with 20,000 m² of land including 5,500 m² of buildings, which was called "Plant 4". Of course, this plant also received the GMP certification. Also during this period many new products came on line: tinplate cans could be filled and crimped, double-chamber bags could be filled and packed with powder and liquid and tubular bags appeared in the packaging range. On behalf of a third party about 10 varieties of flavour were formulated and produced then placed on aromatic sticks which were individually packed. Standard products developed by Proderma could now be ordered via the web store. Customer requirements also grew. In 2014, two temperature-controlled storage rooms - one for warmth, the other for cold - were built and qualified.
2015 to todayIn 2015, a huge challenge was a major distributor's request to fill washing powder directly into small cardboard boxes and close them tightly
Proderma invested in order to meet the order and, after a few versions and box tests, the manufacturing procedure was perfected. At the same time, Proderma celebrated its 50th anniversary with its partners, local industries and, of course, its most important asset: its employees. Proderma presented itself as a jubilee society full of vitality with many more projects and ideas to realise. The leadership team has a clear vision of the future of Proderma; safety, reliability, expertise and flexibility remain the key pillars of the company. The convenience market with its single-wrapped finished products is well established but still growing with new product categories. From ready-to-eat dishes made up of multiple items to be combined and from facial masks to aqueous solutions for single-use chemical tests, the variety of potential future applications is too broad to list. Proderma wants to further expand its core skills in flexible packaging and remains open to new investments. The company has large land reserves and new construction is being planned. Proderma has all the necessary conditions to write - together with its customers - an exciting new chapter.