Jerry and Goldie Lippman cofounded Gojo in Akron, Ohio, in 1946.
Panic buying is one of the most visible symptoms of coronavirus hysteria, with crazed shoppers emptying grocery store and pharmacy shelves of everything from pasta to thermometers. Perhaps the hardest item to find? Purell, America’s most popular hand sanitizer.
What most don’t know is that Purell is the cornerstone of a 74-year-old family-owned business in Ohio that makes all types of soaps, sanitizers and disinfectants. Called Gojo Industries, it has about 25% of the U.S. hand sanitizer market and generated more than $370 million in revenue in 2018, according to IBISWorld. Forbes estimates the company is 100% owned by the Kanfer family and is worth at least $1 billion.
While it might be hard for now to find Purell at a local pharmacy, there should be no Purell shortages, the company insists. (Gojo answered general questions through a spokesperson, but would not answer questions about the Kanfer family nor make any family member available for comment.)
Gojo’s factories, two in Ohio and one in France, are running at full capacity to ensure it can meet the “substantial increase in demand,” says Gojo Industries spokesperson Samantha Williams. Gojo’s “demand surge preparedness team,” which has helped keep production levels humming during past viral outbreaks like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and the H1N1 “swine flu” in 2009, has been working overtime to bring additional capacity online.