by AMELIA WEDEMEYER
The American success story of J.R. Watkins products begins in Winona, where the headquarters are to this day, employing many local Winonans and bringing a sense of pride to the area. And now, as the company nears 150 years in business, unlike many older companies, J.R. Watkins is expanding its consumer reach.
Started in 1868 by J.R. Watkins, who worked out of his Plainview home at the time, the apothecary company’s first product was the Liniment Pain Reliever, which was made with camphor from evergreen trees and capsicum from red peppers. Though the product line expanded and business grew under Watkins’ helm, it wasn’t until Watkins’ nephew, Paul Watkins, took over the company in 1911 that the business was expanded to various locations in North America as well as Europe and South America, touting a product line that currently includes bath and body, gourmet, health and home care. And now, J.R. Watkins is gaining an even greater reach as one of the 31 brands handpicked by Target for the popular chain’s “Made to Matter” collection, which showcases products that support the the three pillars of Made to Matter — foster unique collaborative partnerships, develop exclusive innovations and be committed to responsibility. As part of Made to Matter, J.R. Watkins created an exclusive line of coconut products that include a room freshener, an all-purpose cleaner, a dish soap and a hand soap.
“I can say, collectively, partnering with a retailer like Target is enormous for J.R. Watkins,” commented Georgette Moe, marketing director of product development at J.R. Watkins. “They have a well-recognized brand and it fits well with the product line.”
According to Moe, the J.R. Watkins brand is doing very well, which in turn means that many J.R. Watkins employees are similarly doing well. With the Target partnership, Moe hopes that J.R. Watkins will reach even more consumers and potential buyers. “The difference is that Target is just an enormous brand located in so many places,” she explained. “It’s just a huge distribution partner.”
In addition to selling J.R. Watkins at Target, Moe said that the products can be found locally at Seversons, Freedom stations, Rochester Wholesale, Hy-Vee, Midtown Foods, Goltz Pharmacy and Walmart.