Watkins Incorporated is a manufacturer of health remedies, baking products, and other household items. The entire catalog includes 400 products. It is based in Winona, Minnesota, and largely relies on an independent sales force of 25,000 people to distribute its products. This sales force sells the products using various methods, including the Internet, person to person, trade shows, party planning, and fund-raising. In order to increase overall awareness for the brand, the company has begun offering a select number of products in national retail outlets.
The company was founded by J. R. Watkins in Plainview, Minnesota, who began selling liniment in 1868 door-to-door the southeastern part of the state. The company moved to Winona in 1885 and added a number of products to its lineup. Baking materials including pepper and vanilla extract were added in 1895. J. R. Watkins died in 1911.
By the 1940s, Watkins was the largest direct-sales company in the world, but soon began to decline. The demographics and buying habits of the United States had major shifts in the following decades, and the company did not keep pace. Watkins filed for bankruptcy protection in the 1970s, and was purchased by Minneapolis investor Irwin L. Jacobs in 1978.
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