Condoms, in one form or another and made of various different materials, have been in use since ancient times (by the Romans, the Egyptians and the Chinese). The rubber condom, however, dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century when the process of rubber vulcanization, which makes rubber elastic, was discovered. The first effective rubber condom was manufactured in 1855. Since rubber condoms were more reliable and less expensive to manufacture than the old condoms made of crepe rubber and sulphur, condom manufacturers began to produce them in large numbers.
Soon after that, the development of a new condom manufacturing process based on liquid latex and known as “dipping” produced the seamless modern-day latex condoms we use today. Apart from a few innovations in shape, size, texture and color, today’s condoms are basically the same as those produced early in the 20th century.
The DUREX Condom
In 1915, a man named L.A. Jackson founded the London Rubber Company (LRC) in the U.K. to sell imported (mainly from Germany) condoms and other health care supplies. The LRC registered the DUREX trademark (derived from the words DUrability, Reliability and EXcellence) in 1929.
DUREX condoms manufactured by LRC in the 1930s used the new liquid latex dipping manufacturing technique. In 1950, LRC was registered as a public company and began the first fully automatic production of condoms in 1951. By 1953, LRC engineers had devised a way to simplify the quality testing of DUREX condoms. They introduced electronic testing as part of the condom production process.
The DUREX brand was behind many of the modern innovations introduced into condom manufacturing and production:
- The first lubricated DUREX condom was produced in 1957
- LRC (DUREX) manufactured the world’s first anatomically shaped condom in 1969
- The first DUREX spermicidally lubricated condom was produced in 1974
- The world’s first male non-latex condom was the DUREX Avanti (made out of odorless polyurethane)
Condom use (which had dropped somewhat with the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s and 1970s) began to increase rapidly with the growing public awareness of the danger of HIV/ AIDS. As the demand for condoms as a form of protection against disease and unplanned pregnancies increased, condoms became more and more widely available.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, DUREX introduced innovative condoms to the market, and the DUREX range now includes at least nine different varieties of latex condoms and the polyurethane Avanti condom.
Since 1999, the DUREX brand has been owned by the UK based multinational, SSL International (SSL), which was formed through a merger of Seton Scholl Healthcare and the London International Group (the name adopted by the London Rubber company in 1986).
DUREX now manufactures around one billion condoms per year in 17 different factories worldwide. DUREX condoms are sold in over 150 countries, and the brand is the market leader in condoms in more than 40 countries and represents about a quarter of the global market for condoms.
Almost 80 years after the first DUREX condom was manufactured, DUREX has become the most popular condom brand in the UK and the number one brand condom worldwide.