Danish ‘foam empire’ turns 50: The company B6 pays tribute to a controversial material and common sense

In 1972, Kurt Stenbro invented the foam sponge with soap. This was the beginning of 50 years of Danish entrepreneurial history for the company B6 which to the day is still based on the interest in the various uses of materials and the desire to create valuable solutions to its clients.

It all began with a foam sponge … you know, the yellow one with soap from the public swimming pool.

50 years ago, public swimming pools battled poor hygiene because the guests didn’t wash properly before jumping into the water. Back then only wood wool and soap shavings were available but many avoided using them because of harsh reactions to the skin. With no real prerequisites other than an interest in new materials and their properties, the young agricultural graduate Kurt Stenbro decided to find a solution. The result was a user-friendly and hygienic washing sponge with soap. In addition, it also reduced the need for adding chlorine to the pool water.

The product became the starting point for 50 years of successful business.

Sustainability or common sense and responsibility

B6 works primarily as a developer and converter. This means that B6 processes other raw material producers’ materials and refines these into customer specific products for various industries e.g. HVAC, wind turbines, acoustics, furniture, the care- and cleaning sector etc. Today, B6 works with a lot of different materials ranging from natural feathers and cotton to polyethylene, rubber, EPS and yes, polyurethane foam; also known as PUR or plastic.

PUR is by some considered as one of those materials that can potentially pollute our nature. But it is with PUR as it is with any other material produced from oil. It’s not the material itself that pollutes; it’s the way that it’s handled and used that determines whether or not it pollutes our nature.

“These products were never “designed” to end up in our nature, and nor should they”, says Brian Stenbro, CEO of B6.

For many years now, B6 has used materials that are produced from recycled material. Foam residue can be cut, mixed and shaped again and again in order to be reused in the production of new materials. An example of this is the foam quality that is called “rebonded” foam which is named “Comprex” under B6. Therefore, throughout the past 40 years, B6 has made use of recycled foam. However, that didn’t used to be a marketing point:

“Back then, we simply called it common sense. Instead of throwing leftover foam away, it just made sense to reuse the material and create something new and valuable,” Brian Stenbro says.

Today however, B6 works actively with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to continuously ensure better sustainability and a responsible production. The strong focus on the “Green agenda” results in the development of several new materials, solutions and technologies which will support B6 in reaching the objectives set for the area.

Northern Jutland at its best!

It is quite impressive that after 50 years in the industry B6 still shows the same entrepreneurial spirit, ingenuity and curiosity which was the foundation of the company. This, alongside excellent business acumen, decency, a customer oriented approach and common sense, enables the B6 Group to continually create new value creating and customer adapted solutions. It’s the company’s DNA!
The most important reason by far for this success and development has been, and still is, B6’s employees, several of whom have been with the company for 10, 20, 30 … yes some even up to 40 years. That is remarkable.

People from Northern Jutland are well known for their stubbornness but also their flexibility and reliability. These traits are also evident in B6 and they clearly stand out in day-to-day life while at the same time they help create positive results, satisfied customers and the continued development of the company.

But, as with anything else here in life, “everything in moderation”, CEO Brian Stenbro says.

“We all need to be aware of our core values but at the same time we also need to remember that the world around us is changing faster and faster and so we need to be ahead of the development. We must continue to “dare to dare” … that is, be willing to take risks in anything we do and, at the same time, demonstrate that we want to and that we’re able to. I know we can do it.”

The future for B6

B6 has developed their business strategies for the next three to four years. It’s going to be a challenge to reach all of the planned goals but there is no doubt that B6’s management has decided to execute on the strategic plans and to create a positive development.
“We are going to see a different company in the future. We are not afraid. We are ready. That’s just how everyday life is,” says Brian Stenbro.

Facts about B6:

  • The company develops solutions made from foam, rubber, polymer materials, feathers and textiles. The B6 Group is divided into three areas of business: Industry, Clean & Care and Furniture.
  • B6 was founded in Aalborg in 1972 by Kurt Stenbro, and moved locations to Sæby in 1973, where the headquarters has been ever since. Add to it that B6 also has its own production and offices in Slovakia and Germany.
  • B6 is a family run limited liability company with Brian Stenbro as CEO.

In 2006 Brian Stenbro took over the position as CEO after his father Kurt Stenbro, who founded the company in 1972.

The washing sponge with soap that started it all 50 years ago. Today, B6 produces a lot of different sponges for the hygiene and cleaning industry. Among others the yellow and green cleaning sponges. Photo: B6’s own.