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About Thornton & Ross

Thornton & Ross is a leading UK OTC branded business with an increasing presence in branded prescription products – particularly in dermatology.

The company has grown organically with brands such as Zoflora® and Covonia® which have become household names and also through the acquisition of brands such as Setlers®, Radian B® Metanium® and Flexitol®. In the last decade we have also developed new brands including Hedrin® which is now a leading head lice treatment in Europe.

Following acquisition by the STADA group Thornton & Ross has merged with Genus Pharmaceuticals and markets a range of well known branded medicines including Cetraben® emollients and Movelat® topical pain relief in addition to a range of generic medicines.

Company History


On the 23rd November 1922 Thornton & Ross was founded by Mr Nathan Thornton and Mr Phillip Ross in rented premises in an old dyehouse in Colne Vale Road, Milnsbridge, Huddersfield. The company turned over £16 in its first month’s trading. Nathan Thornton had been Works Manager of a Tar Distillery and Ammonia Works, manufacturing disinfectants and soaps from coal tar by-products. This enabled him to make particular study of disinfectants and antiseptics and led to his development of the Zoflora brand. Phillip Ross, a native of Beverley in East Yorkshire, served with a Hull firm of Manufacturing Chemists before coming to Huddersfield where his particular sphere was toilet preparations and pharmaceutical products.

1920s & 30s

From the start, the founders were quite literally hands on in the business and Mr Thornton and Mr Ross apparently even made their own desks. The trade depression in the '20s made for a tough commercial climate in which to establish a new company, but by 1926 Thornton & Ross had 10 employees and purchased its first car for a company representative (or "Traveller" as they were called then.)

By 1928 the employee count had risen to 16 and the Colne Vale Road premises were purchased outright. An improvement and expansion programme started with the acquisition of the Company's first commercial vehicle in 1934. Such was the level of growth that new premises were necessary and in 1937 the company moved to its present location in Linthwaite, to a factory which had originally housed a manufacturer of motor vehicles.

1940s & 50s

During the Second World War the company was engaged in war work producing medicines - and had government contracts for the manufacture of large quantities of disinfectants.

In 1946 work to the Analytical and Development laboratories was started and the factory was extended. In the following year the company celebrated its Silver Jubilee at the Town Hall in Huddersfield. The Stardrops trademark was registered in 1945. Stardrops had been one of the first detergents developed in response to war-time soap rationing (the brand was divested in 2008). In addition to "packed goods" (medicines and ingredients which were packed in small units and labelled with the name of the retail chemist supplying them) Thornton & Ross produced a number of proprietary products such as Peractum Antiseptic Disinfectant and Sanident Denture Cleanser.

1960s and 70s

The 1960s and 70s saw the rise of the supermarkets and Thornton & Ross eventually expanding distribution for Zoflora outside the chemist trade.

In 1968, the Medicines Act brought the first comprehensive licensing system for medicines in the UK and products such as the original Covonia formulation (a local pharmacy nostrum which the company had acquired) were further developed and licensed under the new regulations. That same year the sons of the founders, Ralph Thornton and Vernon Ross, became Joint Managing Directors and took the lead in the next phase of growth for the company.

Factory expansion included an extension to the Zoflora Production area and new Manufacturing and Analytical laboratories.

1980s & 90s

In 1986 Jonathan Thornton was appointed a director, with his father Ralph Thornton retiring as Chief Executive the following year. Vernon Ross also retired from the company.

In February 1993 the company attained BSI ISO 9001 accreditation for a company wide management system.

In 1998 Thornton & Ross celebrated its 75th anniversary and the Covonia Bull made his first appearance in the press before going on to TV the following year.

2000 - Present

In 2001, Jonathan Thornton became Chairman and Dieno George joined the company as Chief Executive Officer. The company started a major programme of investment in core brands and in acquisition of brands for development. The first stage in preparation for this was a major refurbishment and extension to the offices in order to accommodate more staff.

The first major acquisition was in 2002 when the company acquired a total of 24 brands, mostly OTC medicines, including Mycota, Transvasin and Acriflex. The following year Thornton & Ross acquired the Setlers brand, and then in 2006, following a successful Stage III Clinical Trial, the company launched the first licensed non-pesticide treatment for head lice in the UK – Hedrin. This product became brand leader in the UK within its first 6 months and is now a leading head lice treatment in Europe.

In August 2008 Thornton and Ross attained BSI ISO 14001 accreditation for its environmental management system and in December of that same year acquired the Radian B brand. Further brand acquisitions have included Cerumol (February 2009), Zeroderma range (September 2009), Metanium (January 2010), Allens (September 2010) and Flexitol (June 2014).

In September 2013 the company was sold to STADA AG and became a member of the Stada group of companies. Jonathan Thornton spoke of his sadness to be leaving the business after years of family ownership and involvement, but also of his pleasure in leaving it in the capable hands of the existing management and the new owners. “Many of the values that are so important to me are also evident within the STADA group, which ultimately was a major factor in making this decision to complete the transaction”. Following the acquisition, the businesses of Thornton & Ross and Genus Pharmaceuticals were merged and Thornton & Ross became the Centre of Excellence for the development of OTC products within the STADA group

An essential factor for the continued success of STADA’s business model is its individual market focus through the international network of local marketing and sales companies. In order to rapidly adapt to individual country healthcare market changes, STADA’s local sales companies retain a high level of autonomy, allowing the flexibility to adapt and capitalise on local country market opportunities.

Then and now

Thornton & Ross started back in 1922 when founders Mr Nathan Thornton and Mr Philip Ross established the business as a company selling pharmaceutical and cleaning products.

Today, Thornton & Ross is one of the UK's largest manufacturers of over-the-counter Medicines.

Use the navigation above to glide through the decades and see how we've come this far.


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