Recticel's long history goes back to 1778 when Jan-Frans Cooppal started a gunpowder mill in Wetteren, on the edge of the Scheldt. The base ingredients were potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal mixed with water.
In 1785, a major expansion occurred due to orders from the Austrian government. Between 1787 and 1791, earnings increased fivefold, mainly due to the Brabant revolution and the preparations for the imminent war with France.
In 1792, France declared war on Austria. After a two-years fight, the dispute was settled in favour of the French. Repeated raids by the French armies destroyed part of the factory until it was closed on July 31, 1796.
In 1815, Pieter-Frans Cooppal (son of Jan-Frans Cooppal) and his associate, Philippus-Jozephus Vermoeien, reopened the factory after the Battle of Waterloo.
In 1838, Pieter-Frans Cooppal, aged 76, bought Vermoeien’s share and left the factory to his daughter, Mimi Cooppal, and her husband, Theodoor Teichman. The company began to gain international fame.
In 1847, Cooppal received a royal warrant of appointment (Poudrerie Royal Cooppal).
In 1880, 35 tons of gunpowder exploded, resulting in 10 casualties and the destruction of 13 workplaces. Part of production was transferred to a new plant in Kaulille, Belgium. A new workhouse was established to produce sporting ammunition, which would eventually replace gunpowder.
In 1898, Cooppal opened a new department to produce ether, a solvent used in the new generation of explosives.
In 1914, World War I broke out. Cooppal was a forerunner of social services; when employees were called up, the company continued to pay 50% of their salary to their family.
1919-1939: Between the wars, a new department started producing synthetic and natural resins used as raw materials for the paint and varnish industries.
In 1952, The Royal gunpowder factories of Wetteren bought the licence from Bayer for the production and marketing of polyurethane foam (PU). The Group's first steps in this field consisted of the production and transformation of flexible foams.
Around 1957, other raw material suppliers entered the market, which allowed production leaders and chemists to improve control over productions. This led to the development of polyether foam, used with increasing success in the furniture industry.
As from the early sixties, PU foam rolls became increasingly popular because of their use in the textile industry.
In 1964, the production of rigid polyurethane foam for thermal insulation started, first in blocks and, around 1965, on a laminator.
In 1966, the PU department of Cooppal was renamed to Eurofoam, after a 50/50 joint venture with PRB (Poudrerie Réunies de Belgique).
In 1967, Cooppal merged into PRB. PRB started to acquire other interests in the chemical industry. Recticel, a small Dutch company in the PU business and part of the PRB group, gave its name to all the PU activities of PRB in the seventies.
In 1970, the construction of a whole new plant and the Group's International Development Center started in Wetteren.
In 1985, Société Générale de Belgique, the majority shareholder of PRB, grouped all its chemical activities including Recticel in the company PRB and renamed it Gechem.
In 1992, after several divestments and increased focus on the more profitable PU business, Recticel remained the only activity of the Gechem group. The name Gechem disappeared and was replaced by the name Recticel.
In 1998, Recticel became independent from Société Générale de Belgique. The latter was replaced by Compagnie du Bois Sauvage, as main shareholder, together with management and other investors.
In the nineties, having gradually diversified its activities in the bedding sector, and having played an active role in the consolidation of the European polyurethane industry, the Group expanded its activities in the automotive sector by introducing a new PU based technology for interim trim parts. The Group was then structured around four Business Lines: Flexible Foams, Bedding, Insulation and Automotive.
In 2010, Olivier Chapelle became the new CEO of Recticel. Since then, the Group has undergone significant simplification of its structure, organisation and processes in order to increase its operational efficiency and reduce fixed costs.
In 2015, Recticel successfully increased its share capital by € 75.9 million through a rights issue.