Hungarian Brands

Imagine that you are in 1970 and you take the tram in Lenin Boulevard (Teréz and Erzsébet Boulevards today) on a grey autumn day. What could be more relaxing after a tiring day than watching the neon signs sweeping by: Röltex, Patyolat, Ofotért, Orion, Közért. Many people have written about the development story of Hungarian brands and the adverts related to them. Some of them were forgotten long ago, but there are some that sound familiar still today. Now, we have gathered a couple in order to feel nostalgia without remorse.

The Hungarian industry is not the invention of socialism naturally, but we might have this feeling due to the forced industrialisation. Heavy industry existed well before that, for example in Ózd and Diósgyőr. Candy Zizi and the Frutti-maker Stühmer Chocolate Factory were not born after the socialisation either. The famous cosmetic and chemical industrial trademark Caola dates back to the reform age. Although it is a fact that after the socialisation at the beginning of the 1950s, the industry started soaring. Let us see what has happened to the most famous brands since then.


Without overstatement, Orion was the determinative factory of the Hungarian electronic sector. Its predecessor was the Hungarian Wolfram Lamp Factory – founded in 1913. The most important product of the company: its radio had international fame even before the Second World War. Orion had developed and started producing the first Hungarian televisions, and not surprisingly, the first Hungarian colour TV was also made by Orion in 1968. After the change of regime, it got into difficult situation and went bankrupt. The company was bought by the Singaporean Thakral Group in 1997.


Tungsram - Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum , CC BY-NC-NDBernát Egger’s tape-machine producing workshop was transformed into Incandescent Lamp and Electrical Public Limited Company in 1896. The trademark Tungsram has been used since 1912. Physicist Imre Bródy was also working in the research lab of the factory. His researches resulted in the revolution of incandescent lamp production, when they started filling the bulbs with krypton.  The spot ad of Tugsram lamps was made by Gyula Macskássy. Fortunately, both this film copy and the one that was made for Orion Radio Company have survived.


The Engineering Electronic Maintenance Company (Gelka) was formed in 1960. Its task was to provide electronic maintenance services on a national level instead of the sporadic brand service factories. Its highest employee number was 8000 in the 1980s. The dispatcher centre of the service company was available on the phone number 333-333, which was unique in that era. Although the company was a frequent target of radio parodies and amusing magazines, we should not be unjust, there were always discontented clients.


Budapesti Rádiótechnikai Gyár (Budapest Radiotechnic Company) is the successor of Vörös Szikra Gyár that was founded in 1953. Its main products were VHF radiotelephones, tape-recorders, dictaphones and IT devices. Marcell Jánosi, who worked for the factory, developed the world’s first micro-floppy-disk (MCD-1) that is exposed at the exhibition of the Digitális Erőmű in Ózd.


[316310] A szolnoki "Patyolat" Vállalt hirdetésePatyolat was a symbol of socialism. In terms of full employment, the Patyolat Laundry and Dry-Cleaning National Company was founded in order to ease working women’s chores. It was necessary because of the housing conditions of the era and the employment of women. The flats with one living-room and a kitchen or the shared flats were inappropriate for washing and drying the laundry at home. The Harmat Textile Cleaning Ltd. – which is an affiliated firm of the earlier Patyolat – is now using the name ‘Patyolat’ as a brand name.


Regarding the food industry, besides the beverages Márka (unlike Bambi or Leo), the products Mirelite are available in several shops even nowadays. The acronym ‘Mirelite’ stands for the Mezőgazdasági Ipari Részvénytársaság Elite (Agricultural Industrial Company Elite). It also moved to common language and Hungarians call all frozen goods ‘mirelite’. Compulsory liquidation was started against the company in 1998, but it remained and the brand survived under the aegis of MIRELITE MIRSA Private Limited Company.


‘Közért’ has meant grocery store for people of Budapest since 1948, but few people know that it is the abbreviation of Községi Élelmiszerkereskedelmi Rt. (Communal Provision Trading Company). The predecessor of Közért was the Budapest Capital Communal Provision Vending Works. The goods traded in communal stores were cheaper: they tried to cut prices this way. At the time of privatisations, more than 1500 stores served customers, and they went on operating as parts of the Spar chain finally.

Nowadays, maybe the ‘retro’ feeling is not as keen as it used to be, but you can still see beverages Márka, detergent Tomi in the stores, and even Bambi appeared at the end of the 2000s allegedly. Hungarians still buy stockings in the lingerie chain Aranypók, drapery in the textile chain Röltex and glasses in the optical chain Ofotért. 

Translated by Zita Aknai





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