Innovative Alternatives

A History of Innovation for Sustainable Business

Did you know Freudenberg started developing alternative materials to replace the use of animal leather in the 1930’s?

Freudenberg has a long history of developing innovative technologies that have driven its long-term success. Though its roots were in the leather industry in the late 1800’s, starting in the 1930’s various market factors created opportunities for our materials & process experts to develop alternatives to replace the use of animal products in various industrial applications and consumer products. These product breakthroughs perfectly demonstrate how innovation fuels our approach to long-term sustainability.


Nonwovens production, 1938


Manufacture of Nora heels, in about 1940


Vileda advertisement, about 1950

Replacements for Leather in Seals, Shoes, and Cleaning

The global economic crisis of 1929 and various political policies created a shortage on the supply of leather in the 1930’s. Freudenberg took steps to make use of waste scraps and search for substitutes. Research & development resulted in many innovative new products.

1936: Perbunan/NBR

A synthetic rubber used as an alternative for leather in the company’s sealing and Nora shoe products

1938: Viledon

an artificial leather as a substitute material for bags

1948: Vileda

A soft & absorbent cleaning cloth, ideal as an alternative to traditional chamois cloths made from goat skin

Vileda cloths were developed after two employees observed cleaning ladies using the scraps of nonwovens in the factory for wet mopping. The idea was taken up, and in 1948 the Vileda window cloth was launched. The name "Vileda" is actually a modification of the German "wie Leder" ("like leather"), as the nonwoven felt and performed like a chamois.

Innovations for the Future


comfortemp® Fiberball Padding, a unique and patented alternative to down & feather insulation


Animals Matter. The down industry leaves ducks & geese vulnerable to abusive practices like force feeding and live-plucking


A jacket made with comfortemp® Fiberball Padding saves on average 5 bottles from waste


Gear made with comfortemp® Fiberball Padding protects you through any adventure

material matters

Alternatives to down & feather

Fast forward to 2010. Experts at Freudenberg realized there was an incredible need for alternatives to down & feather products that can match their warmth, softness, and packability. While there are options for responsible down/feather sourcing, unregulated parts of the supply chain leave animals vulnerable to mistreatment including force feeding and live-plucking. Seven years of research & development led to the introduction of comfortemp® Fiberball Padding. It is a unique & patented material that is the first thermal insulation made of 100% post-consumer waste recycled fiberballs in a zero waste-water production process. comfortemp® Fiberball Padding combines sustainable design with superior performance – it’s easy to pack, highly breathable, keeps you warm even when wet, and dries quickly.

The Sites of Freudenberg Performance Materials