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FRANKLIN (WAOW) -
Carmex lip balm has a smell and flavor that's instantly recognizable. The company has been family owned and operated for more than 75 years and every jar and stick of Carmex is made right here in Wisconsin.
Newsline 9 got a behind-the-scenes look at Carma Laboratories in Franklin to see how the lip balm is made.
It takes about 10 minutes for a jar of Carmex to set. That's a lot less time than it's taken the Wisconsin brand to build a worldwide following.
"We grew entirely by word of mouth," Carma Laboratories President Paul Woelbing said.
The company was founded 76 years ago. Woelbing told Newsline 9 in the last six years, it's doubled in size.
He said Carmex's most popular product is still the original.
"Not only does it feel good, it smells good, there's kind of a nice taste to it," he said.
Woelbing's great-grandfather developed the family's top secret recipe and his grandfather coined the name.
"It means nothing... He just put together a couple syllables that he liked the sounds of."
The same amount of thought went into the now iconic packaging.
"He chose the color yellow for the caps because he liked it," Woelbing said.
The recipe is still the same, but a lot has changed since the 1930s. The company now has about 140 employees and many variations on the original Carmex.
"The first flavor we came up with was peppermint," the company's president told us. Then came cherry, strawberry and the newest flavor, pomegranate.
The product's packaging has evolved, too.
"People would write in and say, gee we love your product, but I'm a skier and I don't particularly want to go take the glove off, lift and do this," Woelbing said.
So, Carma Lab engineers added mineral oil to the recipe and started filling squeeze tubes. They now make up about 40 percent of sales.
"It wound up having a life independent of the jar," Woelbing said.
The company also makes sticks of lip balm. The factory in Franklin pumps out about 15 million a year.
"Not only does it feel good, it smells good, there's kind of a nice taste to it."
Oprah even endorsed the product, sending Carmex sales soaring.
"We don't test on animals, we test on family member so I'm usually carrying something around that we're trying," Woelbing said.
And family members said they're committed to keeping Carmex in Wisconsin.
"We like living here, we like the quality of life here, and that's why we stay," Woelbing added.
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