Under Hans Rausing’s leadership, Tetra Pak moved from six employees to 36,000 workers across the globe as it conquered the world in milk packaging.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on September 2, 2019

Professor Hans Rausing, who turned his father’s small food packaging business Tetra Pak into a billion-dollar global empire, has died, aged 93.

Gothenburg, Sweden-born Hans Rausing took over Tetra Pak from his father Ruben Rausing, who started a small packaging company after reportedly watching his wife Elisabeth Varenius making sausages by twisting off individual pieces from a large length of meat and wondered if he could apply it to packaging. Tetra Pak started as being a lightweight alternative to milk bottles.

In 39 years as managing director and chairman of Tetra Pak, Rausing gave virtually no interviews, making his private life and business career a mystery. He relented around the turn of the century as he invested in a new packaging company Ecolean, revealing that he had swapped the old Morris Minor he used to drive around the English countryside for a 12-year-old Lada Niva, while at his Swedish seaside cottage he used a 1952 Citroën 2CV, The Guardian reported

Rausing, who achieved an economics degree from Lund University in southern Sweden in 1948, became managing director of the newly established Tetra Pak in 1954. When his father died in 1983, he became chairman – a position he held for 10 years.

Under Hans Rausing’s leadership, the company moving from six employees to 36,000 as it conquered the world in milk packaging. The invention of the Tetra Brik, the common shape for plastic-coated cardboard drinks containers to this day, and aseptic packaging both occurred under his control. Tetra Pak is the largest food packaging company in the world.

An array of Tetra Pak packaging that Hans Rausing turned into a global empire.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph in 2001, he revealed some of his business beliefs. “First, simplicity: never do things which are complicated. Second, you must talk and listen to everybody in your company.” Another saying was “risk minimisation through risk maximisation” as “there is no way you can succeed in business by playing safe.” 

In 1995, he suddenly sold his half of Tetra Pak to his brother Gad for what the Financial Times revealed three years later was about US$7bn. 

From 1982 until his death on his 900-acre property in Wadhurst, East Sussex, where he built an unusual single-storey house with no windows on one side. After his withdrawal from Tetra Pak, he ploughed his energy into philanthropy as well as Ecolean.

Hans Rausing and his wife Märit donated large sums of money to charities and research in the UK and Sweden, such as large medical research projects at Karolinska Institutet and Lund University. Through the Märit and Hans Rausing Fund, they supported community projects in their home county of Sussex.

Through her fund Arcadia, Rausing’s daughter Lisbet is financing the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, the Hans Rausing Scholarship in the History of Science at King’s College London, and the Hans Rausing Chair in the History of Science at Uppsala University, which is also hosting an annual Hans Rausing Lecture in the History of Science. The University of Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy of Science hosts an Annual Hans Rausing Lecture.

According to a statement by the Rausing family, Hans Rausing gave away more than £1bn since 1998 to causes such as human rights and fighting drug addiction.

“Money above a certain level must be looked upon as a tool to do something and achieve something,” he told the Guardian

His philanthropic efforts were recognised in 2006 when he was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

His son Hans was a drug addict. In 2012 he was convicted of delaying the lawful and decent burial of his wife, also a drug addict, after leaving her body to decompose for two months in their house in Belgravia, London. 

Rausing is survived by his wife, Märit; two children Lisbet, Sigrid and Hans, and seven grandchildren. 

His children said in a joint statement: “Our father was an extraordinary man, achieving so many things in his long and distinguished career as entrepreneur and industrialist, and then as a philanthropist supporting multiple charities and foundations.”

Hans Rausing’s granddaughter Lucy Rausing is to be married at a church on his £12 million estate in Gloucestershire, UK, on Saturday (UK time).