'We are experiencing a change in mentality': FORLIFE makes products for ostomy, tracheostomy, wound care, and incontinence

04. May 2022

“We are experiencing a change in mentality”

FORLIFE makes products for ostomy, tracheostomy, wound care, and incontinence

P. Hünger, D. Kropf © WISTA Management GmbH

Enabling patients to live normal lives: Pierre Hünger (left) and Dennis Kropf © WISTA Management GmbH

FORLIFE-Fertigungsstätte © WISTA Management GmbH

The state-of-the-art FORLIFE manufacturing facility in “The Curve” © WISTA Management GmbH

At its location in Adlershof, the company FORLIFE makes products for ostomies. Although these are something very common all over the world, the company is one of its kind in Germany.

“We use high-tech and handcraft when producing our stoma products,” says Dennis Kropf, one of three CEOs at FORLIFE, a company that has been developing, producing, and marketing ostomy products in Berlin since 1990.

Ostomies are surgical openings in the body, typically on the stomach. They are formed when the large intestine had to be removed due to cancer, or if parts of the small intestine have to be left to heal following a surgical procedure. When this happens, those affected require a temporary or long-term ileostomy. It then becomes a daily companion – which is why it calls for highest possible levels of quality. Customers want ostomy products to be as discreet as possible and not to be visible through the clothing. Naturally, they also seek a high level of hygiene, skin-friendliness, and odour control.

All this is considered a very intimate topic. But one that shouldn’t be a taboo – on the one hand, because people have the right to relaxed life with it and, on the other hand, because it can affect virtually anybody. However, FORLIFE CEO Kropf is observing a change in society: About ten years ago, all that mattered was that nobody should know about it. “We are now experiencing a change in mentality,” he says. “This is also our approach. We say: There's nothing wrong with it. We want to support our customers so that they can live a normal life.” Not that it didn’t have an impact on people’s lives. “But we want to help make it less noticeable in your everyday life.”

Most customers are seniors with ostomies who have had colorectal cancer. Young people can also be affected, people with Crohn’s disease, for example, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. When it comes to young children, the market is naturally quite small. But the company also wanted to provide products for the smallest customers, even if it wasn’t always economically viable. Kropf says this was part of the social responsibility of the company. “Just as people are different, there are different anatomies,” he says. “That's why we manufacture a very wide range here in Adlershof.” In fact, he says, FORLIFE is the only company in the ostomy segment that manufactures in Germany.

The market is currently seeing growth in many Asian and South American countries, where state-funded healthcare systems are becoming increasingly developed. “That's where you're seeing a big increase in demand right now,” says Kropf. FORLIFE currently ships to more than 30 countries. In addition to the ostomy products, the company also offers products for incontinence, wound care, and tracheostomies, i.e., incisions in the windpipe.

It now has 175 employees and has been part of GHD GesundHeits GmbH, Germany’s largest homecare provider, since 2008. A win-win situation: GHD caregivers are in direct contact with patients. In many cases, FORLIFE is thus provided with immediate feedback on product quality, which is an enormous advantage in development, says Kropf. Here, too, talking about it is a huge benefit to everybody.

Shea Westhoff for Adlershof Journal