Britain’s Got Talent: What you never knew about the UK’s top catering equipment manufacturers

Parry factory

Believe it or not, Great Britain is still a hotbed of catering equipment production activity, with a raft of home-grown manufacturers responsible for building millions of pounds worth of kitchen kit every year. But how much do you know about the brands on your doorstep? FEJ takes you on a numbers-based tour of the local landscape.

150

The number of people that E&R Moffat employs at its single manufacturing site in Bonnybridge, Scotland. The business has been operating in the market for more than 50 years and as a result can point to many examples of second and third generations from the same family working at its 100,000 square feet premises.

“100% of Moffat’s products are manufactured from scratch in the UK,” explains John Wannan, the company’s sales and marketing manager. “To us, being a British company means manufacturing in the UK, employing local people, buying components and services from within the UK where possible, paying taxes in the UK, and supporting the local community.”

25

The number of acres spanning Foster Refrigerator’s manufacturing site in Kings Lynn, Norfolk. Comprising five manufacturing plants that supply 100% of its production for the UK and European markets, the ITW-owned outfit takes the quality and sustainability of its manufacturing activities incredibly seriously. “The company has invested millions of pounds in the King’s Lynn production facilities to ensure the business has the capacity and skills needed to be a leading British manufacturer,” explains Paul Veried, vice president of ITW European Refrigeration. “Foster was the first British refrigeration manufacturer to be awarded the ISO 9001 Quality standard and the ISO 14001 Environmental standard, and was also the first British refrigeration manufacturer to hold the Carbon Trust standard for commitment to carbon reduction — a certification now held for five years,” he adds.

Foster Refrigerator 70

The number of staff working for Parry, one of the largest British manufacturers of catering equipment and stainless steel fabrications. Parry boasts an extensive range of products, including stainless steel tables and shelving, sinks, extraction canopies, servery counters, prime cooking equipment and light commercial catering equipment. 85% of this portfolio is manufactured in the UK.

“Lean manufacturing processes combined with a culture of controlled continuous improvement have enabled the business to embed key strengths in its production lines such as standardisation, consistently right first-time quality and production line flexibility,” comments Samantha Starling, group marketing co-ordinator at Parry. “As a British manufacturer we focus on being competitive in all aspects of our business and as a result have recently introduced a 24-month warranty on all Parry branded products — but that is only the beginning as we are constantly innovating.”

50%

The proportion of Mechline products that are now manufactured in the UK. The rest are component parts which are assembled and tested in the UK to the relevant standards before they reach customers. The emphasis on UK-made products shows how far the company has come since its launch in 1984 as a commercial kitchen equipment service and installation company. “All of Mechline’s ideas are born and developed in the UK, and we strive to keep as much production activity here as possible,” insists business development director Ian Cresswell. “Our very popular GreasePak products and Waste 2.0 are manufactured from scratch in the UK.”

£8.6m

The volume of sales that Victor Manufacturing recorded in its most recent financial year, a 27% increase on the £6.8m turnover it posted the year before and the highest top-line figure in its 70-year history. Expansion in the retail counters market and a string of orders connected to the free school meals scheme has propelled the Bradford-based catering equipment maker’s business over the last 12 months, while £400,000 worth of export sales to the Middle East also provided a welcome boost.

To meet the demand, Victor has expanded its manufacturing space by acquiring additional premises close to its HQ and increased staff numbers by 23%. The 9,000 square foot building comprises office and factory facilities and is being utilised for retail and commercial counter assembly. 100 of its most popular products, which store hot and cold food in optimum condition, are held in stock for immediate despatch.

1960

The year that Hobart’s 5,000 square metre facility in Barnstaple was established. People are not always aware that Hobart has a catering equipment plant in the UK, but the site is responsible for manufacturing a variety of kit including Bonnet high speed steamers and charbroilers, as well as its popular planetary mixers. “The North Devon facility operates on a multi-discipline basis, encompassing both engineering design and full manufacturing as well as assembly,” notes Paul Godfrey, product manager at Hobart Cooking Solutions. “When we established the facility back in the 60s, the phrase ‘British manufacturing’ was a catch-all for quality and consistency, and it’s an ethos that we have tried to carry through to the modern day.”

In-house operations ensure close control through every stage of manufacture, assembly and test, while integrated engineering functions allow bespoke customisation to meet market needs. “Local and group purchasing initiatives also help to ensure shorter manufacturing lead times,” adds Godfrey.

21,000

The number of pieces of catering equipment produced annually by Manitowoc’s main UK manufacturing hub in Sheffield, which employs more than 150 people, spans 125,000 square feet and is home to its Merrychef brand. “This equipment is distributed worldwide, as well as being sold here in the UK,” says Steve Hemsil, the company’s national sales manager distribution for the UK & Ireland. “We also ship 350,000 spare parts every year from the factory, again worldwide.” Manitowoc also operates a similar sized factory near Birmingham, which serves its Manitowoc Beverage Systems sister company.

10

The number of people that work for Induced Energy, the only British manufacturer of induction hobs for the catering industry. The company operates from a small family-owned factory in Brackley, Northamptonshire where its strong customer service ethos runs through the business. Says sales director Nic Banner: “Induced Energy has a policy whereby our on-road engineers are the same people that build the units in the factory, giving total continuity of service. Our manufacturing engineers are also always available to talk to on the telephone, while it is not unusual for our engineers to be in attendance on site the same day that any service issue is reported.”

As a British manufacturer, Induced Energy feels it is well-placed to be able to offer a guaranteed price that it can hold for a full year without currency fluctuations. “We are big enough to cope well with all of the orders we receive, but small enough to be individual and to care for our clients,” insists Banner.

58

The number of years that water boiler specialist Instanta has been manufacturing catering equipment. The company operates a single production facility in Southport, Merseyside, complete with departments for sheet-metalwork, TIG welding, electronics assembly, product assembly, testing, finishing and packing, and service. It even has its own on-site machine shop, which produces all the brass and stainless steel components for its boilers. “We believe this makes us unique and gives us total control over the consistency and quality of our products,” says sales director Graham Crisp. “Our manufacturing facility is housed within three inter-connected units on a one acre site and our manufacturing team consists of 32 people working either directly in production or in support of it.”

1895

The year that gas equipment firm WH Dean sprang into formation. Some 50 years later after the end of World War Two it merged with Burnley Components (Bur-Co) and has been producing the well-known Burco hot water boiler range ever since. Seven years ago, Burco Dean was brought under the Glen Dimplex Professional Appliances business sector and the range was extended into cooking appliances. The company, which also owns the Lec Commercial brand, manufactures some of its products overseas but plans are afoot to bring more of its range back to Britain as part of a strategy to invest in more UK production capacity at its plant in Prescot, Merseyside.

“We pride ourselves in being able to respond quickly to short-term spikes or peaks in demand, so by manufacturing in this country we are able to rapidly divert production to one particular range when required,” says sales and marketing director Jon Usher. “By building in the UK rather than sourcing from overseas, we don’t have to commit to container loads, instead building in smaller batch quantities and therefore saving on shipping costs. In addition, UK manufacturing also allows us to hold less pre-built stock in order to generate warehousing efficiencies, thus allowing us to sell at a competitive price point.”

Burco water boiler

52%

The average utility saving that Active Food Systems claims its flagship Synergy grill offers customers compared to conventional commercial gas grills due to a patented burner system used in the product. The system, which burns at an incredibly hot temperature and therefore has the ability to ‘atomise’ any fats that fall below the cooking grids, has been deployed by a number of pubs, restaurants and leisure operators. According to Cambridgeshire-based Active, the gas saving is equivalent to £11,500 over five years versus other models. The grill comes in a 450mm and 900mm format and is fully designed and produced in the UK.

51

Percentage of components that Foster Refrigerator sources from within a 35-mile radius of its manufacturing facilities in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. “Where local sourcing is not possible, Foster aims to ensure that outsourcing is in line with our social responsibility targets,” explains vice president of ITW European Refrigeration, Paul Veried. “We are the only British manufacturer to be members of SEDEX — the largest collaborative platform for sharing ethical supply chain best practice.”

70%

The proportion of Mitchell & Cooper’s current product portfolio that is manufactured in the UK. The vast majority of it is built at the firm’s 30,000 square foot Uckfield plant, where its team of technicians produces a range of handcrafted equipment, including everything from its iconic Bonzer can opener, food portioners and dispenser products through to bespoke bar accessories.

Managing director, Guy Cooper, says there is a firm emphasis on lean manufacturing processes using the latest welding facilities. “As a British manufacturer, we benefit from the ability to control short lead times, as well as being flexible and accommodating to our customers — right down to those all-important personal touches that make our products unique.”

£1m

The amount that Lincat has spent this year on upgrading its production facilities. The company has invested in a cutting-edge, fibre-optic laser cutter, robotic welder and press brake folding machine, which brings the latest manufacturing automation to its plant. The outlay comes in the wake of Lincat’s most successful year to date, claims development chef Paul Hickman. “The investment will enable Lincat to keep pace with steeply rising demand and ensure that we will be able to achieve our ambitious growth targets. The return on continued investment in our capacity and production technology is a large and growing range of commercial catering equipment, designed and built to consistently exacting standards.” Lincat builds more than 50,000 products a year at its
UK plant.

Lincat factory

Rubbing shoulders with Rolls-Royce

Adande has scored a victory for British catering equipment innovation by finishing runner-up in a UK awards ceremony honouring British manufacturers. The Lowestoft-based refrigeration outfit was only beaten by automotive giant Rolls-Royce in the ‘Advanced Manufacturing Innovation/Creative Design’ category, having earlier won its regional heat.

The awards, which are backed by UK Trade & Investment, celebrate the very best in UK manufacturing across all industries. Adande’s chairman, Nigel Bell, said: “It’s testimony to the hard work of the Adande team and our manufacturing operations to find our revolutionary refrigeration being understood, not only in terms of the foodservice industry but within the manufacturing sector too. The investment from concept to market for any manufacturer is challenging, not least for SMEs in the UK; but in order to drive forward sales and awareness into international territories companies need opportunities to have that recognised.”

Bell said that finishing runner-up to a world-class company like Rolls-Royce was “no mean feat”, adding that the quality of the association was something the company could feel proud of.

Buying British

The catering equipment market place is undoubtedly a global one, with the sector well supplied from Europe, the US and Asia. But UK manufacturers insist the argument for buying British is as compelling as any — and here’s why:

1) Flexibility: By building in the UK rather than sourcing from overseas, manufacturers purport to be able to react faster to changes in market conditions and customer requirements.

2) Shipping: Not waiting on supplier chains from outside of the UK allows for timely deliveries on small or large orders at a reasonable delivery cost.

3) Customer service: Local customer service teams make UK manufacturers well-placed to provide support with product queries, and arrange delivery and exchanges.

4) After-sales support: Spare parts can easily be sourced and warranties can be effectively claimed where necessary.

5) Sustainability: Smaller transport carbon footprint will satisfy specifiers concerned with the environment when buying equipment.

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