What More UK is the UK’s largest manufacturer of plastic homewares and cookwares, producing 63.6 million plastic products a year at their site in Altham

Here we chat to their director Tony Grimshaw OBE about the company’s Made In Britain credentials, its commitment to the area and their vast export business. 

It’s highly likely you’ve got a Wham branded plastic storage container in your home. Whether it’s used to keep the kids’ Lego away from the dog’s jaws or to store food safely in the fridge, you’ve perhaps never considered how close to home it was made.

What More UK was established in 1999 by Burnley businessman Andy Holt. The business launched with 15 products, mainly plastic garden items, and turned over £4.5million in its first year. Now, supplying some 1,800 independent stores and some huge nationwide retailers, the company operates from a 500,000 square feet site, and sales have risen to £48million.

Today, What More UK manufactures over 700 product lines including plastic storage boxes to plant pots, pet beds, washing up bowls, buckets and bins, sold under the trusted and value-for-money Wham brand. The business also has an extensive range of non-stick bakeware, including enamelware and the PushPan range of silicone sealed bakeware.

What More UK is a proud member and supporter of the Made In Britain campaign, which champions the strength and quality of UK manufacturing. What More UK director Tony Grimshaw OBE says, “We’re very passionate about our British-made roots here at What More. We are a firm set up by a local lad, creating jobs for local people with high quality manufacturing at its core.”

Earlier this year, the company won the favour of double Michelin star celebrity chef Tom Kerridge as he launched his signature range of British made kitchenware. After the chef visited What More UK’s state-of-the-art toolroom at its Altham site, What More UK put into production a set of three nested enamel oven trays bearing the Tom Kerridge insignia. The range is now available in high-end cookware retailers and department stores.

Tony Grimshaw is proud of What More UK’s involvement in the Tom Kerridge range. He says, “Tom was impressed by the scale of our manufacturing operation and the fact that we can take a product from outline concept to consumer-ready, all in-house. He was searching for high quality British made products he was happy to put his name on, and we were delighted that What More UK fit the brief.”

In 17 years of business What More UK has not only sold its plastic housewares, garden products, storageware and bakeware into retail chains and independent stores nationwide, but also conquered markets across the globe.

Tony says that, without a doubt, ‘Made in Britain’ goes down well in overseas markets. “It sounds a bit old-fashioned but there’s still an aura around British manufactured products in export: it oozes quality and reliability and service, the ingredients that don’t seem to be in abundance.”

The company began exporting its products in 2007. Today exports account for 15% of What More UK’s annual turnover as the business looks way beyond Europe and doesn’t show any signs of faltering in the post-Brexit economy. Tony says, “Our export team has worked hard on new markets and it’s to their credit that our products are now shipped to a staggering 68 countries worldwide, including China, Brazil, Australia and the most recent addition Vietnam.”

68pp-magazine-118In 2014 the company picked up the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade in recognition of its export success.

“We’re trying to reverse the trend of bringing everything back from China,” explains Tony, determined to stem the flow of manufacture away from Britain where possible. The main challenge, he says, is ‘having the balls’ to do it. “It’s about grasping the problem and just doing it. A lot of industries have died and skills have been lost, and you just cannot replace those skills. Now when we take people on we train them up ourselves because there’s not a market to tap into.

“As a business we’re happy to support apprentice programmes, ” Tony adds – this year What More UK took on two new apprentices in a three year engineering training programme. “After all, the engineering apprentices of today are the What More UK production directors of the future.”

The Hyndburn business is also a loyal supporter of Accrington Stanley FC, with What More UK’s owner Andy Holt having invested heavily in the club at the start of their historic 2015/16 season. Andy, now a director of the club, has helped Accrington Stanley to pay off its debts and attract a higher calibre of player. Andy Holt also led the refurbishment of the Wham Stadium – sponsored by What More UK’s leading brand – over the summer of 2015.

What’s next for What More UK? Tony Grimshaw answers, “We’ll continue to invest in our business facilities, our workforce and our products. The secret to our success is, simply, continuous investment. That and innovation – at What More UK we spend £2.5million a year on new product development.”

What More UK's headquarters and presence at Accrington Stanley's Wham Stadium

What More UK’s headquarters and presence at Accrington Stanley’s Wham Stadium