I thought it would be nice to do a series on Great British Producers – the people behind some fabulous British food and food related products – there’s some amazing stuff produced right here on our doorstep and I think it’s about time I got to know more about the people behind some of those brilliant companies. Why they started, what they make, just why it’s so good and where to buy it. I hope you enjoy getting to know the producers – their passion for what they do is additive!
This week we are featuring Sue from Netherton Foundry – they are producers of beautifully crafted cast iron cookware
How did Netherton Foundry come about?
For many years our small family business designed kitchen appliances such as kettles and toasters for big brand names. The chances are that at some stage you will have owned something designed by us without realising it. This is because we made everything out in China and it was sold under branded names.
I have always loved cooking and we have always been interested in where our food comes from. So it was a natural extension to think about where our cookware came from. Since we have had children, who are now teenagers of 14 and 16, we have become increasingly conscious of our environment and our impact upon it.
This is what led us to the concept of making in Britain and not shipping things half way round the world, when they could be made on the doorstep. It also drove us in the direction of producing natural, sustainable products that would perform and last. We wanted to make products with provenance, that would become heritage items, loved by generations.
What’s the story behind the launch of Netherton Foundry?
We launched our very first Netherton Foundry product on the market in the autumn of 2011. It wasn’t easy – we were selling something no-one had ever seen before, from a brand that no-one had ever heard of and we had made the monumental decision to sell through independent retailers.
It was a daunting task, not made easier by the combined factors of me having no sales experience – cue bumbling idiot crossed with manic Avon lady; an economic recession; no experience of dealing with the retail sector and trying to sell slow cookers in an unseasonable heatwave!!
But, the combination of a great product, its made in Britain provenance, the imagination and support of some truly fantastic retailers and sheer determination gave us a better start than we could have wished for.
Then it struck us… We’d spent all our money on the development of the slow cooker, but what next? You can’t build a brand with one item… although Hoover did manage to become a household name selling a vacuum cleaner… I don’t think we’re in that league yet. And it’s hard to sell slow cookers in summer – wedding presents aside.
So the resident genius who is our Managing Director (and husband) put on his thinking cap and came up with the Garden Hob – a summer slow cooker!
Inspired by his mountaineering trip to Morocco, where he’d seen charcoal tagines, and an increasing frustration with cheap BBQs, he came up with the concept of a charcoal powered slow cooker, which just happened to work as a BBQ too. Whilst we thought that this seemed like a good idea, I refused to go out selling something I knew nothing about. So we set about resting it – in the snow!
What we weren’t expecting was just how good it would turn out to be – a single bowl of charcoal ran for 4 hours as a basic barbecue and then when we put the casserole bowl on top, we discovered that it would cook for up to 7 hours!
This makes it a great all year round product, just as good for baked beans at a Bonfire Night Party as it is for a summer barbecue. And because the bowl is interchangeable with the slow cooker, you can mix and match all the components and build up a complete cooking set.
What’s more – although it’ll cook for ages and feed the family – it won’t take up the whole of the shed when it’s not in use. It’s compact enough to put in the car and take on camping and glamping trips. Combine it with one of our frying pans and a kettle and you’ve got a complete outdoor kitchen! And if you only have a small back yard or even a balcony, you can still enjoy alfresco cooking.
What’s been happening since the slow cooker revolution?
Since we launched the slow cooker in August 2011 we have gone on to build up the brand, the range and the retail network from scratch. Pop over to the Netherton Foundry website to see just how many products we now have and where you can buy them.
We are also now exporting to Japan, Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, China and Spain, with enquiries in from Slovenia, USA and France to answer!! So much for my claim that we no longer wanted to ship things half way round the world – I guess it’s OK if they are going tin the opposite direction!
What does the future hold?
Our aim is to make EVERYTHING in Britain – currently over 80% of what we do is sourced in the UK.
The cast products are from traditional family run foundries, the spun iron pans are made by a company founded in the 19th century, our trivets are cast in the working foundry at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, the oak for our knobs and handles was grown in the Wyre Forest, harvested by a man called Cedric and turned by Jim.
The future is looking good!
You can keep up to date with all the Netherton Foundry news via the Netherton Foundry blog, Facebook or Twitter.
We are always looking for Great British Producers to feature on our site – if you’d like to chat to us about your company and why it’s amazing get in touch! Email firstname.lastname@example.org