We were recently writing about a very interesting firm with West Midlands roots, now based in Cannock. When a call was made to establish just where their manufacturing took place and the number employed there, it was disappointingly revealed that all products were now made in China.
Utensa, formerly Dunnetts of Birmingham, was founded in 1885 by Mr Rivers Dunnett who traded as a manufacturing ironmonger in Bristol Street. Loveday Street before settling in the present premises in Kings Road, Tyseley in 1922. During the war years Dunnetts made bomb fins and Land Army boxes for the Ministry of Supply.
Independent shops and stores will now come first
Due, it has been said, to over-reliance on one large customer, Dunnetts went into administration in January 2009. Robin Clark, formerly the managing director of the buyer, Utensa, a distribution company for whom Dunnetts had been a major supplier, commented: “Now, the people who’ll come first will be the independents”.
Sufficient plant and machinery was purchased from the administrator to enable production to recommence in February 2009. It has 142 products, including its best-selling extra-large roaster, a range of ingenious gadgets and a meat thermometer. Utensa started with five employees and now have 25 staff.
We will not supply supermarkets
Mr Clark explained: “Our aim is to supply a niche trade to independent shops and department stores. We will not supply supermarkets because of their tendency to look at what sells here and then go abroad – usually to China – to have everything made cheaper and invariably of poorer quality. It has been a struggle to get sources of steel with which to manufacture but we are finding it and I believe beating the Chinese at their own game.”
He said that Utensa was “making good profits in a recession because our customers in the UK, New Zealand, Ireland and Europe appreciate that British-made goods are still among the best in the world.
A loan from the not-for-personal profit revolving fund, the Aston Reinvestment Trust (ART), has enabled Utensa to modify existing tooling to meet the demand for a new heavy gauge product and create two new jobs.
Last month Business Desk reported that business secretary Vince Cable visited Utensa – to see how it is faring after receiving this small business loan.