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Chorley-based manufacturer Kerax Ltd has landed a £5 million distribution deal in Australia and increased its research and development capability after receiving a Manufacturing Growth Fund grant.

Overview

Kerax produces a diverse range of wax-based products which are found in a number of everyday household products. From well-known brands such as Warburtons, Vaseline and E45 to essentials such as candlewax, Kerax products can be found in almost every British home.

Founded in 1962, Kerax began as a producer of cheese wax, and over the years the company expanded its portfolio into food packaging and health and personal care. In the last decade, considerable investment was made on the research and development of natural waxes, due to increasing demand for eco-friendly alternatives to paraffin.

The challenge: new product development

Due to the diversity of Kerax’s range of products, extensive research and development is required. However, the lab it used was underequipped to keep up with the demand for innovation.

Kerax had identified a need for the manufacture of wax emulsions for established and new wax products. Converting these waxes to emulsions would reduce the energy requirement and carbon footprint of delivery, storage and use of these new products. There was no equipment in the Kerax development laboratory to make and test emulsions so the range could be developed and refined.

The solution: increasing the company’s R&D capabilities

Alan Woods, Business Relationship Manager at Boost Business Lancashire, introduced the company to Steve Wilkinson, Manufacturing Advisor at the Lancashire Manufacturing Growth Fund, in early 2019.

Steve identified that Kerax’s ultimate value stood in its R&D activity, and this is where investment efforts would be best placed. Increasing the company’s capability in the lab would allow it to undertake more diverse research and development to create new products and expand the number of sectors it sells to, thus bolstering sales.

With Steve’s support, Kerax were approved for a Manufacturing Growth Fund grant, which enabled the expansion of its lab through the purchase of a laboratory scale homogeniser, a computer controller particle size analyser and a temperature-controlled centrifuge. This subsequentially enabled the roll-out of new product development programmes targeting a broader range of growth sectors.

The three key pieces of equipment – bought with the help of the grant – transformed the laboratory’s capabilities, and has resulted in some innovative and exciting emulsion products being trialled as sustainable and biodegradable waterproofing materials.

The company is also currently working through the Made Smarter programme, which seeks to educate business owners on the everyday digital tools that can make a real difference to their business.

By working with the Lancashire Manufacturing Growth Fund, the Kerax team also gained an understanding of the funding landscape, which is beneficial for securing future funding. This includes knowledge of everything from grant funding for equipment, to automation funding via Made Smarter, to complex research and development funding via Innovate UK.

Chris Bradley, managing director at Kerax, said: “With this support, we have made significant changes to our research and development processes, which have helped us to maximise our labs and continue to develop innovative products across multiple sectors.

“We recently secured a £5 million deal in Australia for our range of natural candle waxes, which was made possible due to significant investment in our lab infrastructure that the Manufacturing Growth Fund helped us achieve. Thanks to our support network within the Growth Fund, we are continuing to see our business grow and opportunities come in, even throughout COVID-19.”

Steve Wilkinson, manufacturing advisor, said: “Kerax are an ideal client to work with. They had a proven record and a brilliant team dedicated to developing innovative new products. By working closely together, we were soon able to identify that this team was at the heart of the business.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what is next for Kerax. There are some exciting things in the pipeline, including the potential to tap into Innovate UK funding which will enable further research and development. Either way, I’m sure I will see more Kerax products around my home in the future.”

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