Merseyside-based Counterline will celebrate a landmark anniversary this year and it is hoping to mark the occasion by growing the business in new areas and capitalising on its manufacturing strengths. Here’s what you need to know about the British counters and displays specialist.
10. Thirty years in business
It was 30 years ago this year that Counterline’s production line first whirred into action. During that time the company has become one of the most prominent suppliers of bespoke counters and foodservice displays in the UK market. From its factory facilities at Knowsley Business Park in Merseyside, a combination of state-of-the-art machinery and traditional handcraft techniques are used to manufacture virtually any counter or display component. Current management took over the business seven years ago.
9. Flying the British manufacturing flag
Counterline’s 1,500 squared metre factory contains all the necessary CNC equipment for the vast majority of counter and display components to be manufactured in-house under rigorous quality control. Neil Coombes, director of sales at Counterline, says: “We haven’t just got people packing boxes because the product has come in from Turkey and we’ve put our name on it. We have got people in this workshop that have been here 30 years who build it, test it and see it right the way through until it goes out the door. When you walk the building and talk to people they are so enthusiastic that they are making it and they are responsible for it.”
8. Counters for all climates and clients
From coffee shops to canteens, hotels to hospitals, supermarkets to corner shops, Counterline has installed products in almost every type of foodservice business in the UK since its formation. The range includes long side drop-ins and heated, chilled and ambient food displays, with the company anticipating a fairly even split between standard and bespoke orders this year. “Our focus is on producing efficient, ergonomic and, most importantly, environmentally-friendly systems designed and built for the future,” comments Coombes.
7. Flexibility fundamental to production strategy
The British manufacturing sector has found itself under intense pressure over the years, but Counterline believes it possesses the flexibility in design and manufacturing that is needed to sustain a production operation today. “We can add a twist to anything at the client’s request, creating a true one-stop-shop for food display and foodservice servery systems,” says Coombes. “Our products also suite together so clients don’t have issues when designing their offer or implementing a change of offer. For example, we are able to offer grab ‘n’ go cabinets, counters and fridges that match.”
6. Variety means value for customers
As well as flexibility, Counterline is a firm believer that you’ve got to have product depth and breadth to be competitive in the counters and displays sector. Coombes says: “We have an extensive selection of heated, refrigerated and ambient display products as a core range. The growth expectation this year will require an aggressive approach to the market, so there is no better time than our 30-year anniversary to showcase the new products that have been under development over the last six months.”
5. The eco-cabinet route
One of the highlights of this year’s range is the addition of a heated floor-standing, fan-assisted model to its popular Experience series. It purports to reduce energy costs by 35%. “Each shelf within this heated unit has its own controller, so you can hold different products — such as soup or porridge and then breads and pastries — within the same cabinet,” says Coombes. “Every shelf also has its own heat sensor or heat probe to hold it to the correct temperature, whereas a lot of the competitive alternatives are just hotboxes basically. This is very different.”
4. Export growth takes business global
Counterline is also investing in growing its business outside of the UK, where it has already enjoyed success. “This has been possible due to strong working relationships with consultants, design houses and distributors,” says Coombes. Indeed, the company has just broken into the Australian market, supplying 250 heated retail units for giant grocery chain Coles.
3. Keeping a lid on prices
Counterline claims that one of the things it is most proud of is maintaining a firm grip on costs, helping it to avoid passing price hikes onto the channel. Coombes says the firm hasn’t initiated a price increase for seven years. “I think that is an important statement, especially when you hear distributors raising concerns that manufacturers are putting up their prices for old rope,” comments Coombes. Naturally, one of Counterline’s biggest expenses every month is raw materials but Coombes insists the company benefits from long-term relationships with its core stainless steel supply base.
2. Service and spares division shaping up
It might be best known for what comes off its production line, but Counterline is also carving out a nice little niche in services and spares. It now has five employed services staff, while its spares division has been expanded to incorporate parts from other products as well as its own. “Having an in-house team strengthens our offer in the market place,” notes Coombes. “It allows us to deliver a high level of service from our own trained technicians and keep control of costs and profits.”
1. Setting the benchmarks for 2013
Virtually all of Counterline’s business flows through the catering equipment channel and Coombes insists the objectives this year involve reaffirming what it can offer to the market. He says: “For us, it is about getting close to our customers and putting them at the heart of everything we do from a manufacturing and product perspective, as well as good account penetration and industry-leading service levels. We have got a good depth and breadth of range; we just need to pull it all together.”