Grimsby entrepreneur praises Chamber for helping business take first steps in international trade with Caribbean
THE Chamber’s Speed Networking and Lunch events are back in full swing with our guest speaker for our November lunch at Healing Manor being David Mann, of Pattesons Glass.
David has built up one of Grimsby’s most successful businesses from small beginnings to become one of the leading wholesalers and distributors of jars and bottles, thanks to his can-do attitude and willingness to say yes – and then worry about how he was going to deliver the goods on time!
He thanked the Chamber for playing a big part in getting his business off the ground as he explained how one of the first jobs they got from an overseas client was from a Jamaican company to supply a jar for one of their products. David said: “The company had never heard of my business, so they rang the Chamber of Commerce and spoke to Anne Tate, asking if we were a real company. Anne gave us such a ringing endorsement in vouching for us, we got the order. That gave us so much confidence – Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce really got us on our way internationally and I can’t thank the Chamber enough for that.”
An enthralled audience heard how the business started in 2004 with two partners. The original Pattesons Pickles business was eventually sold to a man who later turned out to be the inventor of Pot Noodles.
The glass business was built on the back of that as they bought glass from plants in Yorkshire, but it was in 2007 when things really started moving for David and his team, working with McRae Foods in Fraserburgh, Scotland. They turned over £51,000 in their first year, but that quickly grew as they started exporting in 2008. They sent a container of goods from Portugal to the Alaskan Mountains, and it actually arrived, so they realised that if they could make that happen, they could do just about anything!
The business began to expand, taking on staff and as their success grew, they received approaches from Lakeland and then Sainsbury’s to supply them with bottles and jars of various types. 12 years later, they were working with huge brands such as Kingfisher, Heineken and Brewdog and now supply all the craft breweries in Ireland with up to 22-million bottles a year.
The business moved to its current premises on Grimsby’s Estate Road 8 in 2011, but has expanded several times since then, upwards and outwards and is now in the process of building new facilities on land in Humberston near to the motor dealers, which will bring all of their warehouses under one roof..
Achieving their BRCGS in 2014 made the company respected in its industry by the big food and drink companies, which further strengthened the business.
In 2017, with two partners looking to retire, 80 per cent of the firm was sold to a Belgian businessman, with David keeping the remaining 20 per cent, and he told his audience “things are still going very well.”
However, Covid presented new challenges, as it did for many businesses, but thanks to their Belgian connections, and with Belgium shutting down for Covid two weeks before the UK did, they realised what was coming and restructured the business so people could work from home, and for those that couldn’t, they rearranged shift patterns to build in as much resilience as possible to the workforce.
The planning worked, and as people started making jams and pickles at home, their online business exploded to £1.2-million after the Government said they could carry on working as they were seen as an essential industry.
But that wasn’t the end of the challenges – some of their biggest suppliers were in Russia, and Ukraine. “That was the first time in my business career I had sleepless nights,” David said.
Last year they were approached by Brewdog to do spirit bottles, with another challengingly short deadline for three products, vodka, gin and rum. David said: “Our Chinese glassmakers really pulled trees up to get it done for us and as a result we won the Glass Pack of the Year: Spirits award at the UK Packaging Awards 2023.
“This year our turnover has hit £16-million, next year it will be £20-million. It’s really great to have a good team in a town like Grimsby. People come back here and now we’ve got the offshore windfarms which are great for the town.
Turning to his love of football and Cleethorpes Town, David said: “I got involved when my son was seven. Tommy Watson, a former Grimsby Town player, roped me in to playing for him. We didn’t have a non-league club back then so we created one and went through the leagues quickly and now play in the FA Cup. We got to Wembley in 2017, all with local lads, which is like the FA Cup for non-league clubs. We lost but it didn’t matter – we took 4,500 people from this area to Wembley.
“We bought the Linden Club and now have a new stand there. We’ve got a girls and ladies section which is very well supported. Tillett’s Clothing supported it and now we have 11 girls’ teams and a ladies team, too. It’s all about being a community club. We try to make it a great place to go and a nice thing for the business to be able to support its local communities.