Astonish House,
Unit 8, Thornbury Industrial Park,
Woodhall Road,
West Yorkshire

Contact Details

Tel: +44 (0)1274 767440
Twitter: @AstonishCleaners #BeAstonished

Winners Of

  • 2022 International Trade

Owner of leading cleaning brands Astonish and Moss & Adams, The London Oil Refining Co Ltd has been awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2022 for its outstanding growth across international markets.

A family company based in Bradford with a 100-strong workforce, The London Oil Refining Co Ltd manufacture and distribute more than 80 cruelty-free household cleaning and personal care products. The range includes antibacterial and hard surface sprays, specialist creams and pastes, as well as personal care items such as antibacterial handwash, luxury handwash, shower gels and bath soaks.

The cleaning giant was crowned as a winner in the International Trade category due to its consistent growth among 25 exclusive global partners. Astonish has shown substantial growth year-on-year both in the UK and overseas, with exports increasing to include markets such as Pakistan, Lithuania, Malta and India.

While the results of Astonish’s international trade strategy were impressive, its eco credentials also stood out. Their success is rooted in the company’s commitment to the environment from its inception in the early 1970s. Having never tested its products on animals or incorporating animal-derived ingredients, it is the only manufacturer in the cleaning industry that is certified by Cruelty Free International and accredited by the Vegan and Vegetarian Society.

To understand more, we asked Howard Moss, CEO, to reflect on this achievement, the journey and what the future holds…

Queen’s Awards Magazine: This is amazing news Howard – congratulations. What does this award mean to you?

Howard Moss: Thank you so much – we are thrilled to have our success in international trade recognised by a prestigious and long-standing British institution such as the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.
Our entire team, from those on the factory floor to our international sales team, have worked tirelessly to ensure we have grown worldwide, while remaining true to our British and Yorkshire heritage, which is of the utmost importance to us. It’s so vital, particularly in a post-pandemic era, to remain connected to the wider world whilst supporting our local workforce and that sense of community.

QA Magazine: Why is international trade so important to London Oil Refining Co Ltd?

HM: International trade is so important for us, as it supports our ambitious growth plans. I’m so proud to say that we export to more than 40 countries and this continued success means we are now able to make an additional £25m investment into the company and our people.
Our plans will begin with a move to a new purpose-built premises within the coming months. This facility will double our size from 52,000 sq ft to 128,000 sq ft which will help us to increase productivity with new state of the art equipment, quadrupling sales both domestically and around the globe.

QA Magazine: Where do you currently trade from an international perspective?

HM: We have an extensive list of global customers, selling worldwide to countries including Kenya, Malaysia, Morocco, Ireland, Canada, India, Mauritius, Germany, Ireland, Cyprus, Turkey, Costa Rica, Latvia, Thailand, Taiwan, Bulgaria, Ghana, Australia, Malta, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Israel, Slovenia, Mongolia, Italy, Korea, Egypt and Indonesia.
Most significantly, the brand has increased sales and market share in Israel, East Asia, Korea and Taiwan.

QA Magazine: What is the importance of international exporting to the business?

HM: We are an independent, UK-based company in a highly competitive market. Most of our main rivals are multi-national brands. As a family company we are punching above our weight which is seen in our export sales figures. We continually regard exporting as a natural and viable way to continue to grow the business.

QA Magazine: Why do you think you’ve been successful with international trade?

HM: We’ve been successful due to the quality of our partnerships. We ensure that we work with partners that we trust – ensuring they are credible and respected in their own markets. While figures are important, the most important aspect is forging strong relationships by collaborating with businesses who uphold similar values to us, conducting themselves with the highest standards.

QA Magazine: What gives you relevance and prominence in international markets?

HM: Our strict ethos of manufacturing cruelty free products with no animal ingredients gives us a major advantage across global markets. The demand for kosher certified products, for example, means that we have become the number two brand for kitchen cleaning products in Israel. We have been trading there for 20 years via a distributor and our exports have reached more than 1.3m a year.
Research has shown that our prominence in developing markets such as the Caribbean and eastern European countries is due to our products being more cost effective, credible and ethical. To support this, we always ensure all our packaging is in the language of the country we export to for total transparency and trust building.

QA Magazine: What impact did the Covid-19 pandemic have on the business? How did you respond to the challenges faced?

HM: As a manufacturer, we had to quickly understand and implement all safety measures for a Covid- 19 compliant business operation. We supported and retained our workforce by ensuring we all could continue working safely on site. By working together with trust and integrity, we reconfigured production lines, implement rigorous cleaning procedures and social distanced. Throughout this time, it was vital to us that we supported the team and their families.
We faced distribution and bureaucracy challenges due to an increase in container costs, but we continued to successfully send products overseas. During this time, we made the decision to absorb all additional costs to maintain customer and supplier relationships.
When the pandemic first struck, we quadrupled our production of anti-bacterial handwash and have continued at this rate ever since. We used this an opportunity to engage customers by asking them to design a bottle sleeve to thank the NHS. We then printed 250,000 limited edition packs and donated all profits to NHS charities. Since then, we have continued donating to local charities to show our ongoing support.

QA Magazine: Could you tell us a bit more about your environmental credentials and why that matters?

HM: Since our inception, we have been a catalyst for changing hearts and minds with our approach and values. We place huge emphasis on our packaging, with our Moss & Adams range comprising of 100% UK sourced recycled plastic bottles. We always strive to make improvements where we can, with new products launching in recyclable and biodegradable packaging, containing plant derived ingredients. Our ambition is to continually develop and distribute products consumers love to use without having to compromise.
As a business, we’ll be reducing our carbon footprint by moving premises as our stock will be located at one site, rather than at multiple sites. We’ll also have electric car charging points and 100% LED energy efficient electrics throughout our facilities. We are also ISO 14001 certified, the internationally recognised standard for the environmental management of businesses.

QA Magazine: What are your plans for growth and investment in the coming years?

HM: Our whole investment strategy now revolves around moving to our new larger premises. This will enhance our production capabilities and meet growing demands year on year by investing in the latest technology. As a result, we will be doubling the rate of bottling trigger sprays which may enable us to work with retailers on own-brand products.
We will continue to research and develop new products to expand the range and to enhance our offer. The newest launches include a naturally derived cleaning paste, luxury handwashes and sprays.