National treasure: printers trading on ‘brand Britain’

Jon Severs
Monday, November 13, 2017

When was the last time you bought something that was made in Britain? For many of us that’s likely to be a tough question to answer. We’re so accustomed to a global market that we barely bother to check the journey a purchase has made to arrive at our home or business. It could be from anywhere – many never give it a second thought.

The organisation Made In Britain is trying to change that. It wants to promote British manufacturing both at home and abroad. Its marque is designed to make it clear that you are buying a quality British-made item, while its network is designed to help British manufacturers thrive.

And printers have been key early members, says Made in Britain chief executive John Pearce. 

“The printing sector is a vital part of both retail and industrial manufacturing and we expect our members to choose British-made goods in their supply chain where possible,” he explains. “All our members can showcase what they make to the network of 1,000 members and printed products are especially attractive because everyone needs them. 

“The printing sector has been really buoyant for Made in Britain since the National Gallery started asking all their suppliers to join – they are trying to source as many of the gifts as possible in their shops from Made in Britain members.” 

The group of printers already involved are a diverse set of businesses with varying reasons for signing up. PrintWeek caught up with six of them to get their view on why they opted to get involved in the marque and what benefits it has brought. 

KEP Print Group

The Staffordshire print and print management company joined Made in Britain in October. Mark Plowman, managing director, says the process was relatively straightforward. It started with a phone interview, then the company had to fill in a formal application and pay a fee. 

“Payment is based on turnover, and we consider their rates to be more than fair given the benefits KEP will receive in return,” he says. 

Why did he want to get involved? 

“We looked into Made In Britain for a variety of reasons, many of which revolve around our recent changes in internal sales and marketing. Made In Britain gave us the chance to more easily market one of our greatest selling points – our British roots. We also took a look at the other companies who were involved and are excited to grow our relationships with other British manufacturers,” he explains. 

It’s too early yet to see evidence of direct sales as a result of the marque, but Plowman is confident they will come. 

“We consider the marque to be similar to our ISO and FSC accreditations and awards, which are excellent marketing tools for the quality of work we produce, the satisfaction of our customers, and the environmental standards we hold ourselves to. It is also a great networking tool for us, which we use alongside our membership in the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.”

It’s Plowman’s view that the marque will become even more important post-Brexit. 

“Being British-manufactured will be even more important once we leave the EU. The marque is easy to recognise and gives instant awareness to where the products were manufactured. It shows to the UK that we are committed to help make our Brexit a little bit easier and that we are fully committed to making it work.”

Printed Cup Company 

Mark Woodward, founder of Lancashire-based Printed Cup Company, says he first decided to get involved with Made In Britain after the vote to leave the EU. 

“If people were brave enough to vote leave, we need them to be brave enough to buy British,” he explains. “There are about 10 organisations promoting made in Britain, but we felt this was the best one.”

He agrees with Plowman that the process was relatively easy to go through and says the impact has been clear overseas, but less encouraging in the UK. 

“When exporting there is a very positive reaction to the marque,when selling at home it is much more of a challenge where being made in Britain is more expensive than imports,” he says. 

Also, while it is not a pre-requisite that every element of a product is British, it would be an enviable goal. Unfortunately, for his sector, it would be an impossible one, says Woodward. 

“It will never happen, as there is not sufficient demand to warrant making paper cup machines in the UK,” he explains. “We look at everything, and where possible we buy locally.”

Inprint Litho

Commercial printer Inprint Litho is based in Southampton and has experienced a lot of competition from printers in eastern Europe. To counter that, it signed up to Made in Britain in an effort to highlight to customers that it is UK-based while many of its competitors are not. 

Damien Sweeney, managing director, says it is about trying to change the customer mindset. 

“I think people in the UK will always look for cheapest first – the internet has made the problem even bigger,” he explains. “Being British isn’t always the cheapest but if everyone thought long and hard before we all bought this cheap inferior quality imported [product], we all might be better off.”

Since getting the marque, the company has won some contracts directly as a result, but Sweeney says that is a bonus, not the aim. 

“We have had several enquiries and work from other members, it was never about that, though, it was to show it was printed in Britain.”


Hertfordshire-based print service provider Datum already had a big customer base abroad that was seeking British-made products, so getting the marque was an attempt to build on that market, says Scott Pearce, managing partner. 

He explains that the company has previously used free listing sites for UK businesses, but inevitably there was a catch. 

“We have used a number of different online directories over the years where the business model is free, then you have the token phone call a few days later saying would you like to be at the top of the search results by paying a premium monthly amount. Whereas with Made In Britain, there was a small admin fee, which is sensibly priced, and all the companies operate on a level playing field.”

It has also quickly paid for itself, he explains. 

“We have found the Made In Britain marque is particularly useful when winning new business in the US,” he reveals. “We have won regular work for a large pharmaceutical business based in North America who wanted to use a marketing production company based in the UK to manage print and distribution in Europe. We have also recently won business in New Zealand, Canada and Qatar.”

As for the UK, it is not a market he has felt the need to use the Made in Britain marque in. 

“We don’t include it as a part of our brand identity unless marketing overseas, we treat this purely as a overseas sales aid,” he explains. 

Metallic Elephant

Hot foil machine manufacturer Metallic Elephant joined Made in Britain partly because it felt like the right thing to do, but also because of competition from abroad. 

“Karl and Ros [French], who are the co-founders of the company, have worked for British manufacturers and printers respectively and were passionate about the thought of promoting a British company proud of its British engineering background after seeing the hot foil presses being produced abroad to an inferior quality of what they had been used to,” explains Vincent WIlson, production manager. 

He says one clear benefit is differentiating the company from competitors who use different techniques and processes, but he adds that being part of the network is also important. 

“We do feel a part of a collective of other like-minded companies who put production in Britain as a major selling point to their client base. It does feel that it is easier to connect and network with fellow members when required.”

Swanline Print Group

Nick Kirby, chief executive of Swanline, says signing up to Made in Britain should make sense for pretty much any UK business. 

“It makes commercial sense for UK manufacturing businesses to join the campaign; as members, businesses are added to a directory of suppliers and are eligible to use the Made in Britain marque. Many consumers want to buy British but struggle to identify products that are made here, so by displaying the marque companies are able to clearly demonstrate their products’ provenance,” he explains.

He argues this will be even more key post-Brexit: “Made in Britain will be absolutely vital post-Brexit to helping UK manufacturers source goods and secure new business relationships in a more insular market atmosphere.”

As such, he has looked to push the Made in Britain branding even further. “While this already formed part of our branding and company ethos, we have gone one step further in 2017 by introducing our own spin on the Made in Britain campaign, launching a range of UK-themed corrugated projects to distribute to customers. Starting with a teapot design, portraying the good old British cuppa, these products show our customers that by working with Swanline, they are bringing on board a quality British company capable of delivering the best products with the right service.” 

Applying for the Made in Britain marque

John Pearce writes: Members of Made in Britain have to comply with the Trade Descriptions Act, the trading standards definition written into law back in 1968, but they also have to fulfil our criteria as an organisation. Total transparency is the key. Our members share rich content about the business and the manufacturing process and we publish that on the directory that is open to everyone: buyers, consumers, specifiers in the UK and around the world to see for themselves.

For more information, visit


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