A FREEZING winter is on its way, says the UK’s biggest de-icer manufacturer, revelling in the prospect as its grows its global business.
Newcastle-based Kilfrost is preparing for frenzied activity in its factory in Haltwhistle, Northumberland, as the weather chills across Europe.
Chief executive Gary Lydiate said: “When the weather gets bad the place gets crazy. We work around the clock. A really cold winter is a beautiful thing to us.”
The 75-year-old firm already sells two-thirds of the de-icer bought across Europe to keep airports and aeroplanes moving when the temperature drops and its revenues have gone from £12m in 2006 to £55m last year.
Lydiate does not expect to see big growth in the sales figures for 2012, but he is looking to Kilfrost’s expanding trade in the US for a jump in revenues next year.
Kilfrost opened its first US office four years ago and has 15 staff there and has 20% of the market, up from 10% a year earlier, and the firm is looking to step that up dramatically.
“I’m very confident about the future of the business and I’m particularly happy with how it’s going in America,” said Lydiate.
“It’s the biggest aviation market in the world, with 60% of all aviation, and we are now seeing very strong growth over there.
“We are beating the opposition by having a good product and good delivery and especially by having staff who have worked in the aviation industry and can talk to the aviation companies on their own terms.
“We don’t have a one-size-fits-all policy. We work with the companies to give them exactly what they want. That’s why we’re doing well there.
“But we took a while to get a firm grip on the market and although we haven’t seen a profit yet I expect we will see our first profit next year.”
And the business is preparing a strong assault on the aviation market in China, which has the fastest-growing aviation market in the world with around 200 airports opening a year.
Kilfrost is the first non-Chinese company to break into the country’s market after winning approvals and making contacts in what can be an insular trading environment. It sold less than £1m of product there last year but hopes to take 5% in the coming years, a percentage which this year is worth around £5m but is growing fast.
“We have just started out there but is such a growing market that we will see an increasing share. Aviation is naturally an international business and we have a good reputation in the industry worldwide,” added Lydiate.
And the firm is also growing into new markets. Its products absorb the temperature of what they touch whether hot or cold, have been adapted for environmentally-friendly heating which takes heat from the ambient temperature outside a home and uses it to run the heating inside when the weather turns nasty.
The liquids are going into refrigeration and even to cool beer in bars. The markets are growing in northern Europe and when they are at the right level, Kilfrost will export further afield. The business which employs more than 50 staff in Haltwhistle, 15 in the US and a handful in China is looking to expand its workforce in the coming year as business grows.
Whitley Bay chemist Joseph Halbert set up the business in the 1930s to provide an adhesive material that could stick up large posters at St James’ Park. He later turned it into de-icer.
Lydiate is the first non-Halbert to run the firm. He is married to Louise Halbert.
When the weather gets bad the place gets crazy. We work around the clock. I’m very confident about the future