Samuel Groves INTERVIEW
Behind the scenes of cook and bakeware
Today we're sharing with you a brand new ‘Meet the Maker’, a feature that is so important to us at SGB. The products that we stock have some brilliant crafting hands behind them, so we feel it's only right that we share with you a little behind the scenes from time to time. This week it's Samuel Groves, a British cook and bakeware brand who have mastered their production over a number of years. So without further or do, let's dive right in.
SGB: Can you talk us through the manufacturing process and the craft skills used to create your products?
Pam: There are two main manufacturing processes used at Samuel Groves. Each of the manufacturing processes is chosen due depending on what the task in hand is, the volume of product required and the staff who are available. Both processes achieve top-quality results.
The first system is called the hydraulic press used mainly for saucepans and bakeware. Saucepans are also spun either by hand or machine. Hand spinning requires the great skills of master craftsmen and women. Following these processes, the items are then inspected and hand-finished by highly skilled and trained craftspeople to ensure a premium first-class result.
SGB: How do your craftspeople go about perfecting these skills? And how long did it take for someone to become a master metal spinner?
Pam: Becoming proficient at hand spinning takes many years. Many of our staff have worked at Samuel Groves for the majority of their working life and have mastered the skill of spinning over time. To become a master spinner takes many years but time is not the only vital factor. To become a master spinner you must gain an in-depth feel for the material and its environment as these variables can change daily.
SGB: Which is the most popular tool in the Samuel Groves arsenal and why?
Pam: It’s not so much about tools but more the knowledge and the skills of our loyal staff that makes us who we are. For example, it is our knowledge of metals, and how to manipulate them, along with a combination of hand tools and machines that stands us apart. We aim to ensure that our workforce, whilst they are likely to be a champion of a particular machine or hand skill, have a level or proficiency across the board. This has been so important in the last two years, as Covid-19 struck various departments. The versatility of staff has enabled us to keep producing throughout.
Undoubtedly, the skills required for hand finishing are one of our USPs. So many pans that travel to UK shores are made using machines, whereas Samuel Groves hand-inspect and hand finish every pan that leaves Birmingham. Each pan is hand polished to exacting standards, to provide a long-lasting finish and perfect cooking surface, these attributes are admired by all Samuel Groves pan owners. We believe this makes us unique.
SGB:Let’s talk materials, at Sir Gordon Bennett the use of quality materials is important to us, can you tell us about the materials you use and why you use them?
Pam: At Samuel Groves, we use a number of different materials and all for different reasons. We choose to use aluminium due to its superior thermal properties, this means that it responds to heat quickly and evenly which is great for ensuring crisp, even bakes. We have championed tri-ply cookware, this material is used for our stainless-steel cookware as it is the preferred choice of many chefs - responding to the customer's needs is always vital.
The inclusion of aluminium lends itself to our tri-ply and 4 ply materials. The aluminium is sandwiched between, a robust and easy to maintain, stainless steel and runs throughout the pans to give a superior aluminium core. This makes for tri-ply pans being the most efficient and responsive option on the market. The outer layer of stainless steel also ensures the pans are suitable for induction hobs, today’s most popular hob.
SGB: What does your approach to sustainability look like? And why is it important?
Pam: This is of paramount importance to the company and is considered at every stage. A few recent highlights include:
-The company has invested in LED lighting.
-We use our own waste materials in our cast iron production.
-Our packaging is from sustainable sources and can be recycled.
-Wherever possible, we’ve eliminated plastic packaging, for example, we’ve recently stopped bagging our bakeware in -plastic bags and moved to recycled paper bags.
-Our products have lifetime guarantees, we manufacture robust products, designed for a lifetime of cooking. We advocate ‘buy once, use forever'.
-Our products are made in the heart of England, consequently, all UK consumers will have a product made relatively locally, with very few air miles.
All the factors above, not only help the planet but differentiate Samuel Groves from our competitors who are the main distributors of imported goods.
‘Buy local, buy British’ is a growing trend.
SGB: How do new products come to life? What does the design journey look like?
Pam: To kickstart things, we like to listen to our consumers (the retailers) this became challenging during lockdown but the opportunity of a trade show in August 2021 provided us with the invaluable feedback that we needed. We have subsequently made changes to ensure the products are even more desirable.
We also look for gaps, for example, we research new food trends and popular products. The next question is ‘can we produce something better here?’. We consider how to respond to these gaps and how we can create something which has Samuel Groves ethos and excellent manufacture at its core. We also have a 200+ year enviable archive and as the country is embracing times gone past, we can look to reinvent and bring back products with a 21st-century twist. This was one of the overriding reasons for the launch of our back to basics cookware range – ‘Britannia’ – battleship build cast iron cookware made in the UK. This range doesn’t have an additional layer of non-sticks that will wear with time but with use will build a natural non-stick patina.
SGB: Your products are world-renowned and used by some of the best chefs in the world, are your designs influenced by cooking trends or demands from modern chefs?
Pam: We started our journey supplying chefs in the catering market, and have learnt from this experience. The results of conversations we’ve had with chefs have influenced developments within the consumer / retail market.
SGB: Which of your products are you most proud of and why?
Pam: That’s a hard question as we wouldn’t sell a product, we weren’t proud of. So the simple answer is ‘all of them’. This being said, I do of course have a certain affinity for our Mermaid Bakeware, there’s so much nostalgia that comes with the range due to having bought this much-loved brand back to the UK consumer market over the past two years. I’m delighted to say the current product is the best it’s ever been, we have improved the specification greatly. With the latest improvements, it certainly won’t buckle or rust and it will offer perfectly even bakes every time.
Then I must highlight our latest venture, Britannia. The UK has an appetite for back-to-basics cooking, no-frills cookware. Britannia is the answer. It is a collection of robust (battleship build) cast iron cookware, made from the only cast iron produced in the UK, with no special coatings. This range is brilliant for cooking using the bbq, AGAs, all hobs and of course the oven too. Our final USP, and something that we’re really proud of, is that it’s made with 70% recycled waste, including waste from our own carbon steel cook and bakeware lines.
SGB: How do you think the handcrafted nature of your pieces affects the final product?
Pam: It’s undoubtedly our best USP as we inspect every pan before it's hand polished. Hand polishing gives the products the most desirable finish. Whilst hand polishing, we are obviously double-checking that there are no flaws, the result being, no pan or piece of bakeware will leave the factory without a thorough inspection. The hand finishing stage of the manufacture of our products is essential in creating first-class cook and bakeware. Without the handcrafted elements, the quality wouldn’t be half as good as it is.
SGB: Samuel Groves is 200+ years old, if you were to pinpoint one thing that stands you apart from other manufacturers, what would it be and why?
Pam: We are one of the few UK cook and bakeware companies still manufacturing and we’re proud to say we expanding our manufacturing capacity. With a 200+ year archive, we have a wealth of knowledge, we have used the archive to adapt and rejuvenate past products to ensure they’re desirable to the modern consumer. We have adapted our tooling and changed materials, from predominantly aluminium cookware to Stainless Steel tri-ply cookware so to be progressive. More recently, we have launched a 4-ply copper which is suitable for induction hobs. So, although we draw inspiration from our 200+ year achieve, we like to keep things modern and innovative - this is what stands us apart from other manufacturers.