Greener Cookware with Winnington – Following on from our recent visit to the Exclusively Housewares Event at The Business Design Centre in London, Women Talking talks to Shirley Liu the Global Sales & Marketing Director for Winnington Metal & Plastics.
Searching for the latest ‘on trend ‘products for the home, we were keen to learn more about Shirley Liu and her responsibility for business strategy and execution that she has obtained over the last 26 years of working in this line of business.
Tell me about Winnington Metal & Plastics
“Winnington Metal & Plastic is a custom manufacturer of cookware and kitchenware with headquarters in Hong Kong and factory operations in the Canton province of China. Our company was set up in Hong Kong in 1975 and over the years we’ve become the key supplier of many internationally renowned brands in Europe and the US”.
How has the company evolved with the ever-changing demands in business?
“The e-commerce business is also growing at a very fast pace. This opens the opportunity for manufacturers to run distribution businesses directly from production to the consumer market. Three years ago, we started out in the brand licensing business which is when we became the licensee of the US media brand called SAVEUR Selects. Under this brand, we developed a beautiful portfolio of GOOD Design Award-winning cookware and bakeware products. The collection uses a variety of materials like stainless steel, cast iron and carbon steel. We are distributing this brand in major markets including the US, UK and Greater China, our plan is to continue globally expanding to more territories. This is an end-to-end distribution model and is designed to better meet the needs of consumer demand in a more cost-effective way.
“The landscape of the market has been changing significantly over time. Taking the perspective of demand and supply the market is changing from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. Our business approach and distribution model are adapting by being “demand-pull” rather than “supply-push”. Instead of fulfilling customer orders based on their forecast we are more proactive to offer a model in which our supply is based on the actual consumption and sales of our customers. This allows the whole supply chain to fit much better with the demand in the market”.
Has export over the years become more challenging?
“Yes, there are number of new challenges in business. Our licensed brand was born at the time of the pandemic and there is very limited opportunity for physical store placement of the brand, and products to build brand awareness and recognition. Moreover, ocean freight and logistics costs have been increasing substantially and this has significantly added to the product carrying cost.
“Leadtime is also extended to a large extent adding to the supply-chain disruption. Some of our export customers are also experiencing inflationary costs due to tariffs. With all these challenges our customers are facing we are working together with them to weather the storm”.
How has the company changed regarding sustainability?
“On product level, we are allocating more resources to develop more sustainable ‘built-to-last’ products with a greater longevity. Instead of adhering to the trend of “fast houseware” like fast fashion we are joining the force of promoting sustainable houseware.
“On a factory level, we started to implement a digitalization of metal processing which transforms our operation from manual processes to data-driven processes. This enhances production technology much more sustainably.
“On a supply level, we source our stainless steel from responsible suppliers who use a percentage of recycled steel in the production of new steel. Our factory also has the facilities to melt down metal offcuts, which we reuse in production. This is one way we are committed to reducing waste and making the most of our resources”.
Do you have specific best-selling brands/products?
“One of our bestselling product categories is cast iron cookware. This is a type of traditional cookware which receives a lot of attention and has gained massive popularity over the last few years. Consumers like to cook as well as serve using cast iron cookware because of the fantastic cooking performance. Food served up in colourful cast iron looks especially photogenic, making it popular with foodies posting on social media.
“Due to strong demand in the market, we are continuously developing new product lines using cast iron. We’re excited to be launching more exceptional cast iron cookware next year designed by British designer Nick Munro. The new brand VERSATIRON rethinks traditional cast iron cookware with a unique functional geometry that makes the cookware look as good as it cooks”.
Does the demand for products change in different countries, that you export to?
“We’ve noticed a few product demand trends in the export market.
“Firstly, ‘smart living’ is a prevailing trend which has consumers buying smaller sized products as well as space-saving multi-functional products. Other product features like detachable handle cookware, stackable cookware and oven-to-table cookware are gaining more demand.
“Secondly, consumers are also more conscious of the environmental impact behind their purchase decisions. This helps grow the demand internationally for “greener” cookware, products using eco-friendly materials and with longer product lifecycles meet this value proposition.
“I find cookware trends tend to follow food trends. The increasing influence of social media and key opinion leaders that drive food trends shape product demand over different periods of time. As a manufacturer, new product developer, and licensee we are adapting our strategies and processes to meet the changing demand”.