Cheese, candles, and going green: Chorley-based Kerax taking the UK wax industry by storm

It was cheese which transformed Kerax’s fortunes. Founded in 1962 by Tom Wilcox, the Chorley wax manufacturer had initially struggled to get a foothold in the industry, until Tom spotted a gap in the market.

By Jack Marshall
Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 9:34 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 12:28 pm
Stephen Adewumi
Stephen Adewumi

Realising that local Lancashire cheeses were being coated in imported Danish wax, Tom developed his own blend instead and the rest, as they say, is history. Kerax is now the UK’s foremost expert in wax blending, supplying everyone from candle-makers to large cosmetics and pharmaceutical businesses.

Their name deriving from the Latin for wax (‘cera’ with a hard ‘k’), Kerax has come a long way from wrapping cheddar, having expanded into countless other markets including a move into eco-friendly products via vegetable-derived and natural waxes.

The company also invested heavily in new equipment during the pandemic to increase capacity, an effort led by Engineering Manager Stephen Adewumi. “I enjoy the technical aspects of engineering, especially with the company's rapid growth and expansion,” says Stephen, with Kerax for three-and-a-half years. “Every day is different, no two are the same.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Behind the scenes in the Kerax lab

“Over the past few years, Kerax has enjoyed steady growth across all sectors, but nowhere more than in candle wax,” he adds. “Demand grew dramatically during the pandemic and whenever a challenge arises, we tackle it together.

With around 80 employees, customers on five continents, and a turnover of £33m, Kerax recently also announced a strategic investment and cooperation agreement with clean-tech innovator Clariter to help them transform mixed plastic waste into high-quality waxes, oils, and solvents with applications across numerous industries.

“We’re incredibly excited to be participating in the latest Clariter fundraiser,” says Ian Appleton, Kerax’s CEO. “Clariter’s innovative method of converting waste streams into advanced materials provides a unique supply of high-quality products.

“Kerax and Clariter will work closely together to increase the distribution of Clariter products and develop new products for existing applications,” he adds. “We look forward to working closely with Ran [Sharon, Clariter’s Founder and CEO] and his team to create a more sustainable planet”.

A Kerax employee in action

Ran agrees. ”Since our upcycling technology utilises plastic waste as a feedstock for green petrochemicals, we address a key global issue,” he says. “Processes and products that are green and more circular have a meaningful role to play in the global trend towards sustainability and ultimately a net-zero carbon future. Kerax joining our strategy is a win-win for both companies.”

Going green is key to the future of every business in the long-run, and Stephen’s aspirations for his future at the company are very much aligned with that ambition.

"My aspiration for the company's future is to ensure continued production capacity and reliability, ensuring customer satisfaction through quality products,” he says. “It’s my intention to help the company find ways to combat climate change, from environmentally friendly manufacturing processes to the development of vegetable waxes.

“Kerax does its part to reprocess waste plastic worldwide, and I would feel fulfilled if we could reduce the carbon footprint that our species leaves in the world by reprocessing more of that waste.”