Steenbergs History

2003-07

Steenbergs was established in mid-2003 to sell organic herbs and spices.  Starting from their home, Axel and Sophie Steenberg had moved into a small food unit at Melmerby, Ripon by October 2003, and Steenbergs became organic certified with Organic Food Federation at the same time.  They began selling and packing their own spices after launching their web store, steenbergs.co.uk, and carrying out their first trade show at the Food & Drink Expo during early 2004. 

By mid-2004, Steenbergs was already importing spices from organic growers to meet demand, and by the end of 2004 had achieved Fairtrade status for teas.

At the same time, Axel Steenberg was lobbying hard for Fairtrade spices, carrying out some detailed market research on the economics of the pepper trade for The Fairtrade Foundation.  His efforts were rewarded when Steenbergs became part of the first wave of Fairtrade spice traders (us and 2 Italian groups) in April 2005, followed by launching the first UK range of Fairtrade spices and blends in June 2005.

By 2006 and following a rapid expansion in the lines of blends that it was making, Steenbergs had outgrown its original factory space.  In October 2006, we moved into a purpose-built factory of 4,750 sq ft that not only included food-grade features throughout but also several environmental changes - sun pipes, real linoleum, carbon neutral carpets, low water usage toilets, green energy and ethical phone services.

During 2006 and 2007, Steenbergs developed and launched the first ethical Bourbon vanilla products.  It launched organic Fairtrade vanilla extract and beans during 2006, establishing its market position through 2007 to 2008.

2008-12 

Over 2008 to 2009, Steenbergs focused on developing its Home Baking range - 100ml bottles of organic Fairtrade vanilla extract, organic rose water, organic lemon extract, organic orange extract, organic orange flower water, organic peppermint extract and natural almond extract.  To these, were added arrowroot , baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar. 

However, the defining event for these 5 years was "the flood".  In December 2010, after a long hard winter of snow and ice with temperatures down to -18oC, the water pipes could not withstand it any more and burst just above the office. Nothing in the warehouse or production was touched and all data was backed up. But everything else in the office was trashed - paperwork, computers, technical files and accounting. It was a real kick in the teeth and took us a while to get everything back up and running again, particularly as it was just before Christmas.  But the phones worked and none of the products were affected.

The upside was that it allowed us to redesign the workspace and refresh everything.  Not only did we get a new office, but we started investing in machinery rather than doing everything by hand.  So the next few years were spent on commissioning semi-automated filling and labelling machinery which enabled Steenbergs to become more efficient and to get some cost benefits from larger batch runs. 

2013-17

With continued expansion, it became necessary to create extra space, so a mezzanine floor was installed in the warehouse at 6 Hallikeld Close during 2013.  This may not sound very earth shattering, but it allowed all packaging to be moved out of the main warehouse space and into its own dedicated area, enabling us to to store everything else more efficiently.

In 2013, Steenbergs launch the UK's first Fairtrade saffron.  This is a great product, but it has proved very controversial because of its origin in Iran, which comes with its tricky political baggage.  In 2014, we launched a range of loose leaf herbal teas, our jute bag range replaced hampers and proved remarkably popular, while the organic and Fairtrade hot chocolate range had a makeover, with new labels and their own fancy black tins.

After several years of developing our own stringent. internal technical and quality systems, Steenbergs became SALSA certified in January 2015.  Following on from this, Steenbergs relaunched its range of baking flavours into 60ml bottles, targeted at more traditional grocery retailers - starting with Ocado .

In 2016, Steenbergs took on an extra building at 11 Hallikeld Close, literally across the yard.  With help from Leeds Enterprise Partnership, we built a tea packing area with its own storage, hygienic packing space and a form-fill filling machine for loose leaf teas, and a space for picking and packing of internet and Amazon orders.  We, also, managed to squeeze in a couple of offices and a test/studio kitchen for marketing and product development.

In conjunction with these factory changes, Steenbergs teas got a complete make-over. All Steenbergs' loose leaf teas and herbal teas became available in retail-ready cardboard cartons and some redesigned black tins and larger quantities for serious tea drinkers.

In January 2017, Steenbergs became certified or accredited for some of its products under halal , kosher and vegan rules.

In February 2017, Steenbergs made its first acquisition, buying Old Hamlet Wine & Spice Co.  Old Hamlet Wine & Spice Co is a complementary spice business, with a focus on the gifting market where Steenbergs had not traditionally focused.  Old Hamlet Wine & Spice Co had been making mulling spices and other drinks-related mixes since 1974, moving into Fairtrade mixes in 2006.  It was an opportunity too exciting to miss.