Who are Steenbergs?

Steenbergs is a family-owned business based in the UK.  Steenbergs was founded in 2003 by Axel and Sophie Steenberg to source and pack high-quality organic and fairly-traded herbs, spices, seasonings and teas.  From the outset, our ethos was, also, to be good for the environment and fair to people.  Steenbergs is still family-owned and run by Axel and Sophie Steenberg.  And genuine quality, sustainability and fairness remain our three business axioms.

Where are Steenbergs based?

Steenbergs has two factories in a village called Melmerby.  Melmerby lies just outside of Ripon in North Yorkshire.

What makes you different?

Steenbergs tries to operate in an open, friendly and honest way, and we hope we make all our decisions to meet our core ethical ideals.  By adhering to these ideals, it means we are smaller, grow less quickly than our competition and sometimes seem more expensive than others, but these are the prices of being good people.  Our products are also hand-crafted, often made to order, and are what we say they are - purely and simply they are the best ingredients we can find that are organic and fairly made, without anything taken out or added in.

Where are your products made?

All Steenbergs' raw materials and most of our packaging are imported, but we blend all our mixes at our factories in North Yorkshire.  We also do all our own packing here in North Yorkshire.  Even the fabric bags that we pack mulling wine and whisky toddy into are sewn in the UK.

Aren't organic and Fairtrade just myths?

No, organic and Fairtrade certified products are what they say they are - good for the environment, free from chemicals and respectful of people.  Yes, there are inconsistencies and bad operators, but we are confident enough in what we do and how the systems work to be sure that Steenbergs products are sustainable, free from nasties and fair in our supply chains. 

In fact, we relish the inconsistencies and conflicts because it shows how a mature system addresses all the potential problems inherent in a set of rules.  Rules are only as good as the values and beliefs that underpin them, and it is in trying to maintain these principles that inconsistencies and illogical requirements can arise.  This makes organic and Fairtrade art-forms as much as a regulatory framework.  Contradictions create vitality in systems, just as they do in people; it is consistency and uniformity that are dreary and dead, sucking out the joy in life.

So don't mess up a good idea simply because it is imperfect.  Life really is weird and random, not logical, so all these inconsistencies do is just reflect the world itself. 

Organic really is food you can trust - producers must meet standards that are set in European law, and all organic farms and producers are audited at least once a year against these requirements.  Furthermore, not only are pesticides and dodgy chemicals banned under organic, but so are hydrogenated fats, MSG, additives like aspartame and tartrazine as well. 

Fairtrade products pay a living wage to farmers and workers on certified farms and plantations in the global South.  But it is not just about the cash, so in addition Fairtrade provides farmers and workers a say on how the standards work and the extra money generated through Fairtrade is spent.  It is this latter co-operative and democratic spirit within Fairtrade that genuinely treats workers with respect and fairness that is the unique difference of Fairtrade versus other, particularly corporate, "fair trading" regimes.  Usually, these alternative fair trade systems seek to influence, even control, how the premiums are spent - this is plainly and simply not fair!

Is organic better for nature?

Organic focuses on sustainable natural ecosystems, so organic farms are havens for wildlife.  This includes wildflowers, farmland birds, insects such as bees that have been in serious decline for some years because of neonicotinoide based pesticides.  Research suggests that plant, insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms compared to standard farms.

While Steenbergs is a vegan and vegetarian business, it is still good to know that animals reared organically are encouraged to develop health and vitality, through minimising stress, giving animals space, access to free range, a healthy diet and allowing them to express their natural behaviour to the greatest extent possible.  All aspects of animal welfare, including rearing, feeding, shelter, transportation and slaughter are covered by organic standards.

But isn't organic simply lower yield farming?

Firstly, it is not necessarily lower yield agriculture.  Secondly, organic is also about choice in how our food is produced.  But for those hundreds of millions of people whose only priority is how to get enough food, organic does benefit these smaller scale farmers - particularly in the global South.  Organic techniques can improve soil quality, reduce exposure to pesticides and sometimes yields greater amounts than traditional methods.  For cash-poor, labour-rich countries, organic offers a real alternative to industrial farming methods.

Isn't Fairtrade just another way for businesses to line their pockets?

No.  As described above, Steenbergs has Fairtrade products and supply chains to create an auditable supply chain that guarantees a fair wage and a fair price for commodities to its suppliers.  Farmers and workers within its supply chains have a real say in how the system works and how to spend the extra money they generate.  Furthermore, Steenbergs does not negotiate prices with its Fairtrade suppliers, because we accept their offer at face value as being reasonable. 

In terms of Steenbergs' prices, we make less profit on Fairtrade than normal organic lines, because of the premiums we pay to the supplier and the Fairtrade Foundation.  For example, Steenbergs charges 3.9% more for Fairtrade than non-Fairtrade black peppercorns.  2.7% goes as the premium to the cooperative in the global South and 1.7% goes to the Fairtrade Foundation.  This means that it costs Steenbergs 0.5% per Fairtrade item sold rather than making any additional profit.  That is how we approach Fairtrade, but if other producers or retailers do it differently then that is not right and we do not support them.

Do you pay your people enough?

We pay all our staff - including directors - the same hourly rate.  This is set at a premium to the Living Wage as set by the UK Government.  For anyone that works on a piece work rate, they are paid on the basis of the rules set out by the UK Government for calculating those rates.  We are striving to move our wage rates towards those proposed by the Living Wage Foundation , but it is really tough to move when there is constant downwards pressure on costs from customers!


What makes your spices and teas different?

Our products are good honest food.  They are what they say on the pack, with no hidden or mystery ingredients.  They are as pure and clean as possible.  This gives Steenbergs' spices and teas a cleaner and deeper flavour that is more pungent and richer than you might expect elsewhere.  On the downside, it means they taste completely different to high-street branded products and may vary from batch-to-batch, but then that is what real food is like; you're welcome to buy from big brands if you want.  But we seek to provide an alternative way of shopping - less averaged down, more cared for and with service.

Are your products good for health?

Many of the herbs and spices that Steenbergs sells are used in traditional medicines, however few have scientifically proven health benefits.  Turmeric is the most promising, but cinnamon and pepper are also possibilities.  We don't make any claims ourselves, but there is plenty of information on the internet that varies in quality from pure conjecture to the helpful. 

Where are your products made?

All Steenbergs' raw materials are imported but we blend all our mixes at our factories in North Yorkshire.  We also do all our own packing here in North Yorkshire.

Do your products come from China?

Some of Steenbergs' products do indeed come from China, simply because that is where they come from - for example, China teas like bamboo, lapsang souchong and pu-erh originate from China.  Furthermore, the spice and tea tins and some of the factored products on the Steenbergs website come from China.  This does not mean we approve of the Chinese political system; in fact, we seek to minimise what we buy from places with poor human rights records.  However, at times needs must - a quick look and our phones, desktop computers, monitors, printers, building's security system are all "Made in China".

Are your products vegan-friendly?

All Steenbergs' products are vegan-friendly.  Some have, also, been registered with the Vegan Society.  Likewise, all our products are suitable for vegetarians. 

As a vegan and vegetarian business, we are opposed to harm to any form of life with a nervous system, i.e. those that can sense pain.  Therefore, while some of our vegan products are halal, this does not mean Steenbergs condones halal butchery, or for that matter kosher or any method of killing animals - so that includes hunting, shooting and fishing.

Are your products organic and Fairtrade?

Most of our products are organic and a very large range is also Fairtrade.  Some are neither organic nor Fairtrade, but we make very clear where this is the case - these are usually either very specialist ingredients or non-farmed products.  In some cases, it is because pollution is high in particular regions, for example it has become well nigh impossible to get "clean" lapsang souchong from China let alone organic, while Sichuan pepper has become unavailable as non-organic as well as organic because the level of chemicals in Chinese soils is resulting in unacceptably high levels of pesticides in their harvested spices.  If you've got a query, then just contact us about the specific product. 

What about GMO?

None of Steenbergs' products are genetically modified.  And, notwithstanding its potential benefits, Steenbergs is opposed to genetic engineering.

Are your products kosher?

Most of our products are naturally kosher, but some are not.  Many ingredients and blends have been certified as kosher by KLBD - London Beth Din.  For more details, please email us: sales@steenbergs.co.uk.

Are you products halal?

All Steenbergs' products are, we believe, suitable for those who require a halal diet.  Furthermore, some of Steenbergs' products are certified as conforming with the requirements of halal under Islamic law by Halal Certification Europe.  For more details, please email us: sales@steenbergs.co.uk.

What about allergies?

Allergens are a really tricky area.  We try to minimise the risk of contamination of our products by allergens.

Steenbergs does not have the following allergens in any of the manufacturing areas: crustaceans, egg, fish, lupin, milk, peanuts, sulphur dioxide, tree nuts.  Furthermore, breadcrumbs, celery, mustard and sesame are not present in the tea packing factory.

However, we do have breadcrumbs, celery, mustard and sesame within our range of herbs and spices products.

We remove the potential of cross-contamination by storing products separately, processing at different times and using specific equipment.  Then, we have weekly and monthly testing programmes in the packing areas to check there really are no allergens present.  Additionally, within the testing schedule we test products for allergens.   

So while it is not possible to completely eliminate the risks, we feel we've got it reduced to almost zero. 

Are you products gluten free?

Yes, other than the stuffings that do contain breadcrumbs. 

How can we be sure, you might well ask!  We only pack stuffings on a few limited occasions every year, so it is easy to restrict the potential risks.  We remove the potential of cross-contamination by storing products separately, processing at different times and using specific equipment. 

Also, we test the factory environment for gluten and products on a random basis.  This gives us the confidence that there is no gluten in Steenbergs' products.

Do your products contain sulphur dioxide?

No, none of Steenbergs' products contains sulphur dioxide. 

Where can I find nutritional information about your products?

Spices, herbs, seasonings and teas do not need to carry nutritional information.  We do provide a snapshot of the high-level nutritional data on our website, if we have the data.  We have an ongoing program of laboratory analyses to obtain nutritional data on all our ingredients, so in the near future we will have data on all our products and be able to calculate the nutritional information for all Steenbergs' blends.  Therefore, if you require nutritional information, just email us and we will probably be able to give you an answer.

Is your cinnamon real cinnamon or cassia ?

This is perhaps the controversial area of potential substitution in spices.  However, Steenbergs always clearly describes and labels true cinnamon as "Cinnamon" and other cinnamons as "Cassia".  So if you order "Cinnamon " that is what you will get, but if you order "Cassia " you will get cassia.


Where can I buy Steenbergs and Old Hamlet products?

The best places to buy our entire range are: Steenbergs and Amazon.  Some of Steenbergs' spices are sold at Ocado, Selfridges and Whole Foods.

When can I expect my order?

We aim to dispatch our orders within 1 - 2 working days of receiving the order; we do not work at the weekend!  So you should get your order within 5 working days.  However, because Steenbergs is a manufacturer, we might have to blend and pack particular products, which means it can take a bit longer than this.  Also, a few deliveries do get delayed during the delivery process, so it is worth calling us, if it seems to have taken an age.

What do I do if my order is late?

The best thing to do is to contact us if it has gone beyond 1 week and your order has not been sent out.  We'll then check what has happened and come back to you really quickly. 

Sometimes, orders that have been dispatched get "lost", but we have found that almost all missing parcels wing their back to Steenbergs - usually with a note stating "not called for"; about 0.01% get genuinely lost but about 1.67% come back.  So please double check with your neighbours and local post office, just in case it is there.  Otherwise, just email or call us and we will arrange to resend.

Do you charge delivery costs and is there a minimum order?

We do charge £4.50 for orders below £25 in value, but above that it is free, while on Amazon the charge is £3.99.  This is to cover the labour, packaging, delivery costs, VAT, breakages and returns costs of delivering our products to you.  If you think it through, it really is not possible to send a £2.45 jar in the post and cover our costs let alone make a profit. 

Do you ship internationally?

Steenbergs is focused on the UK market.  However, we do currently ship to: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.  Unfortunately, because our products have a high weight but low value, the shipping costs appear high, but as exports are not part of our strategy we are not looking at addressing this in the near term.

Can I cancel my order?

Should you wish to cancel your order, it is best to either email or call us.  We try and dispatch our orders as quickly as possible, so we cannot always stop a delivery as it may have already left.

How do I change my delivery address?

Should you need to change your address after placing your order, you can either email sales@steenbergs.co.uk or call us.

What types of payment do you take?

You can pay by all major credit and debit cards, excluding American Express.  Through the website, you can also pay via Paypal.

When will my credit card be charged?

Payment is taken when you place your order.

Is it safe for me to use your site?

Steenbergs' websites are safe.  It has a security certificate so is "https"; this encrypts data between your computer and our server using a SSL protocol (Secure Sockets Layer), so you can be sure that the website is owned by Steenbergs Ltd and that all personal information provided to us is protected.  Furthermore, any payments you make are made directly at Worldpay, so you benefit from their security systems as one of the world's largest payments businesses.