Spotless Growth: Astonish’s Family-Led Ethical Expansion

Astonishing success

An award-winning manufacturer of cleaning products, Astonish is a family business with strong values and a voracious appetite for growth.

In January this year, at a lavish Park Lane ceremony, the Astonish Oven & Grill Specialist Cleaner & Sponge was named overall winner in the General Household category of the Product of the Year Awards 2020. The UK’s largest consumer survey of product innovation, the Product of the Year Awards are voted for by over 10,000 people nationwide and the list of winners is a who’s who of the UK’s most well-known blue-chip corporations. To take home this year’s prize, Astonish beat out some of the industry’s biggest brands, including Flash, Dettol and Mr Muscle.

An indisputable triumph for the company, winning the award was a particularly proud moment for Managing Director Howard Moss. Almost 50 years prior to the achievement, Howard’s father had just established the business, and was selling the first Astonish Oven and Cookware Cleaner door to door. From these humble beginnings, the company began a journey of irresistible growth. After demonstrational appearances at The Great Yorkshire Show and The Ideal Home Show, Astonish products were sold to mail order catalogues like Kleeneze and Betterware, before being demonstrated on the television channel QVC. It was at this point that Howard joined the company, a young graduate with a passion for retail.

“I just immersed myself into the business at a very grassroots level and soon I started to comsee things that maybe my father wasn’t able to see,” Howard recalls. “After that, what was very favourable for me, and something that I am still unbelievably grateful for, was that my father didn’t stand in my way. He allowed me to take the business in the direction that I wanted to go in and that was to get the product into mainstream retail.”

Over the next 20 years, Howard led the company through two relocations – the first in 2000, at an investment of around £2 million, and the second in 2010, this time costing almost £5.5 million. Now, in 2020, with a turnover of approximately £32 million, Howard has more investment plans for Astonish.

“All being well, we’re relocating again towards the end of 2021 for an outlay of £16 million,” Howard reports. “We’re actually going to be moving to a site directly opposite where we are now. The building will start later this year and it will allow our business to treble its capacity and ensure that our ever-growing customer base is maximised over the next 10 years or more. The new location will enable us to achieve about £80 million in turnover.”

The new site is part of what Howard describes as a ‘continuous trail of investment’ in the company. “The money we put into the business goes towards making the working environment better, ensuring that our equipment is updated and best-in-class, developing our products, and designing new packaging. We’ve also just invested in our first ever TV commercial and that ran for three and a half months on ITV.”

While shrewd investment has certainly fuelled the company’s growth, Astonish is a family company at heart, and it is clear from talking to Howard that, more than anything, he believes it is people that are paramount to the company’s success. “What we offer is a best in class solution for household cleaning and – under our luxury Moss & Adams brand – personal care,” Howard states. “Yes, we’ve got an incredible product and an incredible brand, but without the best people, and people who truly, truly care, you can’t fulfill those achievements.”

The wide variety of schemes Astonish has devised to reward and encourage its staff is testament to the high esteem in which it holds its personnel. Every Tuesday, fresh fruit is delivered to all areas of the business, the final Friday of each month is celebrated with a company-wide lunch, awards are regularly distributed for long-term service and employee of the month, and for 11 years, the company has been taking its staff on an annual trip to exciting locations abroad or in the UK.

“I would call these things gestures and measures of goodwill,” Howard explains. “We want to pull our colleagues together and have everybody under that same roof, whether it’s a work event or the final Friday of every month.

A lot of businesses have a divide between different departments and people end up forming cliques. I’ve worked very, very hard to ensure that there are no divides in this business. Every single member of our team is carrying out a massively important function and I try to make sure it is recognised.”

Unsurprisingly, these measures have helped Astonish to achieve a high rate of staff retention and it is not unusual for multiple generations of the same families to work for the company. “People tend to join us, if not from school, certainly from Astonishearlier in their careers, and they tend to stay with us until they are retired,” Howard says. “Some people who’ve been with us for a long time now have their children working in the business. It really is a close-knit organisation, and no matter how much the business is developing, we’re never going to lose that family feel.”

A company as staunchly committed to its staff as it is to its core beliefs, Astonish remains the UK’s only vegan-approved cleaning brand. Its products are animal friendly, free of toxic chemicals, and 100 per cent biodegradable. The way the company has reacted to the Covid-19 pandemic is a reflection of its ethical approach to business and an example of how family values will continue to influence the way it tackles any challenges the future might present.

“Due to the current crisis, demand for our products has grown over the last month,” Howard declares. “We’re directly at the forefront of trying to keep materials and products out there that are going to combat this virus. Our major hope going forward is that we can do our bit to make sure the public continue to receive the very best cleaning and personal care products, at affordable prices, with no adverse effect on the environment.”

Products: Cleaning products