Nation’s Noodle lives up to its name as production moves to UK

The “Nation’s Noodle” is coming home. Despite their patriotic name Golden Wonder’s pot noodles are currently made in China and shipped 10,000 nautical miles to Blighty.

But the noodles’ journey from factory to tummy will shrink dramatically by the time Golden Wonder releases its “Christmas Dinner” special. Symington’s, the 191-year-old British company that makes Golden Wonder’s noodles, has cancelled its Chinese contracts in favour of making its own noodles in Leeds, creating at least 50 jobs.

It is the latest example of the growing trend for re-shoring – bringing back manufacturing of goods that had been offshored to China and other low-labour-cost Asian economies.

But as demand for China’s skilled labour force has increased, so have wages and shipping costs, making the economics of manufacturing 10,000 miles away far less attractive, reports The Guardian.

Henrik Pade, Symington’s business development manager, said costs in China had gone up so much recently that it was now “just as cheap to make them in Yorkshire”.

“Over the last couple of years there has been a steady increase in the price of manufacturing in China,” Pade said. “The costs from suppliers are up, wage costs are up, and transport costs have increased significantly.” Sending a container of noodles from Guangdong to Leeds costs about £3,000.

Pade said cost was not the only motivator for bringing production back to the UK. “We have experienced supply chain problems in the past,” he said. “Having it made closer to home will allow us flexibility to increase/decrease production in respond to demand much more quickly.”

Pade said Symington’s, which claims to make almost half of the noodles consumed in the UK, had previously been “caught out” with not having enough stock and left waiting seven to eight weeks for the next ship to arrive. “If you don’t have product, you have unhappy customers,” he said.

Other companies bringing production back include Topshop, River Island and Apple, which is transferring some Mac manufacturing jobs from China to America.

James Bond’s favourite car company, Aston Martin, has returned the manufacture of the Rapide S to the Midlands after winning £1.6m of government regional growth funding.

“Aston Martin is an iconic British brand, so it should be made in the UK,” Vince Cable, the business secretary, said. “Otherwise it’s like having champagne from Bulgaria or a Swiss watch built in Swaziland.

“This is exactly the type of high-value manufacturing that we excel at here in the UK. Our industrial growth strategy will ensure that we retain and grow these types of businesses in the long term.”

But other companies that have brought manufacturing to the UK have been far from impressed with the government’s efforts.

Rob Law, the entrepreneur who invented the Trunki children’s ride-on suitcase, said the government had done nothing to help or persuade him to bring manufacturing back to the UK.

Nonetheless Law, whose invention was dismissed on Dragons’ Den by Theo Paphitis as “rubbish” and rejected by Peter Jones as “worthless”, began making Trunkis in the West Country last summer, including a limited edition line for the London 2012 Olympics.

“It was a long-held dream to make them here, but when we started in 2005-06 it was far too expensive to build them here,” Law said. “But there have been fundamental shifts in the last few years – wage costs and the cost of shipping is just crazy, going up and down like a yo-yo.”

Law decided he could probably make Trunkis for roughly the same price in the UK and began looking for government grants to encourage the relocation.

“After months of researching, getting passed around numerous government departments, I couldn’t find a single grant to help,” he said. “I was more than a little bit astounded after hearing Cameron and Osborne preaching that the UK should be doing more manufacturing. This coupled with the annual investment allowance being cut, which could have offset our investment in tooling and allowed us to bring more products back to the UK for production.”

Law persevered and started production at a factory in Plymouth last summer, but within months the company, Inject Plastics, had collapsed into administration. Trunki bought the company out of administration and is now also making plastic goods for 20 other British companies that have re-shored to the UK.

Law said hundreds of other British companies would like to bring production back to Britain, “but most are put off by the lack of government support”.

MPs in the associate parliamentary manufacturing group said British manufacturers had great potential to capitalise on the 22% increase in Chinese labour costs and the “real and major threat” of intellectual property theft, which has been rife in Chinese factories.

But they warned that the country would miss out on the “potentially vast economic opportunities for the UK to capitalise on the [re-shoring] trend” unless the government created a “competitive environment in which companies can sustainably invest”.