Kerax: state-of-the-art Lancashire wax manufacturer doing its part with Ukraine candle donation

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Despite being the UK’s foremost wax manufacturer, leading an industry which spans sectors as wide and varied as pharmaceutical cosmetic, industrial, and commercial, Chorley-based company Kerax knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity and thriving.

Founded in 1962 by Tom Wilcox, who previously worked in sales for the Campbell Company in their Southport office, the firm started life after Tom decided to go it alone after being told he could no longer retreat to Campbell’s small on-site lab to find his own solutions to issues which arose with the countless wax blends which crossed his desk each day.

After selling almost everything he owned, Tom founded Kerax - the name derives from the Latin for wax (‘cera’ with a hard ‘k’) - out of a disused air raid shelter and got down to business. But things started slowly until he spotted a gap in the market after realising that local Lancashire cheeses were being coated in imported Danish wax.

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Citizens in Ukraine with Kerax-made candlesCitizens in Ukraine with Kerax-made candles
Citizens in Ukraine with Kerax-made candles

Developing his own blend instead, Tom travelled from dairy to dairy in the company’s small van, offering Lancastrian cheesemakers the chance to wrap their world-famous product in proper Lancastrian wax, too. Kerax is now a world-leading wax and petroleum jelly supplier, boasting an in-house R&D team of chemists, engineers, and production experts.

Helping others facing adversity is in-built at the company, as evidenced by Kerax’s recent donation of wax to make 25,000 candles for Ukrainian villages currently without electricity as a result of Russia’s invasion. With rolling blackouts leaving innocent Ukrainian families without electricity during an already-freezing winter, Kerax decided to step in and help.

“We decided to make the donation so they could make candles for the trenches and the towns and villages where they have no electricity or heating,” explains Kerax’s Sales Director John Appleton. “It’s all very disturbing, so we wanted to play our part because we want to support people on the ground.

“Even though we’re in sunny Chorley, we’re a global company who supply well-known brands, so we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to the Ukrainian people,” adds John, who is responsible for supplying products to customers in the UK and European markets. “It’s nice to be able to do so and help people, so we jumped at the chance.”

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The Kerax labThe Kerax lab
The Kerax lab

Based at Moorland Gate Business Park, Kerax - which has also recently expanded into the environmentally-friendly market with their KeraSoy and EcoLife ranges and unveiled a new £1.5m investment project into the company - decided on the idea of the five-tonne, £15,000 donation after liaising with Ivan Kuzio of Ukrainians in Calderdale and Invest in Ukraine.

“Kerax is the last wax-blender left in the UK now and we wanted to show our support,” says John, with the wax having been collected by a humanitarian aid truck in mid-December. “I’m not saying it ends there either: as members of the European Candlemakers’ Federation, we’ll do what we can to help people in the future, too.

“It’s about being flexible and helping where we can,” continues John, himself fluent in French after spending 17 years working in European export markets in Bordeaux, France. “That’s the company’s ethos.”