History & Timeline

Holchem has been operating since 1982 when the founder, Steve Bell, saw a gap in the market for a company which supplied both high quality, specialist cleaning products, and also provided unrivalled customer service. Our timeline charts the growth of the company over the last 35 years.

December 1982

Holchem Laboratories Ltd Registered

Steve and Anne Bell registered the business and began trading. In their first short year they supplied 5 customers with a small range of foam, powder and disinfectant products. Their total sales that year was £10,885.


First premises were purchased in Ramsbottom

The small building housed the office and a quality control & development laboratory. At this time the products were toll blended against formulations created by chemist Steve Bell in a manufacturing facility adjacent to the office.


A manufacturing facility was purchased

With sales of 500 tonnes of product per year it was time and opportune to purchase and run the adjacent manufacturing facility. The facility had both powder and liquid blending operations together with a QC laboratory. Formulations were created by chemist Steve Bell seen here foaming an open fermenter at a brewery customer.


Steve Bagshaw joins and M&S approve Terminol

Steve Bagshaw joins Holchem as a Sales Consultant covering the central band of the UK. Soon Steve's role expanded and he became the first Technical Director for Holchem in 1993. Holchem also gained M&S approval for one of their disinfectants, Terminol.


Biocidal Product Directive

Biocidal products and active substances fall into 4 categories and 23 product-types all regulated by the EU under the Biocidal Products Directive. The substances have to be authorised before being used or sold on the EU market. Also, all treated products shall only contain authorised active substances. The European Commission created and regularly updates the Biocidal Products Directive to ensure a high level of protection of human and animal health, as well as environmental protection.


Sam Hardman daughter of Steve and Anne joins the company

Sam joined Holchem to assist mum Anne with all the growing administration needs of this rapidly growing business. Sam continues in the administration role taking over from Anne as Administration Director when Anne retired from the business in 2006.


Hygiene Management System developed

The first hygiene management system called Food Hygiene Technology was developed giving food processing customers access to a single point of reference for all cleaning and hygiene related documentation. This system was continully developed becoming the HMS (Hygiene Management System).


Larger premises needed

With 16 employees and a growing order book Ramsbottom could no longer meet the production demands and also as an old building was becoming expensive to maintain. A relatively new warehouse with offices was purchased and extended with the help of some grant aid. The new facility and production methods gave improved management control; with product development under BS5750.


Simon Bell joins

Steve and Anne’s son Simon joins the business and over 10 years undertakes many roles within the business. In 2002 he takes the position of Managing Director with Steve Bell becoming Chairman and continuing to provide guidance to the board. Still working hands on in the organisation today, Simon puts great emphasis on family values and building a business that delivers solutions for its clients whilst always being a thoroughly enjoyable place to work.


Nick Edwards joins as Sales Director

Nick joins the board as Sales Director. Nick's experience from another chemical specialities sector (water treatment and paper processing) was used to develop the sales team and continued the philosophy set out by Steve and Anne of high quality customer service.


100 employees

Our most valuable assets and the key to our continued growth are our staff, with a wealth of experience across all of the sectors we operate in. We recognise that our strength and growth is built on the hard work and skill of our team.



Launch of a computer based software system that provides hygiene teams with a fully integrated hygiene management system. The system installed on a client’s computer allows the client to control all cleaning methods, cleaning plans, training programmes and sign off sheets. System 8 continued to be developed until Gateway and Gateway AC were launched.


Transport fleet continues to expand

Our fleet expand to meet the growing customer base and orders. We operate our own fleet of wagons, bulk tankers and vans with our own trained drivers to provide great flexibility and response to our customers.


First long cling foams launched

Contact and Contact Plus developed by our chemist Michel Lim. The alkaline and caustic based foam products give a foam with longer contact time than traditional foams. For most soils and surfaces this dramatically improves the soil removal properties of the product.


Jim Taylour joins

Jim an experienced formulation chemist joins Holchem and replaces Michel Lim as Technical Manager. Jim’s role was extended in 2014 to Product, Research & Development Manager. Jim and his team provide continual development of detergents and disinfectants ensuring they provide compliant products that meet the customers’ needs for efficacy and efficiency.


Stuart Middleton joins the Board as Finance Director

Stuart joins the board to strengthen the financial compliance of the business. Stuart had previously worked for Virgin Music.


Maxifoam range developed

Jim Taylour and development team launch a range of high performance long cling foams over a period of 3 years. Customers see enhanced cleaning and, in many cases, shortened cleaning times. The Maxifoam range includes alkaline, caustic, acidic, chlorinated and high chelant products designed to meet all soil challenges. The range was, over 10 years, further developed to reduce the environmental impact of the products and included reformulations to reduce or remove EDTA and phosphorous compounds.


Steve and Anne retire from the business

Steve and Anne after 24 years growing the business retire. Simon took over in 2003 as MD; with Steve taking up the role of Chairman providing oversight and guidance to the Board.


Sunflower fryer oil poses cleaning problems

The change in the food industry to the use of sunflower oil, or blends of, created a unique cleaning issue for fryers. The oil polymerised much more readily than the traditional palm oil leaving fryers coated in a polymerised gel. A range of products (Causbrite Special, Aggress Special and Causbrite Gel) was launched to effectively tackle the problem.


Steve Bell sadly passes away

Steve battled with cancer for several years before sadly passing away, aged just 67. His legacy of the business and its philosophy carry on to this day.


Lifetime achievement award

Steve Bell founder and Chairman of Holchem was recognised posthumously at the annual SOFHT awards for his significant contribution to Food Hygiene. This award from SOFHT is for a company or person who has made a significant contribution to the food industry, with particular emphasis on Food Safety and/or Food Hygiene and/or Food Technology.


Larger facility needed

Holchem purchase a 100,000 sq. ft. facility in Bury, North Manchester. The land and site undergo a 12 month rebuild to create a state of the art production facility with extensive laboratories and staff facilities. The move required significant development of process, plant and procedures to ensure it complied with its status as a Top Tier COMAH site. In addition to the safety management systems put into place the existing ISO standards (9001 and 14000) were also successfully transferred.


Perbac OPD launched

A disinfectant type traditionally previously only used in CIP is launched as an Open Plant Disinfectant and receives M&S approval. Perbac OPD has an outstanding spectrum of activity and find uses where traditional QAC or Triamine based disinfectants do not perform.


Biocidal Product Regulation

The Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR, Regulation (EU) 528/2012) concerns the placing on the market and use of biocidal products, which are used to protect humans, animals, materials or articles against harmful organisms like pests or bacteria, by the action of the active substances contained in the biocidal product.


Membrane cleaning

The Fluxlean Range of products was developed to meet the requirements of membrane cleaning in the Dairy sector. The products and associated regime are designed to successfully return the membrane plant to its operating flux within the shortest cleaning time while ensuring the membrane remains fully protected.


John Holah joins the Board as Technical Director

John replaces Steve Bagshaw as Technical Director. Prior to joining Holchem, John was Head of Food Hygiene at Campden BRI for over 20 years and has edited three books on food safety and hygiene. Steve takes up a Marketing role on a part time basis.


Merlin and Imperial acquired

Merlin Chemicals and Imperial Janitorial Supplies based in Liphook were purchased to complement the business Holchem have in Foodservice and Facilities.


QAC and residual levels

The product range continues to evolve and develop to meet our customers requirements but also the legislative, environmental and supply chain challenges. Pesticide legislation unwittingly challenged the use of QAC based disinfectants and we launched a range of products to allow customers a choice in how they managed the issue. Products included Active which gained M&S approval, Tribac, Ultrasecure and a ready to use quick acting disinfectant QFD60.


Gateway launched

The launch of our web-based CIC creation and maintenance system that allows both ourselves and our customers quick access for easy creation and amending of the cleaning instruction card system; this system is called Gateway.


Best Training Company at SOFHT Awards

Proud to win the award through SOFHT. In the last 12 months we have not only trained in excess of 7,500 people around the UK, Eire and overseas but managed to facilitate a pass rate of over 95%. In an industry where training requirements are constantly changing, our courses are constantly reviewed and refreshed to keep them relevant and in-line with the latest industry legislation.


Samworth Challenge

A team of 4 compete and raise over £4,500 for Bury Hospice in the arduous challenge set in the Welsh hills. Holchem has been proud over many years to raise funds for charities including Sense and Derian House.


SOFHT & Bury Business Awards

Again, proud to win Best Training Company and Best Company with over 100 employees. Our training programme with its award-winning courses, after review in 2015, was accredited by Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance. We were also pleased to win 3 awards at the Made in Bury Business awards; namely Large Business, Family Business & Environmental Impact.


National 3 Peaks challenge

A team of 17 take part and complete the National 3 Peaks Challenge, raising over £5,000 for Bury Hospice.


Ecolabel Approved Range

Launch of the ‘Holistic Green Range’, a selection of Concentrate and Ready to Use cleaning products that are Ecolabel accredited and designed for use in the hospitality sector.


Quick Break Foams

The development of quick break foam technology includes Chlorpress and Express Foam. The long cling foams provide a clinging but free flowing foam to prevent soil deposition and easy rinsing.


Coast 2 Coast

The Holchem team took on the Coast 2 Coast challenge raising over £4,000 for Grace’s Place, a new children’s hospice in Bury, cycling the 135 miles from Whitehaven to Sunderland.


Gateway AC

A further development of the Gateway Electronic hygiene management system is launched giving customers the ability to plan their hygiene tasks throughout the year. The AC system also allows for greater reporting and digital sign of of cleans. A Tablet App has also been developed to allow Live sign of and photo proof of clean on the Factory floor.