Albert Frederick Suter (1882-1966) was born near Zurich and came to Britain in 1899 where he worked for a firm dealing in Shellac. He started his own business, A.F. Suter & Co. Ltd, in 1906 at the age of 24. By the end of the First World War, the company had opened a large warehouse at Upper Clapton where machinery was introduced for reconditioning material which had suffered in transit. The Shellac bleaching and merchanting business of the Swanlac Company at 21 Mincing Lane was acquired in 1925, followed by the Victory Works, a former sweet factory, at 83-84 Eastway in Hackney Wick in 1926. The factory, which commenced operation in 1927, was substantially adapted for the purposes of manufacturing and warehousing and, again, after a disastrous fire in 1935. At this time, the company served industrial customers who were mainly involved in the manufacture of varnishes, paints and newspaper printing inks. The Bleached Shellac manufactured by the factory was sold around the world under the established brand name Swanlac, which was registered as a UK trademark in 1937 and an EU trademark in 2016, forming the basis for our Swan logo.
Albert’s three sons entered the business in the 1930’s and were joined by his grandson Simon Suter in the 1970’s. After that, the company was managed by another of Albert’s grandsons, Chris Nicholson. In 1996, A.F. Suter & Co. Ltd merged with Hicks Brothers (Produce) Ltd, a commodities broker that was formed in the 1960’s and was A.F. Suter’s largest supplier of Seedlac. A.F. Suter was also Hicks Brothers’ largest customer, so the two companies proved to be an excellent strategic fit.
In 1997, Stephen Hall became Managing Director. The company was rationalised in the face of competitive pressures and absorbed the business of its UK competitors after they exited the industry. Following an offer for the site of the London factory, a decision was taken to move all Shellac production to India and the Suter family shareholders sold their stake in the company on completion of the property sale in 2000.
In 2000, a joint partnership was formed between A.F. Suter & Co. Ltd and Hindustan Shellac Industry, after which the Shellac manufacturing activities of A.F. Suter were transferred from London to Kolkata, India, the primary source of the Seedlac raw material. This led to the creation of Hind Suter Shellac Pvt. Ltd in 2003, which has achieved ISO 9001:2015 certification in recognition of its Quality Management System and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification for its health and safety measures. In June 2021, Hind Suter was awarded ISO14001:2015 and ISO 45001:2018 certifications for its Environmental Management and Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, as well as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) System certification. In February 2022, Hind Suter was certified as FSSC 22000:2018 compliant. Hind Suter’s modern facility is currently producing highly refined Shellac for the food, confectionery and pharmaceutical industries, with certain products certified as Kosher and Halal. In December 2017, we launched a food grade Aqueous Shellac Solution (SWANLAC ASL 10) and are currently developing a range of other innovative Shellac products. A.F. Suter is also a founding member of The European Shellac Association (TESA), which promotes the interests of the Shellac industry in Europe and the wider Shellac community internationally.
Across all our operations, we adhere to our strict Ethical Policy, which includes a commitment to the ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative) Base Code. In 2018, A.F. Suter became a member of Sedex (ZC1072600), demonstrating our commitment to source products in accordance with high standards of labour rights, equality, health & safety, sustainability, environmental protection and business ethics. We also look to our supply chain businesses to operate responsibly and sustainably, protect workers and the environment, and source ethically. Hind Suter also joined Sedex in September 2019 (ZC407813198). In July 2019, Bureau Veritas awarded our UK wholesale distribution operations the internationally recognised ISO 9001:2015 accreditation for quality management, complementing the achievement of this certification by our Shellac production facilities in India.
Today, A.F. Suter supplies high quality Shellac products to customers worldwide, along with a growing selection of complementary Waxes, Natural Gums, Resins, Menthol Crystals and Zein. It has evolved from a company serving 20th century industrial customers to one fulfilling the requirements of 21st century high specification applications. Our team continuously strives to meet existing customers’ needs, whilst welcoming the opportunity to serve new customers and work with new suppliers.