A 3D mock up Glasstronic's furnace

International sales heat up for Southend glass melting business

A Southend-on-Sea manufacturer of furnaces for making crystal glass has secured a £4.2 million contract to supply a custom-made furnace to a new Portuguese customer, following support from the Department for International Trade (DIT) and UK Export Finance (UKEF).

Glasstronics, based in Great Wakering, designs furnaces that electrically melt glass using joule heating technology. Its latest contract is with Vista Alegre Atlantis, a Portuguese business that sells high quality crystal glass tableware, gifts and lamps directly to consumers worldwide.

The multi-million-pound deal will see Glasstronics build and supply a furnace for Vista Alegre Atlantis to make its own crystal glass. The state-of-the-art furnace will give the business the capacity to produce 12 tonnes of crystal glass every 24 hours.

This is Glasstronics’ biggest contract in more than 20 years and has the potential to increase the business’ £1 million annual turnover by as much as 400% to £4 million within the next year.
Marco Simon, Glasstronics’ International Trade Adviser, linked the company up with UK Export Finance (UKEF) to help the company secure a bond to cover production costs for the furnace, a requirement of the contract with Vista Alegre.

UKEF introduced Glasstronics to an international trade-friendly bank, which provided the bond. UKEF also project managed the bond support application process, giving the business the highest chance of success.


“If we can boost our turnover with international sales, there’s no reason why other businesses can’t too with the support of DIT.”


Glasstronics established its niche position in the crystal glass market in the 1980s and is now one of the few companies in the UK that electrically melts glass for high-end crystal glass. Its furnaces are used by customers including Lalique, a French glassmaker renowned for its perfume bottles and vases, and Preciosa, a Czech jewellery brand that makes chandeliers.

The family-run business started trading overseas in 1998 and now exports to six countries including Ireland, France, Belgium, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Egypt. Around 95% of all sales are to international customers.

Graham Brooks founder and managing director at Glasstronics, said: “The contract with Vista Alegre Atlantis is one of our most significant contracts since my wife and I founded the business in 1989. We were chosen to provide the furnace because of our specialist knowledge in small size, high-end crystal glass melting.

“To finalise the contract and letter of credit we needed to secure the down payment with the client, this required an advance payment guarantee from our bank. For small businesses and start-ups this can be difficult to secure, as it can use up working capital. Thankfully DIT and UK Export Finance were on hand to help us facilitate and secure this. If we can boost our turnover with international sales, there’s no reason why other businesses can’t too with the support of DIT.”


“Glasstronics is now set to see its turnover multiply by almost four times, which is an incredible outcome.”


Thinley Topden, Head of Region for DIT East of England, said: “Graham reached out to us to help complete the new Portuguese contract, which we were able to do with support UK Export Finance. This contract was a huge opportunity for the business, and simply too good to miss. Glasstronics is now set to see its turnover multiply by almost four times, which is an incredible outcome.

“DIT offers a range of support to help businesses wherever they may be on their exporting journey. From advice and training, introductions to valuable international contracts or helping to secure export finance or credit insurance from UKEF. We have a network of International Trade Advisers based on the ground in the East of England, and we encourage local firms to get in touch.”

Exemplas Trade Services Ltd (ETSL) has delivered the contract for the Department for International Trade (formerly UK Trade and Investment) in the East of England for almost a decade.

For more information on how we can support your business in exporting overseas, get in touch.