BBF Safety Group styles a testament to local development

Deane Nothard, marketing manager at BBF Safety Group.
Deane Nothard, marketing manager at BBF Safety Group.

With a 120-year history in occupational footwear, integrated workplace safety solutions provider BBF Safety Group remains Africa’s largest manufacturer of safety footwear. It also continues to expand its range of head-to-toe personal protective equipment (PPE).

The group’s brands have made an indelible impact on the safety footwear market. Over the past 30 years, the Lemaitre Maxeco has proudly helped protect over 10 million workers. This is said to mark Maxeco as the #1 sold safety footwear style in South Africa over the last three decades.

Bova’s Neoflex would probably be the closest style gaining ground, with a 25-year pedigree, and arguably currently the best-selling safety boot in South Africa. Sisi has been a constant champion for women-specific PPE for over 15 years, while styles like Reese continue to be a firm favourite for female employees in heavy industry.

But what does it take to build and maintain market-leading products in these industries, especially under the constant threat of imported products flooding in? It is important to note that BBF Safety Group was established based on championing local manufacturing, procurement, and SMME development. “This objective is now more relevant than at any other time in the country’s history to get the economy back on its feet,” comments marketing manager Deane Nothard.

With South African manufacturers experiencing the toughest socioeconomic conditions ever, BBF Safety Group remains committed to its local operations. “Not only do we manufacture locally, but we also support a downstream supply chain of local companies who provide us with a range of raw materials and services from the leathers and laces to the actual manufacturing of the uppers,” says Nothard.

“Millions of pairs of our leading styles have passed through South African hands. Our brands have established their reputation thanks to our research and development over the years, combined with consistent quality and service. They have been proven and trusted and continue to contribute to local employment and production,” says Nothard.

Along with an entire R&D department working across the PPE categories, a contracted research podiatrist bolsters safety footwear development. Dr Anette Thompson is an internationally published research podiatrist and recently awarded her PhD in Clinical Medicine. She consults with BBF Safety Group extensively on South African foot shapes and foot health. Dr. Thompson has provided invaluable input on several local developments, as well as providing advice and training to customers on foot health in the workplace.

Eugene du Toit, Group Technical Manager for BBF Safety Group, explains further: “The styles that have proven themselves over the years, and continue to perform, are the result of our initial insights and ongoing development. Whether it be in the mix of compounds, raw materials, or refinements through the years, it is important for us to keep on producing quality products that provide the balance of durability, comfort, and performance.”

However, it is not only the tried-and-tested styles. “We are constantly looking at international trends, new materials, and production technologies to blend with our extensive experience in South African industrial environments. We are excited about some of the new developments due for introduction in future.”

“There is a lot of time, effort, and investment in developing locally,” adds du Toit. “Not to mention the ongoing Dollar-based testing with internationally accredited laboratories. With well-established products in any industry, you can expect some degree of imitation. However, it can be frustrating when you pick up products that have been imported from a catalogue with a few design tweaks to look almost identical to BBF styles that have gained market trust over many years.”

With this in mind, the company has launched a ‘Beware of Imitations’ campaign to promote the benefits of its authentic branded ranges – ranges that represent some of Africa’s best-selling safety footwear styles, proudly designed and manufactured in South Africa.

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