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Any product with a FSC® certification is certified as sustainably sourced. For non-FSC products we operate a due diligence procedure, checking legal documentation, social responsibility on behalf of the manufacturer or supplier, as well as the product supply chain. We often conduct a sign off procedure involving a site visit ending in final approval given by a Big K director.

We believe in building strong relationships with our suppliers, based on continuous communication. In terms of face-to-face meetings, we try to visit our suppliers at least once a year where possible. For the most part, we also try to visit the majority of our suppliers before a new contract is issued. Alternatively we will send a third party to audit the site if we are not able to do so ourselves.

Firstly, there are limited supplies of FSC® charcoal so we do not wish to unnecessarily deplete this resource. Secondly, we listen to our customers, and to be honest many do not want FSC® charcoal at this stage. What’s more, non-FSC certified charcoal can also be sustainable and legal providing the right product checks are conducted. Our due diligence process ensures that wider sustainability standards are met when it comes to these non-FSC products

This all depends on the specific charcoal usage. For the supermarket-driven BBQ market, a cheaper charcoal made from more commercially viable wood sources is generally required to meet price expectations. As a result, these products will not always produce a long and hot burn. For restaurant grade or premium grade charcoal, the wood is key in determining the burn characteristics. Therefore chefs and customers alike will chose the charcoal that best meets their specific cooking needs.. All charcoal we sell is hardwood.

  • Charcoal products are sourced from a number of different countries across the globe. The location depends on the local indigenous wood sources in each country as well as the type of charcoal these different woods can produce. Countries include Paraguay, Namibia, Spain, Indonesia and Ghana

UK hardwood produces a charcoal that is much lighter than imported charcoal. This means that the charcoal is difficult to pack, as more is required per bag to meet our weight requirements for sale. In terms of performance, UK Charcoal also burns a lot quicker as it is not as dense as imported charcoal. Both of these factors make UK charcoal not as commercially viable as other options.

Although we do not currently sell a UK produced charcoal product, we are working on finding a sustainable supplier. Some customers have asked us about this, and it is part of our wider sustainability initiative.

The dense, slow growing hardwood trees of the Chaco provide high quality charcoal which burns hot and slowly with little smoke. The most sought after species is Quebracho blanco (Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco) amongst the largest tree species in the region

In this case, we believe that responsible sourcing is achieved by only using trees that are due to be cut down. Although there may be some suppliers that buy illegally sourced charcoal, our due diligence procedures ensure that that we do not engage with these suppliers in any way. The charcoal we source is government controlled, coming from land that is cleared for cattle rearing.

We continually seek out sustainable charcoal sources that can both be certified and handled responsibly by an intermediate supplier. For example, ethically sourced mesquite from Mexico is a viable alternative to Quebracho, as well as Marabu from Cuba. We are currently testing Apple Charcoal from the Ukraine as it has similar properties although a touch lighter.

We are constantly searching for sources of charcoal that compliment our bigger sustainable mission. For example, we are currently testing the qualities of Apple Charcoal from Eastern Europe. A big part of sustainable product development involves working closely with our long-term suppliers to both refine existing products and identify new areas of exploration. A good example is in Ghana, where we make heatlogs out of waste sawdust from the furniture market. This also helps the local community with employment.

We would avoid those countries that could not prove the sustainable origins of the charcoal. Or any countries that are experiencing political or civil unrest or identified corruption in the industry.

The FSC chain of custody certification ensures this for all FSC charcoal For non-FSC products we operate a due diligence procedure, checking legal documentation, social responsibility on behalf of the manufacturer or supplier, as well as the product supply chain. We often conduct a sign off procedure involving a site visit ending in final approval given by a Big K director.

The charcoal we supply to restaurants is typically from suppliers that are not FSC certified. However, this does not mean that it is from illegal or unethical sources.  There are lots of small suppliers that cannot afford to become FSC registered but still abide by social, environmental and legal laws. Big K conducts thorough checks on these non-FSC suppliers.  There are also other certificates available such as PEFC, Fairtrade or Forest Trust.  

We have recently introduced an FSC certified restaurant grade charcoal RCH12FSC.

Products use

We would recommend placing disposables on a brick or specially designed stand to allow for airflow. The bottom of the disposable tray will get very hot during use, so the area it is placed on should not be flammable. Concrete is a safe and suitable example.

Currently the foil trays, paper labels and cardboard packaging is recyclable. We are working closely with packaging suppliers to make sure as much packaging as possible is recyclable.

There is no shelf life for charcoal products. However, with the instant light products, the strength of the product will deteriorate over time. We estimate that these types of products have about a 2 year storage life as long as the outer bag is unopened or resealed in someway after use.

Some products come in paper bags that can be damaged by the rain if left outdoors. Basically the water is absorbed by the product, making it very hard to light the charcoal.

If this happens, leave the product open in doors, such as in a shed, to dry out naturally before trying to light.

Although rain should not penetrate the plastic bags, we do not advise leaving the bags outside. Charcoal is a natural product and will absorb moisture from the air. High moisture levels will cause mould to form on the briquettes and they will also make charcoal hard or impossible to light.

If left covered in essentially air-tight conditions, charcoal will last a long time. Briquettes may begin to crumble over time but both products can be used after many years. In fact the longer left under cover, the dryer the product and the easier it will be to light.

The burn times shown on the product pages are based on lighting 2kg of product in a barbecue in normal environment conditions. It is worth noting that the times will vary depending on the weather conditions. For example, windy conditions will cause the charcoal to burn quicker. We do not as yet have data for closed barbecues, such as smokers.

Charcoal is made by heating wood without oxygen or in a low oxygen environment.

Different cultures and countries make charcoal in different ways from kiln ovens to under the earth.

Charcoal is generally about 70% carbon and can take days to make. The process allows for volatile compounds such as water, methane, hydrogen, and tar to burn off.

By using charcoal to cook with over wood, you get higher temperatures as well as a purer burn due to removal of volatile compounds during the manufacturing process.

C. Certifications

ISO 9001 is defined as the international standard specifying the requirements for a quality management system (QMS). Organizations use the standard to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.

FSC is the Forest Stewardship Council.

The Forest Stewardship Council is an international non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. The FSC does this by setting standards on forest products, along with certifying and labelling them.

Environmentally Appropriate – protect and maintain natural communities and high conservation value forests

Socially Beneficial – respecting rights of workers, communities and indigenous peoples

Economically Viable – Building markets adding value

For more information please see

Big K has held a chain of custody certification since 1999. Our certification number is TT-CoC-001015 and can be verified here.​

Woodsure is a non-profit organisation, striving to raise the quality of woodfuel in the industry. The Woodsure certification scheme, marked on products by its logo, ensures quality and offers consumers peace of mind.

Currently charcoal products do not fall under this law.

The timber regulations are important because they prohibit operators in Europe from placing illegal timber and products derived from illegal sources on the EU market. Legal timber is defined as timber produced in compliance with the laws of the country where it is harvested.

Although charcoal does not fall under these regulations our due diligence system ensures that charcoal sourced is legal.

REACH addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment.

Charcoal is classed as a chemical because a process occurs to wood in order to make it into charcoal.

Big K is registered under Reach and upon Brexit will be covered by the UK Reach legislation.