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Staggering growth for Norfolk drink firm that is supplying Fortnum and Mason

07:00 18 December 2012

John McFarlane from Norfolk Cordial.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

John McFarlane from Norfolk Cordial. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2012

If you could bottle the recipe for success, then a pair of north Norfolk people would have some ingredients to add to the mix.

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For John McFarlane and Georgie Rodwell have turned a good idea into a brilliant business - and grown its turnover by 400pc in a year.

They officially launched Norfolk Cordial at Houghton Horse Trials in March 2011, and are already supplying their fruit drinks to Fortnum and Mason and Morston Hall.

The business partners are very much rooted in Norfolk. One of the straplines on the bottles is “love life, love Norfolk - love the little bit of Norfolk in this bottle”.

But Norfolk Cordial, which is based at Roughton, has an influence and reach that is growing across the UK.

The Norfolk touch includes Jon a Go and Coxes apples and raspberries all grown in the county.

Mr McFarlane said: “We only use fresh, real fruit. We don’t buy concentrates. We believe that the combination of fresh, slightly salty sea air, rich soils and summer sun make the fruits and flavours of Norfolk some of the best in the country.”

The business, which achieved turnover of £80,000 this year - up from £19,000 last year - produces a number of flavours, including:

● Wild elderflower

● Rhubarb, orange and ginger

● Raspberry

● Strawberry and lime

● Redcurrant and grapefruit.

Mr McFarlane, who hails from Cape Town in South Africa, said the business began “in Georgie’s mother’s kitchen”, adding: “She made cordial for the Walpole Arms at Itteringham, which she worked in. I saw a gap in the market.

“I took the elderflower recipe and Georgie showed me what a flower was. She went sailing for five weeks and I made 3,000 bottles. I sold it to as many pubs as possible.”

Mr McFarlane said: “We made another four flavours and reinvested. All of the money for the business has been self-generated.

“We launched at Houghton with a retail size and a catering size, then at the end of 2011 we brought out mini packs.

“On our first birthday in March 2012 we launched ourselves in Fortnum and Mason.”

At the beginning, Mr McFarlane was running the King’s Head at Holt. While the cordial business bedded in, he began to work three days a week as a waiter, plus for a catering company at weekends.

Ms Rodwell was an accountant, but the pair have now both been able to dedicate themselves full time to Norfolk Cordial.

The business now has almost 200 clients, and Mr McFarlane said it was all about “finding a niche”.

He said: “The drinks are meant to be ones that you pour for yourself in the evening and enjoy like a glass of wine.”

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