Screw-cap bottles to drive growth at Breckland Orchard

The founder of Norfolk soft drinks maker Breckland Orchard has announced aims to double sales next year following investment in new screw-cap bottling equipment.

Former Mars employee Claire Martinsen launched the business in Watton in spring 2009, inspired by the fruit drinks made by her grandmother which she enjoyed as a child.

And her range of six sparkling drinks, made with real fruit juice and Norfolk spring water, are now stocked in about 400 outlets nationally, including delis, farm shops and gastro pubs.

The company was named Best New Business in the 2010 EDP Business Awards, and also featured in the EDP Future 50, a publication which recognises firms with major growth potential.

And now Mrs Martinsen hopes a �25,000 investment in a new screw-cap bottling machine will spur further rapid growth in the business, which is on course to turn over �180,000 in its second year.

Until now, the drinks have been sold in bottles sealed with caps which require bottle openers, but the machine – funded partly with a grant from the Rural Development Programme for England – will make the drinks easier to open and more convenient.

It will also enable the company to target the huge 'food service' or catering sector, including cafes, canteens and self-service restaurants.

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Mrs Martinsen said the move would help achieve the aim of doubling sales next year, and increasing the number of outlets the drinks are stocked in to up to 1,000.

She said: 'The screw-top bottle will make the bottle much easier to open when customers are on the move.

'It will also make the bottle re-sealable. It's something that I've been talking to my customers about and they really welcome the move.

'The screw-cap bottles will also allow me to target the 'food service' sector, defined as any food eaten away from the home.

'It's a massive marketplace worth �14bn, consisting of about 260,000 outlets.

'It's a very exciting and dynamic market, and one that the new screw-cap bottle is perfectly suited for.

'One key target will be the London cafe market.'

Mrs Martinsen said she would be 'putting the machine through its paces' over the coming weeks, and aimed to launch the drinks in screw-cap bottles by March 2011, in time for the key selling period for soft drinks from Easter to September.

She added: 'I am hoping that this will have a big step change in the future of Breckland Orchard.

'Feedback from customers and my wholesale customers has been overwhelmingly positive.

'I'm also in discussion with new wholesalers, who service the food service sector.

'My drinks are available in approximately 400 outlets currently, and I would hope to take this to 800 to 1,000 after the introduction of the screw-cap bottle.'