The spotlight has been on the UK soft drinks industry recently with the announcement in March of the impending sugar levy, which comes into force in 2018. Meanwhile The Radnor Hills Mineral Water Company continues to gain ground steadily with its varied range of waters and soft drinks, appealing to a wide range of consumers. Radnor Hills is an independently owned, British based producer of mineral and flavoured waters, soft drinks which are fully school compliant and own label products. Radnor Hills sources its water in the historic county of Radnorshire, Mid Wales. In this rural setting the water passes naturally through the rock strata to arrive at its distinctive taste, giving consumers a flavour of one of Mid Wales’ natural wonders.
Following our interview in 2015, William Watkins, Managing Director of The Radnor Hills Mineral Water Company, spoke exclusively to Wholesale Manager.
Wholesale Manager: What have your major developments been in the last year?
The major development without doubt this year has been our new fruit juice range Fruella which we think is going to be a really important range to add to our soft drinks offer. Fruella is a range of still ambient fruit juices in a 400ml bottle including 6 flavours which we think are delicious. The 100% Apple and 100% Orange pure juice variants have no preservatives, no additives, no added sugar, no colourings – just pure juice and one of your recommended 5 a day portions.
Also in the range are some dual flavour blends including Cranberry and Raspberry, Orange and Carrot, Apple and Blueberry and Tropical which contains a blended mixture of the finest pineapple, passion fruit, mango fruit and banana!
As well as that we have introduced new flavours in our school compliant range and also re designed our 500ml still water bottle – which now strongly reflects our Welsh heritage. The new ‘Dragon Bottle’ has a brand new shape and style and the fresh new look has gone down tremendously well!
WM: How big is Radnor Hills now as a business?
This year we have expanded and we expect to turn over around 33 million pounds, which would be producing well in excess of 200 million bottles.
WM: How important is the wholesale sector to your business these days? Have there been any changes in your business on the wholesale side in the last year?
The wholesale side of our business is completely fundamental to us! This is our core market and we see this as where we have the greatest strength.
We also feel that we want to become a complete solution within soft drinks for our wholesale customers, meaning that we are able to supply them with mineral waters, fruit juices, flavoured waters, premium pressés and healthy children’s drinks everything from under one roof, arriving on one lorry and taking the hassle out of having to deal with lots of different companies and all of our products arriving at the right time, on the right day, tasting delicious and selling well at the right price! We have continued to develop with our main wholesalers, introducing new product ranges to them. Bringing our Fruella range into the mix will be an important step for us in the wholesale sector.
WM: We hear a lot from other drinks manufacturers about the UK convenience sector being really dynamic at the moment. Is that how you see it?
At the moment we are operating in an extraordinarily dynamic market. We have got so many factors influencing the way people shop for soft drinks. Obviously we have got the sugar debate, the continuing focus on healthy drinks, healthy ingredients, cleaner labelling, these are all factors that we are aware of and impact consumers when they come to make their decision on which soft drinks they buy. There is a lot of movement and a lot of change around the UK and we have lots of new brands coming to market, many of course will not make it but some will – so it’s an exciting time for the market as a whole!
WM: What is your opinion on the sugar levy? What effect do you think the price increases will have on UK soft drinks consumption generally?
Will you be changing your product recipes ahead of the new regulations?
We have drinks on both sides of the line, some of them do attract the sugar tax, but the majority of the products we produce will not become taxable. I believe that over the course of the next few years there will be an awful lot of product reformulations to ensure that we are producing products that fall outside of the sugar tax. There are products in the market that clearly cannot avoid the tax, and in these cases I think that the cost will be passed down the line to the consumer.
WM: If you were running a big UK soft drinks company, what would your strategy be?
Given the sugar tax that is going to be enforced in two years’ time, I would most certainly be looking to reformulate whatever drinks I could to fall under 5% sugar. I would also be looking carefully to make sure that I was using wherever possible the cleanest and most natural ingredients to meet consumers demands.
WM: Can you talk us through your current drinks range?
At one end of the spectrum we start with water, which as I have mentioned has had a brand new bottle design this year. Mineral Water is our basis for all our drinks; this is where it all started for us and is what we have always been very good at! We are blessed to have an inexhaustible and extremely pure tasting range of waters that we sell under our Radnor Hills brand. We then have flavoured waters, which for a long time now we have been seeing good steady growth and have become a fixture for any self-respecting soft drinks range. We have developed Aqua Splash in a range of flavours and sizes to meet this demand and they preform extremely well in the wholesale market. We then have a range school compliant drinks Radnor Fizz and Radnor Fruits which now have reached number one position in the UK for suppling into schools. Fruella brings us a further development with a range of pure juices that are able to go through the ambient distribution and still have a long shelf life. And finally we have our Heartsease Farm, which is our premium adult presse range, which is now being stocked up and down the country and doing extremely well for us.
WM: Looking at your new products, can you tell us about the new Fruella drinks push?
The drinks range is gloriously colourful and reflects so well the Radnor Hill’s ‘We Love Great Flavours’ ethos. We are really excited about the launch of our new Fruella Range, it’s been a long time coming but we wanted to use our years of expertise in the soft drinks industry to blend these drinks perfectly for you to enjoy! We can’t wait to see what you think!
WM: How does the new bottled water fit into the range?
Bottled water is a market that keeps going. It is extraordinary how it keeps growing and growing year on year. With this in mind we have refocussed our efforts to make sure our bottle designs are cutting edge and making sure that we have purity, heritage and style. As you enjoy each bottle of our mineral water you will be consuming one of the natural wonders of Mid Wales! Radnor Hills are extremely proud of their Welsh heritage and the dragon emblem on the label strongly reflects this.
WM: How big a part of your business is drinks for schools? What criteria do drinks have to meet to be schools-compliant?
To be school compliant there is a slight difference between England, Scotland and Wales. English schools must have a maximum serving size of 330ml and must contain one measure of juice which is 150ml. We also have a specific range designed for Wales, Scotland and Ireland which is also compliant with the school regulations. We do a range of drinks in this format and it has developed into a major part of our business accounting for 30% of our sales.
WM: What new schools-compliant flavours have you launched?
We have recently launched a delicious Sour Cherry flavour in the Radnor Fizz and Raspberry and Cherry in the Radnor Fruits. We are passionate about providing great tasting yet healthy drinks for children that are fun! All the drinks are made using their own natural spring water and all are bottled at source!
WM: What are your plans for Radnor Hills from here on?
Here at Radnor Hills, myself and my team are focussed on driving more sales through wholesale channels and continuing to be the one stop solution. We expect to see our business continue to grow, adding new flavours, new well designed product ranges.