Vale of Belvoir drinks maker invests £1.3 million to improve production as sales soar

Managing director Pev Manners.
Managing director Pev Manners.
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A drinks manufacturer in the Vale of Belvoir has invested £1.3 million to improve its operations.

Belvoir Fruit Farms, of Bottesford, which turns out between 25 million and 30 million bottles a year, has just installed a range of new equipment to enhance the efficiency of its production.

Belvoir Fruit Farms.

Belvoir Fruit Farms.

The investment will also help the family-run company, which last year saw its turnover rise to £25.2 million in part lead by a growth of exports across 36 countries, to reduce its carbon footprint.

Managing director Pev Manners said: “Of course it’s exciting to invest in new equipment – although a little heart-stopping when you consider the cost.

"With our sales growing it’s important that we can be as efficient as possible in the bottling and palletising of our drinks.

"We still use our traditional recipe and natural ingredients, and the creation and infusing of our Cordials and Pressés is still done largely by hand.

Bringing in the elderflower harvest.

Bringing in the elderflower harvest.

"However, with more orders, speed of fulfilling them and keeping our customers happy is essential.”

The new investment has paved the way for the installation of a new rinser, filler and capper machine as well as a new palletiser and automatic wrapper.

It means the bottles can be filled more efficiently and with less waste and with the pallets wrapped automatically.

The investment comes four years after Belvoir Fruit Farms spent £3 million creating a state of the art factory and bottling line.

Since then the award-winning firm, which has 115 staff and is renown for its Elderflower Cordial, has seen sales take off.

Last year sales of its ready to drink Pressés increased by 11 per cent while Cordials grew by 24 per cent. Its overseas sales are strong in America, Australia, Holland and France.

FACTFILE:

ECO-FRIENDLY:

As its sales soar, Belvoir Fruit Farms is keen to reduce its impact on the environment.

Its drinks are bottled in recyclable glass or aluminium cans, with no plastic in sight.

The new palletiser and automatic wrapper will dramatically cut down on waste bottles by about 1.5 per cent a year, which equates to around 150,000 bottles or some 22 tonnes of glass.

It should also cut down on the use of oil as the yields will be better, and also reduce electricity bills as the new machine is more economical to run.

Belvoir Fruit Farms does not send any industrial waste to landfill - it recycles all its waste glass, card and cardboard which equates to 98 per cent of its incoming packaging.

All new company cars being purchased are hybrids and the business also recycles all office paper, glass and metal.

ELDERFLOWER PICKING:

Belvoir Fruit Farms is reliant on local people for bringing in the elderflower harvest. In fact, this is vital to the success of the business.

The company requires 3.6million flowerheads to make enough of its Cordial and Pressé to sustain demand.

Each year the company calls on the local community to help pick as many elderflowers as possible.

The picking is done at Belvoir Fruit Farms' own plantations, which are the only ones in the UK, or from elderflowers growing in the hedgerows in the countryside.

Pickers bring their bags of blossom to dedicated drop off points where their booty is weighed, and they are paid £2.60 per kilo. It is possible to earn more than £50 per hour if picking at a rate of 5kg per hour.

Drop off points this year are at:

Belvoir Fruit Farms, Barkestone Lane, Bottesford, Notts, NG13 0DH

Sacrewell Farm & Country Centre, Thornhaugh, off A1/A47 junction at Wansford, PE8 6HJ

Swarkestone Nursery, Lowes Lane, Swarkestone, Derby DE73 7GQ

All the drop off points are now open and ready for business, although Swarkestone Nursery is open by appointment only.

Mr Manners added: "Without the elderflowers and the hard work of all those who help us gather them in, there would be no need for efficient bottling lines.

"I’d like to thank everyone who gets involved and look forward to welcoming back those who return year after year and to meeting those who are new to the harvest.”

For advice on where to pick and opening times of the drop off stations, visit www.belvoirfruitfarms.co.uk/elderflower or call the Elderflower Manager, Andrea Beddows on 07935 901 408.