A north-east mineral water firm has experienced massive growth from small beginnings 25 years ago, and now serves markets all over the world.
Deeside Water Company was the brainchild of George Simpson and his son, Martin, who saw the potential for creating a business from the water flowing from the ancient springs on Pannanich Hill, near Ballater.
Martin Simpson – the firm’s managing director – said: “The waters of Pannanich Wells are famous for their health-giving qualities, with an extensive history dating back to 1760.
“They were the reason Ballater grew as it did, to accommodate the health-seekers who came for the ‘miracle waters’.
“Historic benefits were recorded for skin conditions, rheumatic complaints and general health and vitality.
“We thought there would be a market for healthy water, with active benefits for wellbeing, and we undertook many clinical research studies to prove this.”
Famous visitors to the springs over the years have included Queen Victoria.
Mr Simpson Jnr explained that Deeside Mineral Water hydrates living cells very effectively because its H2O molecules join together in smaller clusters than normal water.
He added: “This means they pass through cell walls more easily to increase hydration – which is linked to many health benefits, including more radiant skin and fewer visible wrinkles.
“When cells are full of water they are plumped up, so wrinkles are less deep. It adds up over millions of cells when you drink it regularly.
“Deeside mineral water has anti-oxidant effects, meaning it donates spare electrons to our living cells to slow down the harmful effects of free radicals, which are linked with ageing and disease.
“It has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which has benefits for health as many conditions are related to inflammation, including rheumatic complaints.”
Prior to founding of Deeside Water Company, in 1996, Mr Simpson Snr’s career included building up a housebuilding company in the 1970s and 1980s, extending into hotels and leisure in the 1980s. He was Grampian Industrialist of the Year in 1985.
Son Martin has an honours degree in business studies from Robert Gordon University and worked in the commercial department of Aberdeen Football Club in the early 1990s.
Deeside Water Company began in a small way. There was a team of just four, and the venture started out hand-bottling from a small room near the springs.
They produced 40 cases per day, or 480 bottles, and initially sold to customers from a car boot.
The first customers were a handful of local outlets on Deeside and in Aberdeen, but Deeside Water Company has since entered much larger markets.
Its water is now sold in major supermarkets in Scotland, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. In addition, the firm supplies Waitrose-branded Royal Deeside Mineral Water to supermarkets throughout the UK.
The water also goes to UK wholesalers, retailers, hospitality outlets and health-related businesses.
Deeside Water Company now exports to many countries around the world, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Russia, as well as to EU nations.
Bur the vast majority of bottled output from the firm – around 90% – is still for the UK market.
The Ballater operation, which now employs 12 people, has an automated bottling line capable of filling up to 30,000 bottles per day.
It has been a lot of hard work, but we always believed in the special properties of the water.”
Martin Simpson, Deeside Water Company.
Asked if he and his father had been apprehensive about starting the venture all those years ago, Mr Simpson Jnr said: “Any new business creates a range of feelings from apprehension to excitement.
“It has been a lot of hard work, but we always believed in the special properties of the water and that it would appeal to health-conscious consumers.”
He added their secret of success to date was hard work, determination, teamwork and trust.
However, the UK’s recent departure from the EU has caused problems for the firm, he said, adding Brexit had led to issues with additional red tape and rising costs.
He continued: “It took six months to receive an updated EU registration, which we had held for the previous 20 years, costing us and customers a lot of time.
“There is additional paperwork for orders to the EU, and transport costs have almost doubled to some destinations which will lose us business.
“Staff shortages across the UK logistics and supply chain have been well-documented, with not enough drivers meaning failed deliveries and a lack of raw materials.
“A shortage of labour for some manufacturers has a knock-on effect to everyone who buys components from them, with longer lead times and rising prices.”
Covid-19 has had both negative and positive impacts on the company.
Its MD added: “The pandemic created uncertainty, which is difficult for any business to manage.
“During lockdown, we lost a third of our business because hospitality was closed and the first quarter of 2021 was the slowest we had experienced for many years.
“But the last couple of months have been extremely busy, as everywhere has opened up again and demand has increased to levels we have not seen before.
“Operationally we have had to modify how we work but our team have been brilliant through this very difficult time for us all.”
So what opportunities lie ahead?
He said: “We are working on several export opportunities for bottled water, and we recently launched Fuarain Skincare, which is based on our water.
“The biggest ingredient in skincare is normally water but in most cases it has no active benefits.
“We use Deeside Mineral Water as the base for Fuarain as its hydrating effects, combined with herbal and botanical extracts, make it highly effective as an active ingredient for improved skin condition.
“Clinical trials shows Fuarain moisture cream increases skin hydration by 47.8% when tested four hours after application and it has 24-hour moisturising effects. Further positive research results will be announced soon.”
As regards future plans for Deeside Water Company, he said the aim was to grow the business sustainably, ensuring the springs and surrounding area are protected.
“We will improve the bottling line with new equipment as required, and continue to reduce our environmental impact,”, he added.
The company also hopes to add an extra three or four staff in the next few years as it continues to grow.