Summerhouse Drinks has successfully developed an innovative packaging solution designed to safely transport small glass bottles, funded by a business interruption grant.
North-east soft drinks producer Summerhouse Drinks has put a £36,000 Innovate UK Covid-19 Business Interruption grant to good use during the pandemic by developing a new packaging solution that can be rolled out to the wider industry.
Headquartered on Manse Farm in Fraserburgh, the drinks company, owned by businesswoman Claire Rennie, received the money during lockdown after designing and developing the innovative packaging.
The new product is fully recyclable and has been designed to safely transport small glass bottles by courier delivery. It will mainly be used by Summerhouse Drinks to send out its Walter Gregor’s Scottish tonic water which has also just revealed a new e-commence website.
Previously, Claire would have used non-recyclable bubble wrap or plastic to secure her products for delivery, however, this new, unique cardboard frame suspends the bottles, ensuring they do not break when transported.
She said: “At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic we successfully won an Innovation UK grant competition to develop innovative, fully-recyclable packaging for sending out our products via courier so we could get online.
“It was a really tough competition. Instead of having to bubble wrap everything, which most companies using bottles or jars have to do, we can now use this cardboard packaging which holds the bottles in a frame. It it really quick to pack and our tests have shown that it is more resilient in the courier system than bubble wrap.
“I had an idea in my head, but before lockdown we never really needed to be online. At the start of lockdown, two things happened, this competition came up and two, we lost a significant amount of sales. I really needed to diversify to survive. I made a prototype with cardboard and was cutting different shapes out and trialing it. My daughter and I spent a day dropping stuff on the floor. I took it to our packaging supplier and they produced it into something that was really easy to put together at the end of the bottling line.”
Having lost 60% of sales after hospitality venues were shut down during lockdown, Claire realised moving online was her only option, and wanted to increase efficiency on the bottling and packaging line. As a result, she developed the concept and prototype which she then took to her packaging supplier, Pitreavie Packaging, which transformed it into the final product.
“Before Covid-19 we had no online e-commerce of our own and we lost 60% of our sales due to hospitality being shut. We had to diversify and this was our response,” said Claire.
“It would have taken us around 20 minutes to package 20 bottles to go out for an order; this will take less than five now. It has really allowed us to press forward. Not using bubble wrap has been amazing – the new packaging is so much better for the environment.
“The grant competition was so competitive and I am so excited they picked us. I think they liked that we were really close to the industry. We had the problem, and we were trying to fix it. We needed the help to get the solution made so the £36,000 has just been incredible.
“As a business we’re more efficient than ever. You can adapt it for beer bottles, jam jars, you name it. The concept is there so it will be a good opportunity for other artisan food and drink producers. It is an exciting development not just for us, but for others, too.”
Having launched a new Walter Gregor’s subscription service, Claire says going online was “one of the best things” for the business, and has partnered with Scottish spirits makers, too, to showcase their products in the perfect serve option.
We are very proud to announce we will be launching a new tonic water subscription service through our brand new…
She added: “We’ve relaunched our Walter Gregor’s website and have developed a monthly subscription box. One of the key things we can do is small batch and limited edition tonic waters and mixers because we make everything ourselves on-site.
“There’s two options for it, the first you can get six mixers for £12.50, with three being original and three being limited edition or seasonal. Or you can have the perfect serve option which we’re working with different spirit brands across vodka, gin and rum, and you’ll get a 20cl bottle of a Scottish brand’s spirit and five bottles of tonic water for £27.50. We want people to experiment with their mixers.”
And it’s not just new innovative packaging and launching a new subscription that Claire is celebrating. Her Scottish raspberry lemonade and misty lemonade have both been picked to be sold in 26 Co-op stores across Scotland as part of the firm’s Local Launch Campaign which sees the supermarket chain support and showcase Scottish suppliers.
She said: “Walter Gregor’s is already in the Co-op but it is fantastic to get Summerhouse Drinks in, too. We’re in 26 different stores under their Local Launch Campaign.
“The great thing for us, because it is a large number of stores, it goes via central distribution, rather than us having to send to each store individually. They have taken two orders already and the products are in a lot of stores in areas that may not have ever been able to stock our products like Lerwick, Wick, Pitlochry and more.”
“It has been a tough year and we are very appreciative that we are open for business. A lot of our customers are shut and that is really hard, so we are very grateful for all of the orders we get.”
Our Scottish Raspberry Lemonade and Misty Lemonade are now in 26 Scottish Coop stores! pic.twitter.com/GsBXS7FfLq
— Summerhouse Drinks (@SummerhouseFizz) November 11, 2020