JAMES WHITE DRINKS
Growth Through Innovation Fund
Grants of £1,000-£25,000 available
Having a business strategy of being first to market with innovative and niche products has given James White Drinks in Suffolk a clear advantage in the juice industry – and now in the sports nutrition market with its beetroot crystals.
Managing Director Lawrence Mallinson started the fruit and vegetable juice company in 1992 and it now exports to over 30 different countries from its base at Ashbocking, with the US as its biggest customer for Beet It products, the Netherlands and Belgium for spicy tomato juice Big Tom, and Japan for Thorncroft cordials.
Its entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking took the company into the sports elite market in 2010 when it launched ‘Beet It Sport’. This is a concentrated beetroot shot with a controlled dose of nitrate for research teams and elite athletes. And timing is everything! Drinking beetroot shots became a rage during the 2012 London Olympics and according to the company it was dubbed ‘The Beetroot Games’.
This increased popularity of beetroot shots helped Beet It become a brand known all over the world amongst the sporting elite, as well as giving the business a much greater awareness of the opportunities worldwide for all its products.
It even has a ‘fanbase’ for the shots, including leading sports professionals such as marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge, England and All Blacks Rugby teams, tennis player Emma Raducanu and cyclist Geraint Thomas.
In 2020, the business received a grant through New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Through Innovation Fund with the aim of offering more products to the health-conscious consumer and developing a new powdered version of Beet It. The funding helped develop the initial prototype and the team have been refining the product ever since. Their hard work paid off when the Beet It Sport Nitrate 8000 crystals were launched late 2021.
Lawrence said: “The product has been enthusiastically received but we’re experiencing storage problems. We’re currently experimenting to overcome this problem and anticipate relaunching with a modified version later this autumn. Due to the storage problems, we’ve been restricted in more widely marketing the product but the enthusiastic response from the limited trialists gives us great confidence in the product’s potential.
“We’re confident that we have now found the solution and can’t wait to get restarted on promoting the Beet IT crystals widely.”
Being innovative also means taking risks. Lawrence has a desire to produce delicious tasting products but not necessarily ones everyone will love. “So long as 20% of people love our product, I’m not worried that 60% hates it! Too many products are produced for the majority and those with minority tastes are ignored.
“Just look at apple juices. We produce Bramley, Cox and Russet single variety juices – just three out of many apple varieties. These juices taste very different to each other. But on the supermarket shelf you just get a generic ‘Apple Juice’ blend of unspecified varieties. You would be very surprised just to be offered ‘Red Wine’ and ‘White Wine’ on the wine shelves.”
Commenting on the grant application process, Lawrence said it was straightforward and it underlined the value of getting advice from independent third parties. He said: “The important thing is to remember that it’s your prerogative to ignore that advice! I recommend other companies apply for this grant because it’s essential to be thinking about innovation for the future of any business. This grant encourages you to get on with it.”