Bouvrage: a distinctive soft drink, made from Scottish raspberries
Their first business was a product development consultancy in the food and drink industry. But a simple admiration for the Scottish berry was enough to convince husband and wife team Anne Thomson and John Gallagher to develop their own line. ‘We always found it a bit sad that there weren’t many products you could buy in shops that reflected the wonderful flavours of these berries,’ says Thomson, from Alloa. ‘Particularly raspberries, which Scotland is famous for.’
The pair focused on a raspberry juice drink, devising a recipe ˙and a processing method that would maintain the fruit’s flavour and aroma. Thomson’s processing method is ‘fast and cold,’ moving quickly to the bottling phase. ‘We decided to mix it with sparkling water, which gives the taste a bit of a lift, to create Bouvrage,’ she says. ‘It’s a distinctive drink; it’s not too sweet, and it has a very high fruit content.’
The creation process was harder than it sounds. ‘Even after we had decided it would be a juice rather than, say, a dry product, it wasn’t easy to find the methodology,’ she says. ‘What had been done before in this country had all been to do with apple processing, and the presses, the filtration, all the technical aspects are very different for each fruit. Plus other products on the market which use berries actually heat-treat the juice, which drives out flavour and aroma.
‘We knew what the product was going to taste like, it was just a question of going down many blind avenues until it was a reality. There are many different ways of processing juice, from treating it with ultra-violet light to sending electric current through it and using high-pressure.’
Launched in 1998 at the Royal Highland Show, Bouvrage (old Scots for ‘beverage’) was a hit in delis, coffee shops and hotels. It was less profitable in supermarkets, so they focused on farm shops, farmers’ markets and delicatessens.
Their company, Ella Drinks, has since introduced a line based on the blaeberry (the European cousin of the American blueberry) and they are seeking ways to carry their taste for the Scottish berry further into the sophisticated drinks market. ‘There’s a lot of rubbish out there,’ she says. ‘We aim Bouvrage at the discerning consumer, at those who find soft drinks are too sweet or lacking in nutritional value. And that is a very large group of people.’