The company, set up by friends Sabrina Brooks and Richard Barltrop earlier this year, partnered with the Food Innovation Centre at the University of Nottingham to create a brand of healthy soft drinks infused with natural herbs, peels and spices to create a low-sugar natural alternative to alcoholic drinks.
21% of UK consumers don’t drink alcohol
The duo set up the company because Barltrop was looking for a healthy drink alternative while taking part in endurance events and Brooks wanted to avoid alcohol and sugar for medical reasons.
“When we first started, we produced bottles from home, and the drinks went down very well with family and friends, but neither Richard nor myself is from a manufacturing background and we knew we needed input from experts who could ensure the product not only tasted great, but met all the relevant health and safety criteria too,” said Brooks.
With support from food sensory scientist Alice Jones from the Food Innovation Centre, the formulation of the drinks was scrutinised to ensure the challenges of taste, shelf life, and health and safety were all met.
In addition, Peel & Spice took the opportunity to gather valuable market research information during sensory testing undertaken by the experts with the students at the Sutton Bonington campus of the University of Nottingham, where the Food Innovation Centre is based.
“Around 21% of people in the UK don’t drink alcohol now, and many others have reduced their alcohol consumption. We are trying to open up this idea of mindful drinking. We hope our Peel & Spice drinks will provide a healthy and appealing alternative to alcohol,” added Brooks.
“If we hadn’t met the team from the Food Innovation Centre, I don’t know where we would be. They have changed the course of everything we have done for the better and have been amazing.”
Dancing Duck Brewery
The Food Innovation Centre has now helped over 100 food and drink businesses, ranging from brewers to bakers to chocolate makers, to tackle some of their innovation challenges or create inventive products.
For example, the Dancing Duck Brewery, in Derby, was supported in its project to demonstrate the different flavors within its range of beers through the use of sensory profiling techniques.
It found star diagrams (ranking descriptive analysis) allowed the beer range to be profiled and described in a more consumer-friendly format.
Rachel Matthews, founder, Dancing Duck Holdings, said the business can now offer a new way of describing its beer product on the label to consumers, based upon a formal Sensory Science process, to give it marketing advantage.
Support at the Food Innovation Centre includes advice on how to develop products, scale up, use new ingredients, improve nutritional profiles and make processes more efficient.
It has helped firms to bring to life pioneering products to take advantage of some of the latest consumer trends and demands.
The centre, based at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington Campus as part of the Division of Food Sciences, is a funded academic/commercial collaboration that provides free specialist innovation support to small and medium-sized food and drink companies in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
“We are pleased to have so far helped over 100 food and drink SMEs in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire – whether it’s been through our own project team of scientists, or by accessing academic knowledge, the University’s facilities or by linking businesses to students within student projects. We also link to other economic development initiatives in the area,” said Richard Worrall, project head, Food Innovation Centre.
“The firms have ranged from small start-ups to well-established medium-sized businesses.”
Experts will be sharing the latest updates on some of the key challenges facing the food and drink sector at a one-day workshop at the Food Innovation Centre, at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus tomorrow (Tuesday November 28) from 9am-5pm .
Aimed at small and medium-sized food and drink manufacturers, the event will turn the spotlight on food waste utilization, plant and insect-based alternative proteins, and food allergy/intolerances – all of which are major topics currently in the sector.
“These are huge topics, but important to us all. The Food Innovation Centre has brought together a range of experts to talk about these key global subjects, making them relevant to SMEs and with additional input through case studies from SME businesses themselves,” added Worrall.
“The workshop will share the latest knowledge and information for those working in food and drink manufacturing – hopefully inspiring them to boost efficiencies, reduce waste, develop new products and improve their competitive performance.”
The Food Innovation Centre is a three-year project funded by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
To reserve a place on the workshop email Linda Molyneux on firstname.lastname@example.org.