Scots craft bottling firm in demand after factory opening

By Noli Dinkovski contact

- Last updated on GMT

Start-up potential: (left to right) Riverside Inverclyde head of business investment Andrew Bowman with Craig Strachan, Hannah Fisher, and Riverside Inverclyde chair Gerry McCarthy
Start-up potential: (left to right) Riverside Inverclyde head of business investment Andrew Bowman with Craig Strachan, Hannah Fisher, and Riverside Inverclyde chair Gerry McCarthy
A Scottish contract bottler that specialises in small batch runs has secured a full order book for its first three months of trading, just weeks after commencing production.

The Start-Up Drinks Lab, which earlier this summer won a £75,000 business grant from Scottish Edge, started production in June from its factory in Kelburn Business Park, Port Glasgow.

The company employed six people at the Kelburn plant. It aimed to create a further 15 jobs by 2021.

The Start-Up Drinks Lab is the brainchild of Hannah Fisher and Craig Strachan, who claimed to have found a niche in offering craft drink makers the opportunity to bottle batches as small as 500 litres.

A variety of craft drinks, including soda, beers, ciders and ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages can be produced.

Product development facility

Further services provided by The Start-Up Drinks Lab include a product development facility in its trial kitchen, along with brand design and distribution. In addition, it is about to launch a dedicated e-shop to showcase the best of “hard-to-find”​ craft drinks.

The company also recently secured a compounding licence, meaning it can mix or dilute spirits to create RTDs for distilleries. Along with this, it has started to provide on-site bottling, labelling and boxing services to Scottish beer and cider producers. 

“There has been a huge upsurge in demand throughout the UK, particularly for craft soda products, driven by consumers who don’t drink alcohol and are seeking brands with provenance, craftsmanship and experimental flavours,”​ said Strachan.

“The problem for many craft soda makers is that contract manufacturers insist on large-scale orders. We believe we have uncovered a gap in that market by offering small-batch bottling opportunities for batches of just 500 litres.”

Five-year lease from RI

The premises secured at Kelburn is under a five-year lease from Riverside Inverclyde (RI), an organisation set up to oversee the redevelopment of the Inverclyde region.

Fisher said RI went “above and beyond”​ to make it easy for the duo to move their business to Inverclyde, and was confident that more space could be accessed as the company grew.

“Craig and I both live in Glasgow and scouted all over the west of Scotland for suitable premises,”​ she explained. “Aside from RI, our aims and ambitions were met with degrees of indifference and, where we did make some progress, we were offered totally unsuitable accommodation.

“We have also been helped also by corporate investment from Scotmid Cooperative, as well as public sector support from Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway and Scottish Edge, which liked our ideas and have made a £75,000 investment in our business.”

RI said the Kelburn Business Park was filling up rapidly, and had just one 1,400m2 ​unit available.

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