A fresh start
A couple of very lean years during the recession prompted Wild Orchard to go back to what it does best - natural juices, smoothies and lemonades. It's a move that has been paying off ever since
WHEN natural beverages company Wild Orchard started trading in 2001, the company received an excellent response. Set up by Diarmuid Crowley, who had previously worked with Pepsi, it started producing fresh fruit juice before developing its own range of smoothies.
Initially the Limerick firm mostly dealt directly with customers, and within a few years had built up a steady client base. Then it was approached by Musgrave to do contract manufacturing, and before long Kerry Group had also acquired its services, as well as a firm in the UK.
"We were growing the business and turnover quite rapidly up to 2007 and 2008 at which time the recession was beginning to kick in," says Crowley.
"We found that the contract manufacturing business came under a lot of pressure, margins became very much affected and it became very difficult to make a go of it. Around 2009 we decided to get out of the contract manufacturing side of the business and virtually start again, focusing on the Wild Orchard brand. It allowed us to focus on what we do best," he adds.
Crowley and his team set about developing new products, including a natural sparkling lemonade range, and also added a distribution arm to the business, distributing Irish-produced goods.
In its own range it has three smoothies, three pressed juices and three natural sparkling lemonade products. It has introduced at least one new product every year for the past three years, and is set to introduce more to the market in 2015.
"From 2009 onwards, we started to grow the business back up again, and it's been growing year on year since," says Crowley.
Today, Wild Orchard supplies coffee shops, sandwich bars, cafes, restaurants, hotels and some stores, across Munster, Galway and the greater Dublin area. It also supplies directly to hospitals and manufacturing businesses.
It has five direct employees and a couple of distribution agents, and over the past three years, turnover has grown by 15 to 20pc year on year.
"We've managed to do things better, we've managed to become more efficient. We found out that it's not so much the turnover figure that's important, it's what you can do with that and how you can manage the business that matters," says Crowley.
In the short to medium term, Crowley plans to expand the lemonade range, which he says has been a big seller for the business.
"We're also looking at some developments in the functional drinks side of things, developing a functional product geared towards the health and sports nutrition area," he says.
Check out www.wildorchard.ie