Water is life
Martin Simpson, managing director of Deeside Mineral Water in Ballater, talks about the skills it takes to start up a family business.
WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE SETTING UP DEESIDE MINERAL WATER (DMW)?
I did business studies at RGU in Aberdeen for four-and-a-half years and my first job after graduating was in the commercial department of Aberdeen Football Club. I worked there for three-and-a-half years before setting up Deeside Water with my dad.
HOW DID YOU START THE COMPANY AND WHAT SKILLS HELPED YOU?
My father, George, was in Ballater on business and visited Pannanich Wells. He saw the water flowing from the springs and into the River Dee. He thought there may be a business opportunity so we undertook some background research. We discovered that Ballater had become a spa town because of the springs at Pannanich Wells, which were known for their healing qualities dating back to 1760. It has a fantastic rich history including Queen Victoria visiting the springs when she stayed at Balmoral.
My degree in business studies helped when looking at business set up, strategy, accounting and marketing. During the early years I had to do a bit of everything so it was a varied role. I set up production and did all the PR and marketing, trying to get publicity for the company on the back of the clinical trials we had done to prove the health benefits in the water. Perseverance, determination and patience were also important qualities which developed over time.
WHAT WAS THE TURNING POINT FOR THE COMPANY?
A lot has happened over the last 20 years and there have been many significant events, as opposed to a single turning point. The first successful clinical trial at ARI showed that Deeside Water helped ease rheumatic complaints and gave us a lot of credibility and generated publicity to help get the business started. Ten subsequent clinical research studies between 2003 and 2009 also added evidence to support the healthy properties in the water, leading to further publicity and growth.
Local restaurants, hotels and shops were really supportive and the supermarkets became big customers. Exports started in 1998 and have grown to become a significant part of the business.
Building the new warehouse and installing a bigger bottling line in 2006 and 2007 added significant production capacity, making operations much easier and more efficient. More recently, the rebranding has made a big difference and new research has opened up interesting possibilities in markets we had not considered before. We will focus on these new health related markets as we grow the business over the coming years.
YOU REBRANDED LAST YEAR, WHAT DIFFERENCE HAS THAT MADE TO THE COMPANY?
It’s made a huge difference in every way. People seem to really love the new labels and we launched a lighter weight plastic bottle with a new design. We’ve had positive feedback from many customers to say it looks like a premium brand now, which is what we wanted to portray. The business has grown significantly in the last two years and sales are 15% up year on year. We will produce around 3.5million bottles this year and export around the world. The new image gives a more positive impression of the brand and the company and it has been well received.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE AT THE FACTORY IN BALLATER?
We have 12 staff in total and some have been with us since the company started. The bottling line starts at 8am and we produce one particular size of bottle each day. We can produce 80 bottles a minute and around 30,000 bottles in a single shift or the equivalent of a full articulated lorry worth of stock. Each day we have several lorries coming and going bringing in bottles and packaging or picking up stock for distribution in the UK or around the world.
We have a great team and they manage the day to day operation which includes production, planning, stock control, logistics, staffing, administration and accounts to ensure we keep customers satisfied.
I spend a lot of my time on new business development and research. This water has become famous for its health benefits and we are developing new applications in skin care, as a result of its anti-wrinkle effects. We are also working on new applications where it is used as an active ingredient in other products because it improves their performance. There are a number of research studies underway. I also have regular meetings with customers, suppliers and keep up with our team regarding day to day matters across the business, as good communication is essential.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR DMW?
The aim is to continue growing sales of Deeside Mineral Water in the UK and export markets, while developing new opportunities with novel product applications. Deeside’s unique properties mean it has applications that other waters do not. We’ve got some exciting new product developments happening that aren’t so mainstream and will open up new markets for us. We’ve also taken on a commercial manager to develop and grow the business and invested in our team at the factory. All of this increases our capacity and we aim to double the business in the next three years. At present almost seven bottles a minute of Deeside Mineral Water are consumed around the world and we aim to increase that.