Drinks manufacturer considers leaving UK due to Brexit

Fentimans, the British soft drinks brand, is considering launching a manufacturing operation in Europe if trade tariffs rise after Brexit.

Fentimans is considering uprooting its operations following Brxit. Picture; PA

Eldon Robson, the firm’s Brexit-backing owner, told the Press Association he would explore setting up an operation on the continent if exporting became more expensive after Britain’s divorce from the European Union.

“If it did come to the point where tariffs are introduced, then we would set up some kind of manufacturing in Europe and that is how we would service the European marketplace,” he told the Press Association.

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“We are used to outsourcing our manufacturing. We set up an operation in Pennsylvania, USA, where we sent our flavour recipes and they source the core ingredients and labels.”

Mr Robson added that sterling’s slump was beginning to bump up costs, but he did not believe Brexit would choke off overseas demand.

On Brexit, he said: “With business you always have challenges. You might as well tackle (Brexit) with a positive frame of mind. I wish the negativity would give way because there are opportunities as well.”

The botanical soft drinks maker, founded in 1905 by Mr Robson’s great grandfather Thomas Fentiman, is also delving into the canned drinks market for the first time.

Fentimans, which has historically bottled its beverages, is offering its curiosity cola and rose lemonade in 250ml slimline cans in an attempt to rake in sales from convenience stores, coffee bars and airlines.

The firm’s foray into canned drinks is part of a plan to triple turnover to £72 million within five years.

It includes a move to bolster its range of upmarket mixers for alcoholic drinks as it looks to close the gap on industry-rival Fever-Tree.

The Hexham-based company currently exports to 65 countries and is eyeing 15 new markets by 2022. It employs around 50 staff in the UK.

Asked whether he was priming the business for a sale, Mr Robson added: “We are approached by people.

“We are in a very strong financial position and we don’t owe the bank any money. I own the business 100% and the future of the business is in very good hands at the moment. There is a very solid future for us.”

The brand, with its artisan bottles and Alsatian-themed labels inspired by Thomas Fentiman’s prized pet Fearless, was revived by Mr Robson in 1988.

He prides his product in only using herbs, natural flavours and slow fermentation.