Retailers also found the product hard to define. “A Waitrose buyer asked us what shelf it would go on, but we didn’t have an answer,” says Dan. “We had to find a category.”
They tweaked the recipe, combining cranberries with apples to make a proper cider. “Then people got it,” recalls Ben, who warns against going too far when trying to create a niche product. “It’s a fine line, especially when you don’t have the budget or clout to launch and market an entirely new category.”
Cranes secured its first major listing with Asda last year. “It creates a snowball effect,” explains Dan. “You’re more legitimate if you can say to one retailer that you’re with some others.”
Today, the business sells online and in Morrisons and Co-op East of England. It’s also stocked by a host of restaurants, garden centres, and independent and specialist shops. While the brand’s hero product remains cider (flavours include cranberry and lime, and cranberry, raspberry and pomegranate), it has expanded to include a cranberry-based liqueur and gin. The company has four full-time employees and monthly sales are currently £70,000. Turnover last year was £420,000.
They have taken more years than most to hit annual sales in the high six figures, but they only committed to the business full-time a few years ago. “We were in research and development mode, and gardening part-time for quite a while,” says Ben.