NEW jobs could be created at Ballygowan if plans by parent company Britvic to carve out a large share of the bottled water market in Britain meet with success.
The company has now declared Ballygowan to be its only bottled water product in the British market, and plans to set aside British brands such as Drench and Pennine over the next few months. The move comes as Ballygowan celebrates 30 years in production.
Last week, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney visited the Newcastle West plant to oversee of one of the first batches of Ballygowan destined for Britain. “Today’s announcement marks a true milestone for a home grown Irish brand like Ballygowan,” the Minister said. “It is a pleasure to see Ballygowan take its place alongside other iconic Irish food and drink brands that shine on the international stage and epitomise Ireland’s reputation for quality, heritage and provenance.”
Ballygowan currently commands 21% of the Irish bottled water market and Britvic is hoping the brand will prove as, or even more, successful in the much larger British market.
Research by the company has left them very optimistic. “The Ballygowan brand has researched extremely well with British consumers who love the packaging and the brand’s unique heritage,” Kevin Donnelly, country director Britvic Ireland, said.
Currently, 1.5 billion litres of bottled water are sold each year in Britain, generating €1b in sales. The highly automated Ballygowan plant is currently producing 40 million litres of water a year - and has the capacity to produce 600,000 bottles in one eight-hour shift.
A spokeswoman for the company, however, said there was capacity to scale up if and when required. “They have already seen 50% increase since they started exporting,” she said.
“This is the start of the story,” she told the Limerick Leader this Wednesday. “There is a large market and room for growth.”
However, she continued, there were “no immediate” plans for job increases. “There is capacity to scale if and when required,” she stressed.
Britvic plans to market Ballygowan through leisure centres and workplaces and in selected convenience and grocery retail outlets. A new one-litre bottle is being produced for Britain and an advertising campaign is planned for the summer highlighting the health credentials of Ballygowan.
Britvic’s plans for Ballygowan have been warmly welcomed by Ann Liston, president of Newcastle West Chamber of Commerce. “We are all very proud of the fact that Ireland’s first bottled water comes from Newcastle West,” she said. And she was optimistic that increased demand for Ballygowan would lead to increased jobs.
She also hoped it would bring a positive spotlight on the town. “Ballygowan is synonymous with Newcastle West and increased publicity for Ballygowan can only help Newcastle West in the long run. I would hopoe that it might encourage other investors to look at our town in a new and positive light.”