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  • Andrea MacLeod

Health Drinks and Cocktails with Dan Read

Updated: Aug 5


A smiling man outside, holding two bottles of cordial and vinegar.
Dan Read, at home in Cookham, with two of his drink products

I went to visit Dan Read of Wilder Fruits in Cookham. Dan has two jobs in the drinks industry. One is a high-flying innovation specialist who consults to large global drink corporations. The other is the new but burgeoning drinks company that he has created called Wilder Fruits where he sells the products at local markets. It started off with apple cider vinegar and has branched out into cordials as well. Here's an edited excerpt from my interview I did with Dan. Andrea: So how did you get started with Wilder fruits? Dan: How did I, get started? I work in a related industry in more of a consulting role and you always have the sense that one day, you'd like to get out from behind the computer and actually try and do something with a physical product. You have like an itch that you want to scratch. You have ideas, and instead of putting them on PowerPoint and selling them, you think, I wonder if I, you know, in my wildest dreams may make something happen for myself. Not, not necessarily to take over the world and conquer the supermarkets, but just to,


Andrea: So you're not trying to be the next Coca-Cola.


Dan Yeah, of course I am. No. What I found with that, you just have to get started.

Andrea: But why apple cider vinegar? That's a bit off, you know, a bit unusual off the main path?

Dan Apple cider vinegar because it's become very trendy over the last five years or so, or probably 10 years. Apple cider vinegar has been around for 4,000 years as a cupboard staple and sort of cure or people use it to make dressings. Some people put it out in the summer to kill flies. You can use cider apple vinegar for an awful lot of things, but more recently it's become touted by the big apple cider vinegar company, the name of which we won't mention, as a health and wellness product and reputedly curing everything from diabetes to cancer.


And of course, there's no evidence for this because apple cider vinegar is a food, not a medicine, but there is some. That it can have some beneficial effects. And what it definitely does is help with weight loss. And I was overweight and actually had gout a couple of times. And in my forties, my doctor's response was going allopurinol for the rest of your life.


And that's a medication, but of course the real answer is to lose weight and eat healthy food, less processed food. So that's what I did. I lost a lot of weight and the apple cider vinegar really helped me. And that's what sort of inspired me to start Wilder Fruits as a apple cider vinegar brand, that specifically positions around health and wellness.

Product photography  | Berkshire drinks company, Wilder Fruits
Apple Cider Vinegar from Wilder Fruits positions itself as a health and wellness drink.

And that's what I'm doing now.


Andrea: Where are you conquering so far? What's your empire looking like?


Dan: Okay. So in Cookham we have a thing called the Meter Market, which is essentially a lockdown proposition. That was started for a lot of B2B suppliers that had lost their routes to market. As the trade shut down to create a direct to consumer route and also the village halls, obviously nobody was hiring them out because of COVID.


So somebody set that up in Cookham. And I went up there with my apple cider vinegar and I sold five bottles and it was exciting. They quickly realized that you need more categories to get people to come to your little table. So I branched out into freshly made cordials. And I now sell many, many more freshly made cordials, which are like the antithesis of apple cider vinegar in terms of health and wellness.


And then a few of the bits and pieces, but essentially, yeah, selling direct to consumers because you learn about your product and you get loads of ideas and speaking to people and you get loads of feedback and that's helped me develop new apple cider vinegar, base products, new vinegars, and, and this whole cordial range.


And I'm selling it. Direct. So essentially, instead of becoming a well conquering brand owner, I'm now a market trader.


Andrea: Well, we all start somewhere, right? This is the first step.


Dan: Yeah. It's a channel and I know are starting to get brand awareness and now people are asking me, do you have a website? So if you can get some natural traffic to your website, that's something to build on during the company.


I would say only really in earnest three or four months. And when I say in earnest, I mean, Making cordials at 10 o'clock at night after a day's work and getting up at five in the morning to make juices to go on the markets.


Andrea: You're doing all right then, because I've heard you've done some fairly brisk business at the meter market.


Dan: Yeah. I mean, it's the thing about the meta market is there's there's a lot of people like me up there. There's a lot of interesting. People that have started businesses in different food categories, and they're very passionate about it. And we can all talk about our products and we can all sell our products to customers, but it's not a get rich quick scheme.


You have a lot of upfront costs, and then you get to the point where your wife says you need to start selling some of this. You got 4,000 bottles of apple cider vinegar in the shed there drank those all yourself can start selling some down. So there's only so much healthy you can get. Yeah, that's right.


So that's the name of the game now is just to try and get some sales, got some turnovers so I can carry on investing and developing and hopefully moving forward gets. Interest from retail accounts. Okay.


Andrea: Dan, you say you have quite a few products that you're selling at the little markets. What's the hot ticket item that we should be looking out for? What should we come early to make sure we get before it sells out?

Product photography  | Three bottles of premium lime cordial from Berkshire drinks company, Wilder Fruits
Delicious lime cordial!

Dan: The hot item is something simple and something that's very easy to buy, which is lime cordial. And I always had the idea that someone could do to Rose's is what fever tree did to Schweppes. So essentially what I tried to do was make the best damn lime cordial you could say sugar, water, citric acid, and waxed Persian, limes, lime zest, hand zested limes. Heated up and steeped together in Mason jars and then bottled. And that flies out the door and people come back week after week after week saying, I can't believe we've drunk half litre in a way it's a lot of sugar, but yeah, that triple lime it's called and it's the really hot seller.


I started an apple cider vinegar brand, but what I've learned is there's commercial potential in this lime cordial because actually nobody else is doing a premium lime cordial with a cool positioning.


I have tasted some of this triple lime and it's pretty amazing. I do have to agree with Dan's assessment and his other clients. It's good stuff!


Having a (messy) go at making cordial!

Dan then took me into his test kitchen and I had a go at making the base for his cordials. It's not just apple cider vinegar and lime cordial, Dan has quite a few different products to try and is always coming up with new ones. So be sure to find him at the Cookham or Holyport Meter Markets and try out his wares.


Do you have a burning need to listen to the rest of the podcast?

For Apple users, you can listen to the podcast here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/on-the-job-aired-on-2021-06-29/id1573131577?i=1000527243750 Or you can listen directly on the River Radio website here: https://river.radio/on-the-job and go to the show that aired on 2021-06-29 On the same day I also interviewed Rachel Tyrell of Cricketer's Gin and took some photos, so there's lots to listen to in this one episode!


Thanks again to Dan for taking time to talk to me for On the Job! As mentioned, you can find him at the local markets around the Thames Valley, or you can visit his website: https://wilderfruits.co.uk/


I am always looking more guests to chat with for On the Job. If you would like you and your business featured, just drop me an email to andrea@aplusphotography.co.uk. Or you see how great some new photos for your business would be, write me at the same place to see how I can help you!

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