Mike Hughes enjoys a refreshing glass or two with Harrogate Spring Water MD James Cain.
James Cain’s core product has been around since... well, the dawn of time. But strictly speaking, the discovery of Harrogate’s first mineral spring puts more of a precise date on it – 1571.
After that, the town became the first spa destination and in 1740, it became the birthplace of bottled water. “Our own journey started in 2002, when we were awarded a licence to re-start the bottling of waters from Harrogate,” said James.
“We certainly feel a responsibility and take pride in our role. In the early days we were trying to grow a brand and weather the credit crunch and the environmental backlash being faced by the bottled water industry – they were tough years.
“But we were quickly recognised for having water of exceptional quality and in 2003 were awarded the ‘world’s best sparkling water.’ We started to make a name for ourselves amongst food service and slowly gained momentum.”
In 2012 the firm realised they were nearing capacity and needed to reinvest significantly in order to continue the journey. “The challenges in maintaining our continued journey were multi-faceted. We had to pull together many complex and different strands for growth simultaneously; namely, securing planning, securing additional power, securing an additional water source and investing in new equipment.
“Without securing the right finance streams, any business model is flawed, so for Harrogate Water Brands, finding the right financing has been vital. It’s a business’ lifeline and securing the right partner that understands your business and your aspirations is paramount. Santander continue to support and demonstrate their conviction in what we are doing.”
James and his company are now in a confident position and are planning for the future. “Our sales in 2014 were over 100 million units – we now have the ability to more than triple this. We have future-proofed this business and now have one of the most technologically advanced bottling machines in the world, housed in a new 20,000 square foot production building, with additional power and water of exceptional quality secured.”
That quality is obviously being recognised in all the right places, as the official water of Yorkshire cricket, England cricket, Ascot and Royal Ascot. But James believes it all comes back to the team you build within your company.
“The steps a business takes in order to become a major brand has to begin with investing in people. A dedicated team, with a shared vision and clear strategy; combined with effective communication.
“I feel that I have always been fortunate with recruitment, though I know that comes from being fortunate enough to have worked with and for some fantastic, inspirational people throughout my career.
“I believe that having the ability to spot talent comes from having experience of what talent looks like. I enjoy finding talented people to complement our team. I take a lot much pride in having established what I believe is an outstanding team at Harrogate.
“And that means my job remains exciting because I’m passionate about our business. I have a belief in our product, about what we do and our reasons for doing it. I really don’t see my passion diminishing! There’s certainly a lot you can do with water.”
Just as important as James’ successful team, is a successful region to use as a springboard. “Yorkshire’s helped to put Harrogate on the map,” he says. “A lot of our work is done in the city and it makes a refreshing change when people refer to Yorkshire. The Government’s reference to the northern powerhouse and Yorkshire generating more jobs than France, according to this year’s Budget, certainly helps resonate and has definitely raised the profile of our region.
“Now our five year plan is to continue to build the ‘Harrogate’ brand as well as continue to add to the £1.7million we have already raised for Pump Aid through our Thirsty Planet brand. Our vision is to continue to create jobs as well as raise awareness of our beautiful city.”
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