Coca-Cola swallows Morpeth company
DRINKS giant Coca-Cola has spread its business empire into Northumberland with the purchase of a century-old family firm which sells mineral water.
The world's biggest soft drink company has bought Waters & Robson, which produces Abbey Well water. And the US company, which last year turned over nearly ÃÂ£19bn, plans to invest and grow the small but successful Morpeth firm.
Coca-Cola wants to invest in the site as well as its 91-strong workforce to help bring the brand of waters and drinks to a wider audience.
Abbey Well, which turns over around ÃÂ£11m, draws its water from a 117-metre deep artesian well beneath the Northumberland countryside and then bottles it in Morpeth. The business was set up as a soft drinks producer in 1910 by Thomas Robson and passed down the family.
In the early 1980s his grandson Tony decided to move into selling bottled water, with the first run of Abbey Well producing a mere 20 cases.
The company, which will change hands at the end of the month, now sells 30 million litres of the premium branded water each year.
Tony Robson said: "I am delighted that Coca-Cola has decided to purchase the Abbey Well natural mineral water brand and Waters & Robson.
"It will be an emotional day when I hand over to Coca-Cola, but I am very proud of what my loyal and dedicated team has achieved. My family and I wish Abbey Well and The Coca-Cola Company continued success."
Coca-Cola has failed to get a foothold in the UK water market, unlike rival Pepsi's Aquafina. The company, which makes drinks including Dr Pepper and Snapple, is already big in the field with US distribution of Evian.
But its attempt to sell its Dasani water in the UK flopped after customers were unimpressed that it was simply treated tap water and then thousands of bottles were recalled after samples were found with high levels of potentially carcinogenic chemicals.
However, in Abbey Well, it now believes it has found the right beverage to rank alongside its 400 current brands, which it sells in over 200 countries.
Simon Baldry, vice president and general manager, Coca-Cola Enterprises GB, said: "We have great respect for Waters & Robson and are delighted to be adding the Abbey Well brand to Coca-Cola's portfolio in the UK. We are looking forward to working with their employees and the local community to develop the business.
"We will be investing in the company's employees and site infrastructure to ensure bottled water production at Morpeth goes from strength to strength."
John Dickinson, retail analyst at Brewin Dolphin in Newcastle, said: "The bottled water industry has been struggling this year as it can rely on a hot summer for strong sales.
"As this year's summer was non-existent, this has affected trade.
"However, with a massive company like Coca-Cola at the helm, the sky's the limit."
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