James Martin boost for Orkney vinegar producer

Orkney Craft Vinegar Product Range. Image credit www.orkney.com
Orkney Craft Vinegar Product Range. Image credit www.orkney.com

An Orkney artisan vinegar producer has expanded into new premises to meet unprecedented customer demand, following advice and support from Business Gateway.

Orkney Craft Vinegar, a local and sustainable brewery, was founded in 2017 by Sam Britten. A brewer and former chef, Sam was inspired to create vinegar from beer by using traditional methods, incorporating ingredients found in abundance on the island.

In February 2019, Sam experienced an incredible surge in orders following a surprise mention from ITV Saturday Morning’s James Martin, who hailed the Honey & Meadowsweet and Bere Malt Vinegar as “the best vinegar you can buy.”

Since then, life has drastically changed for the business owner, who started operating from a garage just two years ago. Exports have increased tenfold and the brewery can now produce 1,000 litres of vinegar per batch – a 1000% increase on the previous capacity.

Founder Sam Britten commented: “We were not prepared for the sudden increase in customer demand following James Martin’s recommendation on Saturday Morning. With help and support from Business Gateway, we’re now in a position to accommodate that demand.

“My Business Gateway adviser supported our successful grant application to Orkney Islands Council which contributed to the purchase of new brewing equipment. Without them, we would have been in a difficult situation because our production process can take up to six months.”

Following their early help from Business Gateway, the company is preparing to up-scale from newly acquired premises in Kirkwall, Orkney and launched a brand-new website in June.

In the past six months, Sam has taken on his first full-time employee, as well as a dedicated design and brand consultant and casual part-time staff to help with orders. He also plans to employ two further part-time staff members in the next year.

Sara Tait, business adviser, Business Gateway Orkney commented: “We initially supported Sam to write a business plan, which helped him to prioritise his to-do list more effectively and secure grant funding from Orkney Islands Council to assist with start-up costs.

“We subsequently introduced Orkney Craft Vinegar to Highlands & Islands Enterprise which means Sam has benefitted from a high level of support as his business has grown and demand has increased.

“It’s thrilling to see our Business Gateway clients go from strength to strength, especially when the success can be enjoyed in our hometown. Orkney is such a fantastic base for many organisations to thrive, and we’re looking forward to helping Sam and his team upscale the business to meet current demand, whilst maintaining his dedication to local, foraged and sustainable produce.”

Apart from the bere barley used to make the malt vinegar, every element of Orkney Craft Vinegar’s product is foraged by hand from local surroundings. Key ingredients such as seaweed, rosehip, rhubarb and meadowsweet are picked straight from Orkney’s natural environment.

World-famous whisky distillery Highland Park supplies the whisky-soaked bourbon and sherry casks which, along with Highland Park peated malt, create Orkney Craft Vinegar’s developing range of malt vinegar. After ageing in these casks for up to one year, the resulting vinegar has an unusual depth of flavour which makes it perfect for cooking.

Sam Britten explained:“We’re extremely fortunate in our natural surroundings and it’s our commitment to the seasonal ingredients from Orkney’s larder that makes our product so special. As the business continues to grow, we hope to create more jobs for the local economy right here in Orkney.”

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