Ballymoney-based family business, Maine Soft Drinks has announced an exciting new deal and a new direction.
Maine has secured a deal to sell a range of its soft drinks through Tesco Northern Ireland. The initial supply contract is worth an estimated £150,000 to £200,000.
In the run up to Christmas six of their most popular flavours will be available in Tesco in plastic litre bottles, including the three favourites, Raspberryade, Pineappleade and Cloudy Limeade, as well as Sarsaparilla, Brown Lemonade and American Cream Soda. The range will be extended in Tesco in the New Year to include White Lemonade and bright blue Bubblegum.
Maine Soft Drinks is a family business, run for almost a century by the Harkness family. John Harkness started up Braid Mineral Water Company in 1919. His youngest son John Carson (JC) Harkness started Maine Soft Drinks in 1949.
After establishing a new bottling plant in Ballymoney in 1959, the business was built up by JC Harkness with the help of his two sons Samuel and Bruce who are still closely involved with the company. They started out with two lorries and eventually the business grew to more than 40 vehicles delivering across the length and breadth of Northern Ireland.
Maine Soft Drinks’ Sales Director, Derrick Harkness (grandson of JC), said, “Over the years, our lorries were recognised, the products were loved and the Maine Man grew in popularity. Despite being the peak of the troubles, these were known as “the good old days” for our business as it started to thrive.
“Now, Maine Soft Drinks is the only company delivering soft drinks door to door in Northern Ireland and its fleet of lorries are still on the road, serving 40,000 households. There’s hardly a road in Northern Ireland that a Maine lorry doesn’t go down!”
The Harkness family is now taking Maine Soft Drinks in another direction. Currently employing 105 staff, including 45 door-to-door men, they also have bottling contracts for soft drinks companies in Scotland and continue to produce and bottle kids’ soft drinks under the Smak and Vitazade brands.
Derrick Harkness said, “We sought advice from Invest NI, who encouraged us to look differently at our business. They helped us to see that there is still a lot of value in the Maine brand and that it is something people in Northern Ireland still have a very positive connection with.
“We’re very grateful to Invest NI for financial support which allowed us to invest in our production plant. These improvements to our business gave us confidence to approach Tesco and we are absolutely thrilled to have secured this deal with them. As a team, we’re invigorated to see Maine being transformed with a new generation and we have exciting plans for 2014, which will see Maine Soft Drinks firmly on the Northern Ireland map – and hopefully even further afield.”
Tesco Buying Manager, Steven Murphy said, “This is an exciting new listing for us, not only as it’s adding another local supplier to our portfolio of Taste NI suppliers, but, more importantly, because Tesco is part of such an important new direction for this family business. I myself have childhood memories of waiting expectantly for the Maine man to arrive each week. We’re delighted the wait is over for shoppers across Northern Ireland as the range hits our shelves this week.”