Thirst for eco-friendly products and family values sees juice firm's success continue
- Credit: CJC
A family-run Meldreth drinks firm has turned 21 - but the history of those involved, and of apple-growing in the area goes back way further.
Kelly Richardson is the director of Cambridge Juice Company, having recently taken the reins from her partner's father Matt Gray.
She told the Crow: "My in-laws have lived in Shepreth and Meldreth for years and years, and we've found photos from 1920s and earlier. I grew up around Cambridge, in Hauxton, but my father worked in Royston so it was always meant to be that'd I'd end up somewhere between the two.
"My in-laws family has been growing and selling fruit from the 1900s or maybe further back. Great Grandfather CA Lowe sold in Cambridge Market, and they also sold at Royston market and over in Potton."
According to the Meldreth History Society, the village has been a notable farming area in Cambridgeshire since the 11th century.
The society's website states: "The soil is ideal, made of up of loam and a middle chalk layer with a good supply of water to the whole area.
"Fruit was grown in the parish as early as the late 13th century."
Kelly continued: "In 2000, market trading slowed and my father -in-law found it was really hard to find decent premium drinks, so he started importing juices and then in the last five years we've had our own brand of juices.
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"Our warehouse is a unit at the back of Fieldgate Nurseries and we thought we've got all these great apple orchards. Let's speak to the farmer and see if we can do our own apple juice. Then we branched out to Suffolk, which is a also a great apple-growing area.
"The family history has gone from selling the fruit you eat to the fruit you drink!
"For us it's getting out there and telling others about what is on their doorstep. Look what great produce is being grown here and what we can make from it - because many people still don't know this."
"We want to encourage low food miles, have a low carbon footprint and want to support local farmers. Everything we do we try and find in our area first.
"Even the water we supply in glass we get it from Kent, it's the closest we have found and it's a carbon-neutral company. Our crisps supplier uses all their own potatoes so from field to factory is literally yards.
"COVID has taught everyone to be more mindful of what they have in their local area, people are going back to using their local butchers, to thinking of local options first rather than going to the big supermarkets. And we aim to supply things that aren't typically in the supermarkets. We try to use less sugar, we aim to be eco-friendly - I've just found a chocolate bar that is fully compostable.
"We now have a saying here, thought up by my sister-in-law - we don't follow trends we follow our conscience, and now the trends follow us. I thought that fits what we're doing to a tee."
In the year they are celebrating their 21st birthday, Cambridge Juice Company has picked up a People's Choice accolade for Family Business of the Year in the East & East Anglia region at the Family Business United Awards 2021.
The news makes the small team of directors of Kelly, Matt Gray - and their families - and drivers Del Stevens, from Meldreth and Adam Ward, who lives in Cambridge extremely proud.
Kelly said: "We've had such a tough year, when the pandemic hit, the phones stopped ringing overnight. It was as though someone had turned off a tap. To hear that we've won this award voted by the people going out their way to vote for us is amazing.
"It means people are really seeing what we are doing and are supporting us. strangers would message me saying 'keep going guys' - everyone pulled together.
"When COVID hit and everywhere closed we had a warehouse full of stock, we did isolation boxes - so we put stock and samples in there, but also things like loo roll as well because everyone was struggling with that at one point
"We are a small team so I get to do a bit of everything, new product development, I get to meet customers, I get to meet suppliers - there are so many different things I do.
."With the hot weather at the minute things are getting back to how they were before. Since June things have been looking better and that is a relief."
For more on Cambridge Juice Company go to www.cambridgejuicecompany.com.
- Cambridge Juice Company is based at Fieldgate Nurseries - which has an impressive history of its own.
Meldreth History Society has documented the history of Fieldgate: "Doreen and Arthur Ward came to Fieldgate, Station Road, Meldreth in 1969 after escaping the ‘rat race’ in London for a quiet country life with their two sons, David and Andrew.
"They never stopped working, however. On the first day of their new life in Meldreth they had the kitchen table out on their driveway selling seedlings that they had propagated. They made a grand total of two shillings and sixpence - or 25p.
"In 1970 a purpose-built barrow with a canopy replaced the table and they were then able to extend their range of plants, flowers and tomatoes.
"By then, Doreen and Arthur had acquired several goats and so they were able to sell organic goats’ milk.
"By 1982 the first shop was open. Several years later an even larger shop was built. Doreen and Arthur were then joined in the business by their sons, and introduced groceries and many other goods.
"Doreen died in 2007, and Arthur some years earlier, but Fieldgate Nurseries continues to be an asset to Meldreth and other nearby villages."