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Bon Accord Karen Nathan Launch Party Photo
SPOTLIGHT: Bon Accord
interview
28/11/19

Can you believe it’s almost December?! The nights are darker and the chill is in the air so we reckon it’s the perfect time to cosy up with a cuppa with our latest blog!

Following on from the Creative Edinburgh Awards 2019, we’ll be highlighting those who helped make the night happen with a series of spotlight blogs.

Our Awards are designed with the community at the forefront and give the opportunity to celebrate the nominees and winners, as well as the attendees and participants.

Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing the stories of the freelancers, local businesses - new and old - and innovative creative studios who keep Edinburgh’s creative community shining.

It’s time to crack open a bottle of Bon Accord with founder Karen Knowles as we celebrate the brand’s heritage in the city, delving into launching a business, collaboration in marketing and design and what lies ahead for the famous brand.

Bon Accord Lorries

Dating back to 1903, Bon Accord was a household name across Scotland as their orange vans rumbled across the city streets with the noise of jingling of glass bottles echoing between as they delivered their famous fizzy juice to doorsteps across the country.

Throughout the next century, the company went on to expand from its Arbroath beginnings to factories in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Inverness with lorries delivering drinks to communities across Scotland until the year 2000, when the company closed its doors.

15 years later, it was time for Bon Accords’ return as their famous glass bottles began to resurface at local markets and trade shows before the drinks made their way back into homes across Scotland.

With the founder’s great-great-granddaughter Karen Knowles now at the helm, Karen explained the brand’s revival was sparked by a moment of inspiration when she was pregnant, utilising her previous food and drink experience to bring Bon Accord back to life.

“I used to work for a seafood company, but my dad is a farmer and my mum's side has Bon Accord so we've always had food and drink in my roots,” Karen explained.

“I was pregnant and it was going out as a non-drinker that inspired me to relaunch the brand. I was really fed up with the lack of natural soft drinks on the market. I couldn't really find anything that wasn't packed with sugar or sweeteners and it got me thinking ‘surely there is something else out there that you can sweeten drinks with?’.

“I developed a range of drinks I'd personally enjoy drinking that weren't full of sugar or artificial sweeteners. They're a little bit healthier and focusing on really nice flavours without being too whacky flavour combinations. We use really nice quality ingredients and when you read the back of the pack on our soft drinks those are the entire ingredients, it's not full of e-numbers or anything else.”

Starting a business for anyone is a complex process with varied challenges along the way. Although the launch of Bon Accord was revitalising a brand which previously existed, Karen wanted to approach the relaunch with a fresh perspective and was clear that the brand would not be confined by this history. Although the name was a household staple, this wouldn’t confine her creativity.

“For about 100 years, Bon Accord was a really well-known brand to everybody across Scotland. Everyone has their own Bon Accord story, it was very much like people thought it was ‘their’ soft drinks company without an idea of how big the company was. People still feel that really strong emotional connection to the brand which is really nice. Bon Accord is the soft drink of Scottish childhoods. It's a real thing people remember the Friday night delivery to their grannies house,” Karen explained.

“I do think that although we have the Bon Accord name, we shouldn't just hash out the old recipes because people may have tried them once and feel it's really old fashioned. We're a completely new company, we’re still a family business but a new generation at the helm and a new approach to the way we do the drinks.”

Their traditional bottles may have been brightly coloured ‘Pineappleaid’ and sweet ‘Bona-Cola’ flavoured, but now Bon Accord swap sugar for honey, coconut nectar and fruit juice, producing all-natural drinks that don’t compromise on flavour adapting to a marketplace of consumers who are more health-conscious than before, with new flavours including rhubarb soda and cloudy lemonade.

To help elevate the brand, Bon Accord has undergone a recent revamp with a new bottle design revitalising the brand for its next era. Like any business, the process involved the curation of a new concept to create a new brand identity.

“When we decided to relaunch the brand we didn't really know who we were,” Karen explained. “We worked quite closely with designers in Edinburgh to really focus in on the key messaging of the product. On the front of the pack, the brand name is really clear, the wedge of the fruit resembles a smile and is a nod to the fruit juice we use in the drinks. We've got key product attributes on the side and our little neck label is like the face of the old Bon Accord with the date it was set up.”

“The slogan 'founders of flavour' as it's all about the flavour and that being such a core of what we do. Myself and my business partner are not designers or marketeers so having two really experienced people saying this is the right route for the packaging it was great to have them working with us on that.

“Since doing our rebrand with our designers, things have really taken off so it was well worth the investment.”

As Bon Accord returns as a staple Scottish drink, the brand is reconnecting with the city in new and innovative ways.

“Edinburgh is such a great place to network due to its size, you are never far from a mutual connection or two,” Karen said. “It's important for Bon Accord to support events such as the Creative Edinburgh Awards as it's delightful to provide tasty refreshments and it's also a great platform to promote our brand to the right people.”

So, what’s next for Bon Accord? Karen explained it’s time for the company to enter its next stage of growth.

“We're growing the company at the moment which is really exciting,” Karen said.

“August was our busiest month ever and we just are looking now at heading towards the end of this year and next year we're growing our team based upon the success across the last year we've had.”

With the new business booming and exciting plans to expand the Bon Accord range into new formats for 2020, we asked Karen to share one piece of advice for those looking to launch their own business.

“Surround yourself with positive people, don’t lose track of your vision, and prepare to work hard,” Karen said. “Be honest about what you are good at, and don’t be afraid to ask for help in areas where you are not so strong. Be confident and be brave!”

You can find out more about the Bon Accord story via the brand’s website and discover where you can pick up your bottle!

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