Launching a new brand and introducing a completely new product to the UK drinks market is a risky, logistically fraught project at the best of times. Which this isn’t.
But, having spent four intensive years in product development, founder, Jiali Jiang, and the team were not to be deterred, and this week we have launched the UK’s first range of plant-based milk drinks made from barley. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, with Britain in complete lockdown and with Jiali and the rest of the team geographically marooned. Quite a feat!
“No one could have predicted, when we were planning our launch, that this would become a global crisis,” says Jiali. “In a way, being unprepared for the pandemic and its impact was a help – we just carried on. And thanks to our fabulous production and distribution partners, lifeline conference platforms, such as Zoom, to keep us all in contact; and some unexpected added benefits from our commitment to sourcing locally and independently, Bright Barley has been launched on time, at the peak of a global crisis.”
We hope that the range of vegan barley shakes, in Salted Caramel, Chocolate and Coffee flavours, fill a gap in the UK market for a grain-based ‘mylk’, and we are also proud of the sustainability credentials of the range.
“Provenance and sustainability are important to both me and our target consumer,” Jiali explains. “And discovering high quality barley flour grown in the UK was central to my decision to develop a barley drink.” She has been meticulous in sourcing her ingredients, including using grain from selected UK organic farms, which is ground at Shipton Mill in the Cotswolds, where flour has been produced since Medieval times. “So many plant-based milks have hidden environmental impacts on land and water usage or in food miles. Ours was going to be different in every way.”
This commitment to reducing food miles by UK sourcing has proved vital to ensuring that ingredients were available and delivered on time for the first production run in April 2020. It was a date that we were committed to, irrespective of the Corona crisis; with ingredients ordered, factory booked, packaging arriving and distributors already eagerly signed up to list the range.
“We have been lucky,” admits Jiali. “Because few of our ingredients are bespoke and all are natural, our supplies were relatively straightforward and largely unaffected. And our decision to support independents has also helped, with our family-owned, Somerset-based processors remaining open – safely, but defiantly – as they have done since 1898.”
“We did have to safeguard our routes to market, however, and the first thing we did when lockdown was announced was expand our retail plans and build an ecommerce side to our website. In just two weeks.”
We have had to adapt to a new set of changed circumstances every week, in fact. From shelving plans to launch at cancelled trade shows, to targeting online retailers to scouting for a photographer who had a home studio for the product photoshoots.
“This may be something of a baptism of fire,” says Jiali, “but it has certainly made us resourceful. Ultimately, the product will do the talking, however, and I’m confident that we have developed a range that is unique, delicious, healthy and timely.”
We also have big future plans for barley, with new product lines already in development in our mission to “Bring Barley Back”. So stay tuned …