18 Feb Non Stop Fizzy Pop – a Small Batch Step Up
From small beginnings, we’ve grown quickly thanks to your love, support and thirsty soda drinking. Now, we’re taking the next big step– read on for all the juicy soda gossip!
Robyn and I started Square Root back in our home kitchen in 2012 – those were sticky days and it pushed us to move things forward quickly. When we signed the lease on our first space at the tail end of 2013, we were nervously excited – having never run a business before we didn’t really know what would happen, but we threw ourselves into it and got fizzy.
It was this arch space in Hackney where we cobbled together our first Soda Works. We designed our own pasteuriser and tank system, bought a second-hand bottle filler from our friends at The Five Points Brewery and a homebrew bottle capper. Along with a trusty lemon squeezer and a delivery bike we were set.
Things came together quickly and over the past 6 years, we’ve grown from just the two of us into a team of 15 dedicated Soda Jerks. Together we’ve all helped shape Square Root into the place it is now and developed a game-changing range of sodas. We’ve run our own on-site café pop up, won the BBC Food & Farming Awards for Best Drinks Producer (and we’re still the only non-alcoholic drinks company to have done this, a massive achievement!), slung soda from a tricycle at the top of City Hall and run a successful shop in Camden for two years all while making and bottling more than 2 million drinks in house.
We’ve always been driven by demand for our drinks and things have only been going one way – it was clear we were going to run out of space. To keep up the pace we took on a unit in Homerton to run our distribution from and upcycled a 1960s bottle filling machine (our beloved but grouchy Tirax SF-12) but it wasn’t enough. After the biggest year we’d ever had and our 1000th batch of soda in Jan 2018 we decided that it was time for an upgrade.
We started looking for a place to move to right away but the space available was few and far between, so it wasn’t a short process. We began offering on units but place after place fell through for one reason or another and it was on our fourth attempt we put in an offer on a new site and it stuck – a brand new industrial unit situated across the Marshes in Walthamstow. It’s taken us a year from the point we started looking until getting the keys last week and works at our new site have only just begun so the new Soda Works will take a while yet to complete. We got the keys to the unit on the 11th of Feb and we did not waste any time! After a site visit for the whole team, works started the same day.
Before you build a factory, you have to build the floor. Much to our new landlord’s delight work began by cutting trenches through their freshly levelled floor. I’m not saying we don’t like what they’ve done with the place (it’s brand spanking new and even has solar panels – fancy) but IMO there’s always room for more drainage.
Most people might not find drainage very exciting but our shiny new system is sitting under everything else so it has to be good and future proof. Some of the best bods in the business are currently building the floor to our design, ramps, runoff and all – big enough to accommodate the new bottling kit (more on that later) and a super-duper clean room where we can get our juice on.
After the floor is in, we’re topping it with a shiny 5-meter mezzanine, a roof under a roof which will accommodate our warehouse and bring all the stock back under our watchful gaze. The office, with a great view over the marshes, is getting a little re-boot as we’re building a huge central table, meeting room and workspaces to accommodate our growing team.
While we’re busy getting this juicy dream ready, a skilled team in Italy are fabricating a bespoke bottling line. The new system is much faster and capable of filling 3000 bottles per hour automatically, with an exciting bottle depalletization system which is part serious manufacturing tool and part crane game.
The 12 head rotary filler and dual turret capper will keep bottles filling, ring pulling and popping all the way to our new tunnel pasteuriser. Like a giant watery hotel toaster, this thing gently heats and cools the bottles and saves us a lot of energy. After a quick blow dry and a swerve past the ominously named BI-DIRECTIONAL MASS ACCUMULATION TABLE two labelling machines and a semi-automatic box packing machine, we’ll be well on the way to Non-Stop Fizzy Pop.
Keeping the packaging line flowing takes the physical strain off us. It greatly reduces our Dissolved Oxygen in package meaning our sodas will taste even fresher – more pop for longer! With more capacity, we’ll be able to reach more fizz fans than ever and keep everyone quenched in the years to come.
All this extra efficiency will free us up to spend more time on the best part of the job – experimenting with new flavours & collaborating with the best independent food and drink producers around!
In the meantime, while this is all being built and installed, Fizzy Popping in our Hackney Soda Works will continue until Summer 2019. Once the new site’s build is complete, we’ll be moving everything over to our new one stop shop for Non-Stop Fizzy Pop (what a mouthful)!
Our belief in always making our product from Fruit to Bottle has brought us this far and we won’t stop now. This belief is driving us to grow and strive for new standards and challenges just like in the beginning. We’re sticking to our guns and keeping all the process we’ve developed over the past 6 years in-house – no shortcuts to be taken, no weird stuff in our drinks and never any compromise on the quality.
We’ve been at capacity for a solid year now and it’s been tough. This new step is the product of the past 6 years hard work by all of us here at Square Root and we’re looking forward to taking the leap. Time to roll the dice again and move forward a couple of squares.
That’s all for now.