Belfast Telegraph

The Maine man takes his fizzy drinks to Australia

By John Mulgrew

It's been a Maine-stay of Northern Ireland childhoods for almost 70 years.

Now some of Maine Soft Drinks' fizzy classics such as Cloudy Lime, Pineapple and Bubblegum are making their way more than 10,000 miles across the globe on a two-month journey to Australia.

It's the first deal outside the UK and Ireland that the Ballymoney family-run business - famed for its door-to-door glass bottle deliveries - has landed.

"The first order is already away. We only shipped it out last month, and we have already sent out samples, we had a good response," Maine commercial manager William McLaughlin told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Initially, they may be selling to people who have heard of it before.

"But it's going to Sydney, so it will be right in the heart of Australia."

The fizzy drinks, sold in 500ml plastic bottles, will initially be available in smaller independent retailers, with hopes larger supermarkets will take at interest in one of our best-loved brands.

And those who have emigrated from the province to the considerably warmer climate down under will soon be able to get a taste of home.

Maine is also now selling McDaid's Football Special mixed fruit drink, something those who have spent their summers in Donegal will remember fondly.

The deal has been done with Australian supplier Emerald Foods.

Maine's roots go back to 1919 when the Harkness family began making soft drinks in Ballymena.

It blossomed into a bigger operation in 1949, branching out into Maine Soft Drinks, before moving to Ballymoney 10 years later. And today it's still owned by the family.

Maine employs around 100 people across its operations - with 45 drivers who still sell and distribute its old-fashioned glass bottled drinks.

The reason for its continued success, even with big names such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi dominating the market, is nostalgia.

It's the childhood memories of the clinking of the heavy glass bottles, with old classics such as brown lemonade and the vibrant damson hue of Portemo.

"People don't realise it, but it's one of the biggest brands in Northern Ireland," Mr McLaughlin said.

"People remember the 'mineral man' calling to their granny's house.

"People tell us they haven't had it since they were young, and then say 'it reminds me of being a child' when they try it. And it can be a treat again, now that they are adults."

Maine has already begun placing its plastic bottled drinks into shops and major supermarkets, but its door-to-door glass bottle sales still make up more than half of its business.

"We are selling in Tesco and Asda at the moment, and we also export some glass bottles to Great Britain. And we've started selling Football Special in the likes of Musgrave and have also secured a listing in Tesco," Mr McLaughlin added.

Belfast Telegraph