Thursday, June 01, 2006

Rescued before they go extinct, or even after.

You've probably heard of heirloom vegetables -- if you've been to a restaurant in San Francisco in the last five years, you've surely seen the ubiquitous heirloom tomato salad -- and even heirloom meats, but heirloom brands? The Financial Times' Alicia Clegg writes today (registration required) about the resuscitation of moribund brands, meeting consumer desires for tradition and niche products. In Britain, Eldon Robson "is re-energising Fentimans, his family's soft-drinks business after a winter sleep that lasted a quarter of a century."
The business went into cold storage in 1970 after its fermented ginger beers and shadies lost out to mass-produced colas and fizzy drinks. But by the mid-1990s people were searching for more distinctive alternatives. Mr Robson saw his opportunity and resurrected his family's 90-year-old company in 1994. . . . [F]irm was his faith in the public's taste for "old British classics" such as ginger beer, and dandelion and burdock. . . .

Uniting modern commercial discipline with a brand steeped in tradition is a fine balancing act. Mr Robson treads the tightrope with some skill. His drinks, which also include Victorian Lemonade, Seville Orange Jigger and Curiosity Cola, contain natural ingredients, herbs, crushed roots and fruit juices. But the picturesque stone jars in which the beverages were once fermented and sold door-to-door have given way to pasteurisation and brewing on-site.
Fentimans' site has more. The FT article also talks about the Sleeman Brewing and Malting Company in Canada, which sold out during Prohibition and has not been revived as Sleeman Breweries, and a new line of watches to be unveiled in England on September 1 under the brand of J&T Windmills, "a celebrated English watchmaker that folded in 1737 when the founder died without heirs." It's been a while, but I guess they found some old DNA.

Up next: The Jurassic Park 'N Shop.
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