I have only once seen a grape-harvesting machine at work in Ireland, and it wasn’t harvesting grapes. Des Jeffares of Mr Jeffares Blackcurrant Cordial in Co Wexford was picking his crop.
“My dad developed the business in the 1950s. In those days, in Wexford, it was a cottage industry; lots of people had blackcurrants in their back gardens and brought a small crop to the local co-op. Ribena would have been the mainstay of the industry. Dad built up the acreage to about 70 acres in rotation. In 2013 Ribena pulled out. I decided to treat it as an opportunity. I had this taste from my childhood days of a refreshing fruit drink, with that lovely pure flavour of blackcurrants, and I tried to replicate that without using sugar. ”
Jeffares expected young mothers with children to go for his cordial because of the health benefits, but he also found other markets, including millennials who are into sports and energy recovery and the 50-plus age group thinking of their health. “People like the taste; we get a huge number of repeat customers. It is unique and pure, you even can drink it neat. He has customers who drink a shot in the morning – instead of an espresso.”
Jeffares sells his cordial mainly through health food shops. He also sells frozen blackcurrants online and through Dunnes Stores under the Simply Better range. They are also used in preserves and yogurts and by drinks producers including Wicklow Way Wines, Blackwater gin and Kinsale Mead.