Today I want to share with you the story of Belgian lemonade Ritchie. When I go to a bar and I want to drink an alcohol-free soft drink, I usually have the choice between a Coca-Cola drink or water. I prefer not to invest my money in multinational Coca Cola or in water that should be available for free. So, I'm happy to discover Ritchie. Jan Verlinden, Chief Lemonade Maker of Ritchie, offers us an option that is delicious, locally made (short chain) and that continues the family heritage. Read the interview below to discover his inspiring story.
1. Can you briefly tell us something about yourself? I was born almost 50 years ago in a family of brewers and lemonade makers with a long tradition. I am of the fourth generation. However, when I was mid-twenties, I (and none of the fourth generation) felt like continuing the brewery and I opted for an international career in marketing. During my 15 years of international career I have worked in 6 countries and 3 continents. 7-8 years ago I decided to come back to Belgium. Now I live in Heverlee, with my Australian wife and our 3 children.
2. What is the story behind Ritchie? Ritchie is a lemonade that was made in our home. I remember from my childhood that Ritchie was very tasty lemonade, already made with qualitative ingredients. In addition, I have always liked the logo, the bottle and the packaging. For a while I felt the itch to start my own business. I thought it was a nice idea to bring Ritchie, the lemonade of my youth back to the market. Adapted to today (only natural ingredients, less sugar, no preservatives), but as close as possible to the authentic recipe.
3. What is your mission with Ritchie? What drives you? In Belgium we have a rich tradition in beers, chocolate, waffles,... but we also had a tradition in lemonades. Every small brewery used to have its own lemonade, with the disappearance of those small breweries, the lemonades have disappeared. In recent years, there has been a revival of fun craft lemonades in the countries around us. Ritchie was a nice lemonade from our family that perfectly fits with the current trend towards tasty, natural lemonades. It is my ambition to put Belgian traditional lemonade back on the map.
4. What makes Ritchie different? Ritchie comes in his own delicately-designed bottle with a twist-off crown cap. The lemonade is based on an old family recipe, with only natural ingredients. Ritchie is sweetened with cane sugar, but has considerably less sugar than the well-known brands. By adding a touch of vanilla (with the orange) you get a very tasty lemonade, with 23% less sugar than most sold orange lemonade in Belgium. Very refreshing and no sticky feeling in the mouth. In the grapefruit I put a hint of pineapple to break the bitterness of the grapefruit but to keep the freshness of the grapefruit. The third taste is lemon with a bit of raspberry, a very refreshing lemonade to drink and very suitable to mix with gin. The raspberry gives a nice pink color.
5. What are the challenges with Ritchie? Distribution-distribution-distribution: Soft drinks is a volume business, so the challenge is to find as many nice catering businesses as possible that Ritchie want to include in their assortment. The initial feedback is very positive, consumers find Ritchie very nice and many nice bars have Ritchie on their menu cards. In addition, it's also important for a small brand to create brand awareness and to have it tested by as many people as possible. That's why I'm at a lot of fun events such as 'Rock around the Atomium', Retro sur Mer, 'Antwerp tastes',...
6. Where can we find Ritchie? Ritchie is available in many nice (coffee) bars. In addition, you can buy Ritchie at Okay and Alvo, plus at a number of Carrefour hypermarkets in the 'regional products department'. All sales points can be found at: www.drinkritchie.com/locator.
7. What are your favorite eco hotspots in the city where you live? Hall 5 - Wurst - Loving Hut - Punto kiosk - De Kroon brewery
8. Who do you follow on your social media channels that you find inspiring in your sector? I just love breakfast - Karma Karma - Belgunique - Ferm Kombucha - the social media channels of the craft lemonades from the neighboring countries
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