Beverage success at CAFRE with non-alcoholic drinks

Andrew Oates, owner of Silk Tree Botanicals with his award winning product.
Andrew Oates, owner of Silk Tree Botanicals with his award winning product.

Developmental opportunities in the beverage sector are driven by the increasing demand for non-alcoholic, natural original drinks, writes Audrey Kelly, Loughry Campus.

The College of Agriculture, Food & Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), Loughry Campus offers a range of facilities to stimulate, encourage and support the development of new food products across all commodity areas, including beverages.

Audrey Kelly, Beverage Technologist at CAFRE, supported Andrew Oates, Silk Tree Botanicals Ltd in the commercialisation of his ‘kitchen’ scale recipe through the identification of the criteria processing requirements which are essential in the production of this distinctive product. This specialised product was established via this route - its development being based on the ancient art of alchemy.

Using a traditional pot still the unique characteristics of the product were perfected. The product has a strong mix of cinnamon and orange flavours which are complementary, and when mixed with tonic water produce a refreshing drink.

The pilot scale product was then assessed, using the sensory analysis facility by general consumers in order to gauge its level of acceptability. Technical guidance on product shelf-life and labelling was also provided.

On completion of the project, Andrew Oates said: “The facilities available to Silk Tree for this project were second to none – the processing facility is designed and built to the highest specifications. Audrey’s technical knowledge was invaluable to the success of this project and I felt that Loughry staff embraced the project.

“They whole-heartedly wanted the project to succeed and consequently they worked long days and identified new processes to streamline the production pathway. Silk Tree would highly recommend the services available at Loughry to all potential food entrepreneurs.”

Commercial production began in the summer of 2018 and in early 2019 Andrew Oates was thrilled to have his product listed by Henry Jeffers in the BBC Good Food Awards as the best non-alcoholic drink.

If you would like to discuss beverage technology in a commercial-in-confidence manner, or view the range of processing facilities available in the Food Technology Centre in the Loughry Campus, please contact Audrey Kelly on: 028 867 68154 or email: