Meet Jon & Jane Birch of Yorkshire Wolds Apple Juice
Husband and wife team, Jon and Jane Birch recently ventured into business together as the new owners of award-winning Yorkshire Wolds Apple Juice.
The 100% natural juice is stocked in a range of York based bistros, cafes and restaurants including Ambiente Tapas, Bistro Guy, The Press Kitchen and The Curious Coffee Company.
Jane tells us more about juggling family life with a busy family business and their plans to introduce some seasonal “limited” edition blends and create more partnerships with small, independent business owners/organisations.
First: the backstory
The business was created in 2008 by Ray Kirby who used to drive around the Yorkshire Wolds asking people for their surplus apples to make juice. After much experimentation, sampling and trial and error, Ray made a decision to move to sourcing the apples from the more reliable cropping orchards in Kent and perfected the blend that we still use today.
When Ray passed away his good friend John Brooks partnered up with Joe Cole and their respective wives Fiona and Alison and took over the business in 2013. With Fiona and John selling juice at Farmers Markets at weekends and Alison and Joe organising the juice production, the business continued to win awards for the quality of the juice and in 2015 moved to purpose built premises at Joe’s Family farm at Welham Wold near Malton.
After five years at the helm, family and work commitments led to a decision by the partners tolook for a buyer for the business. Having worked with Joe for a few years at pressing time, Jon Birch partnered up with his wife Jane and took over Yorkshire Wolds Apple Juice in November 2018.
Why we ventured in to business together
Jon works part time for an Outdoor Centre and part time for Yorkshire Wolds Apple Juice as well as volunteering for The National Trust. As you might imagine he is big into the outdoors and the value of fresh air, activity and fresh natural produce. Busy apple pressing time of year is quiet time in the outdoor industry meaning that we are both able to produce the apple juice.
I was previously a primary school teacher before the arrival of our son. Since then I’ve been a stay at home Mum, but with our son now at school, I was ready for a new challenge.
I’m aiming to fit deliveries, marketing and day to day administrative tasks around school hours. I have lots of new ideas for the business and I’m very keen to promote our values of family, local, natural foods and minimal impact on the planet.
Plans & goals for the business
We want to introduce some seasonal “limited” edition blends and create more partnerships with other small, independent business owners/organisations.
In autumn we will also be relaunching the juice pressing service which will allow us to juice your own fruit. People can bring their fruit to us and we will press, pasteurise and bottle it for them. It’s a perfect way to use what may otherwise be surplus fruit to produce “your own juice” and great to enjoy yourself or give as a unique gift to family and friends.
Best part about running the business
· Meeting new customers – especially businesses who believe in buying and using local produce. It’s good to be part of a sector of the retail market that really values its producers.
· Being part of the retail market that is helping people to reduce their “food miles” and going back to how people used to shop i.e. shops, cafes, restaurants stocked and used produce that was made/produced locally.
· Making a product that is 100% natural with no added “nasties.”
· Because we sell a large proportion of our apple juice direct – it’s a great feeling to know that we are responsible for every bit of the production process, we press, bottle, pasteurise, label and box the juice. In a lot of cases we deliver the juice as well.
· We have a fantastic 'office' where we produce and store the juice – it’s lovely working in a rural setting and feeling just that bit more in touch with the seasons. Plus the views from the farm are beautiful, so now the weather is warmer having a working lunch surrounded by the sights and sounds of mother nature is wonderful.
· Hearing from people who have tried our juice for the first time and telling us it’s the best juice they have ever tasted, hearing comments like “It just tastes so natural”, “You can taste the apples.”
Biggest challenges of running a small business
As we are very new to business ownership there have been plenty of “challenges” and it has certainly been a learning curve for both of us as running a business is something neither of us has done before.
Trying to juggle the business into school hours is challenging and at the moment we are finding ourselves using a lot of our evenings to deal with administrative jobs. Switching off when you have lots of ideas whizzing round your head or a gigantic “to do list” is really hard.
It’s been lovely that we have been getting lots of invitations to attend events & markets and it’s been hard to say no to some of them, but it’s important to us that we try as much as possible to keep weekends and school holidays for family time – family is very important to us.
One of Jon’s biggest challenges that he set himself was to create a brand new website for the business. It’s very nearly ready to go live which is very exciting.
Follow Yorkshire Wolds Apple Juice: