Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Belvoir Fruit Farms Ginger Cordial - 'new fiery recipe' disaster

'New Fiery Recipe' Belvoir Farms Ginger Cordial 
and the old 'makes 10 pints'  version side by side

This article was originally written in April 2015. The 'Fiery' recipe was replaced in December 2016. I have reviewed the 3rd recipe in June 2017 at the end of this article


In our household we used to love Belvoir Farms Ginger cordial. Mixed with sparkling mineral water (and ice) it was a delicious, refreshing old fashioned tasting ginger beer-like drink.

Belvoir Ginger cordial was hard to get hold of - only the larger branches of Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda stocked it. It was so popular among die-hard aficionados that there was often just a vacant gap on the shelf where it should have stood.
So eventually I took to ordering in bulk from Ocado whenever it was on offer. Last night I noticed Ocado was price matching Tesco at 2 bottles for £5 so I ordered the maximum 20 bottles that Ocado would allow. The delivery arrived super promptly at 9 am this morning.


I noticed immediately something was wrong. In fact at first I thought I may have ordered a ready to drink variety rather than the concentrate - because the liquid was clear, not cloudy like the 'old version'. 
I grabbed a bottle of the old one and me and the delivery driver looked at them side by side. 'Same label' the driver said. 'Yes it is' I agreed. So on that basis I took delivery of 20 bottles.
When the driver left I peered at the bottle, well bottles actually, rather more thoroughly. It didn't look good. On the neck label was the tiny legend ' new fiery recipe' where it used to say 'makes 10 pints'.
I decided the drink might taste the same, even though it looked so different. I mixed up 2 glasses - both with sparkling mineral water and ice. As I feared the 'new fiery recipe' version was clear next to the pleasingly cloudy old 'makes 10 pints' version.
I sipped nervously the new drink. Nasty. sharp, watery, lemony, with a tingling burning sensation on the tongue and an acidic after taste. 
Then a sip of the old version. Aah, chalk and cheese, smooth, with real body and a great ginger taste.
I read the ingredients label. I didn't like what I read.

New 'fiery recipe' version
Sugar, water, fresh root ginger infusion 20%, lemon juice (from concentrate) ginger extracts 1%, citric acid, lemon extract, capsicum extract.
Old 'makes 10 pints' version
water, glucose syrup, sugar, lemon juice 10% (from concentrate) fresh ginger extract 8%, concentrated ginger extract 2%.

Yes - completely different 

Look again at the tiny neck label - 'new fiery recipe'
Now I knew I would have to send back 20 bottles to Ocado. I couldn't drink this - and I'd just spent fifty quid on a supply for the whole summer.
Before I arranged to send it back I thought I'd better check this wasn't a faulty batch. I looked up Belvoir Fruit Farms online. I started filling in their web form, but then as it didn't seem to promise much help I phoned them. 

Why has Belvoir Fruit Farm changed the Ginger Cordial recipe?
The automated options certainly do make Belvoir sound like a farm rather than a huge multi-national drinks producer. So when my call defaulted to 'switchboard' I wasn't surprised. I asked if they had a consumer department for customer queries. 'What's it about?' the operator asked. 'The ginger cordial' I replied. There was the slightest hint of recognition as to why I might be phoning. "i'll put you through to Barbara'.
Barbara came on the phone instantly. I explained about how we loved their Ginger cordial, but now I'd got 20 new bottles and they looked all wrong. 'Perhaps I have a faulty batch?' I said optimistically. 
'Has the bottle got a new recipe label on the neck? asked Barbara. So this wasn't a faulty batch, this really was the 'new fiery recipe'.



Barbara went on to explain they had to change the recipe because the supplier of the ginger extract had ceased trading. So they'd had to formulate a new recipe, they'd added lemon juice to prevent the solids forming in the bottle (we liked those bits!). They'd had to change the ginger part, it wasn't a choice, it was out of their hands. There was no going back. Barbara was sounding a bit upset now. 

It seems I'm not the only disappointed former ginger cordial fan. There have been many more getting in touch. I said I felt Belvoir should have been clearer that this is a COMPLETELY NEW recipe. She reluctantly agreed perhaps they should have done something more 'all singing and dancing' than 'new fiery recipe' on the tiny neck label.

I pointed out that if you shop online you'd have no idea the label has changed (in fact Ocado still shows the old 'makes 10 pints'  neck label in their stock photo). Barbara said they didn't know when the new stock would land in each of the stores as they make it in bulk and send it out as and when the orders come in.

Oh well. Good customer service from Belvoir, they explained themselves, and they really are a small boutique type manufacturer - Cocoa Cola they are not (thankfully) at the mercy of other suppliers.

Ocado were even better and immediately offered to collect all 19 bottles (I sampled one remember) but they would refund me for 20. They also said they'd send a note to the website product team. 
I've added a review online on Ocado.com to warn other fans of Belvoir Ginger Cordial. Sadly it can never be the same drink again. First world problem I know. Meanwhile I'll be scouring the shelves for old stock - more like searching for rare wine than ginger cordial.

June 2017 The '3rd' recipe with capsicum extract



The '3rd' 2017 recipe left, original 2015 recipe right - click image to view ingredients


Equal measures undiluted with ice

I amassed significant supplies (about 36 bottles, it was on offer in Tesco) of the 'original' recipe bottles back in 2015 when I realised the recipe had changed. I still have around 10 bottles in June 2017. But prompted by recent comments (below) I'm updating this article to cover the latest recipe (which I will call the '3rd' recipe). 

Appearance: The 3rd recipe is much less cloudy than the original recipe and this is noticeable when the bottles are placed side by side.

Ingredients: (2015, original recipe) water, glucose syrup, sugar, lemon juice 10% (from concentrate), fresh ginger extract 8%, concentrated ginger extract 2%

Ingredients: (2017, 3rd recipe) sugar, water, lemon juice (from concentrate) fresh root ginger infusion 11%, processed ginger juice 2% (not from concentrate) ginger extracts, capsicum extract 

For historical reference:

Ingredients: (2015 'fiery' recipe) Sugar, water, fresh root ginger infusion 20%, lemon juice (from concentrate) ginger extracts 1%, citric acid, lemon extract, capsicum extract.

Taste: I like this drink reasonably strong. Stronger than the 22 x 250ml servings the label suggests are possible. I used the pictured shot glass to pour 2 equal measures and then filled the glass with ice and sparkling mineral water (Saskia from Lidl which is my preference). I realise that temperature also has an effect on flavour, but this is how I prefer this drink and therefore that's how I chose to conduct this test.


As you would expect on dilution the '3rd' recipe remains clearer and more 'cordial' like in appearance. The original recipe is cloudier.

I tasted the original recipe first as it's what I am most familiar with. It has a sugary, full bodied smooth taste with a refreshing ginger tang. It resembles what I suppose could be described as  a 'juice' the kind of drink that might come from a carton (especially at this strong dilute).

In contrast the '3rd' recipe (2017) is more like a traditional cordial in appearance and taste - a drink which has water added by the consumer. It tastes 'thinner', less sugary (in common with many drinks now that health concerns are raised) and the ginger is obvious (as you would hope!). The fresh ginger juice is refreshing and pleasing to the taste. It is much nicer than the 'fiery' recipe, so a definite improvement. However I'm personally not keen on the addition of capsicum - it is very definitely evident and for me has a rather unpleasant lingering taste on the tongue. Ginger traditionally has a settling effect on the stomach, and I would imagine the capsicum could reverse this effect as it is known to be an irritant. 

So well done Belvoir for having another go at the recipe and for explaining why it was altered in the first place. Personally I would prefer a recipe without the capsicum, but I appreciate that Belvoir will have researched this and are confident that consumers prefer more 'fire' in their ginger drink - perhaps to make it closer to ginger beer. 

I purchased the '3rd' recipe on offer at Waitrose with 25% off the standard price (£3.15) at £2.36 for 500ml. This would be a price point that I would consider 'stocking up' but I'm afraid it's not the drink I hoped it would be. If it had been my first ever trial purchase I suspect I would not be a repeat buyer. To be fair I do not buy cordials in general, and so I'm not a typical consumer. If you liked the original recipe I would urge you to try it - you might love it.

A few years ago the 'Roots' brand produced a wonderful ginger cordial (also discontinued as far as I am aware) Cordials appear to be fashionable so I'm hopeful another ginger cordial will appear on the market before my supply of 'original' Belvoir Ginger Cordial is exhausted. 

24 comments:

Ben said...

Dear Mr CE,

I too found myself faced with the new recipe.
Met with one bottle on the shelf at Asda I helped myself and opened the new carton on their top shelf knowing how hard it is to keep stocked of my favourite cordial. I immediately noticed it looked different but it can vary so put it down to the that. However the first glass from the new bottle and I was faced with a totally different product and a new flavour that sadly I did not like. To the back of the bottle I went and having an older one to hand I was able to, as you, spot the key recipe differences - namely the new ginger infusion. Following an email off to Belvoir Farms I too have had the very responsive Babara explaining the new recipe and how it came about.
So tonight having given it one more go, I'm afraid to say it just doesn't do it for me. The depth of flavour of the old recipe gave this ginger drink a unique taste that no other cordial could compare to. And I have tried many.
Sad but true I believe this is the end of the road for me and Belvoir Ginger Cordial.
Ben

The Chief Executive said...

I've discovered a few supermarkets still have the old recipe bottles on the shelves, but it won't last long.

WR said...

Totally agree with the other comments, the new recipe is almost undrinkable. Such a shame.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't have put it better myself. A total disaster. I cannot enjoy this product anymore so it's going straight down the sink. A real pity & shame on Belvoir for not making the recipe change clearer as I have two bottles from Tesco to get rid of.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the research. My initial thought was that they had a problem with a production batch. Unfortunately that's not true.

The new recipe has a much harsher acidic flavour, without the warmth of ginger. I also notice from reading the label that they've resorted to adding capsaicin, which is an utterly unrelated hot flavour from chilli that can be an irritant for some people. Not what you want in a ginger cordial when ginger can be useful for digestive trouble and nausea.

Pev Manners said...

Dear all, I am very sorry you don't like our new Ginger Cordial. We changed the recipe because the old ginger extract we were using was no longer available, I believe it did contain capsicum as well.
We worked really hard to try to get the new recipe to have the same rich taste of fresh ginger, which is why we increased the amount of the fresh ginger extract we make here by cooking fresh ginger from 8% to 20%, we also removed the glucose because it is apparently worse than sugar for one as it has a higher Glycaemic Index. We then added some lemon for refreshment. We absolutely did not do these changes for cost reasons but because we could no longer get the old ginger extract. We found some new ones which we think are delicious and added just a little capsicum to add some heat to the brew, mimicking the amount of capsicum that was in the old recipe (but undeclared), we thought we had made a good brew. I am sorry we did not make the new recipe clearer and we have obviously not succeeded with the taste so we will try again to improve the recipe. Thanks for the comments and best wishes, Pev Manners (MD of Belvoir Fruit Farms, which is certainly NOT the size of Coke but a family-owned business.)

TheChiefExecutive said...

Hello Pev, welcome to our discussion and thank you very much for your explanation - which is entirely consistent with the answer I was given when I first phoned Belvoir Fruit Farm. I was impressed by the personal response I received then, and I am again by your candour now. I'm sure the many fans of the original recipe will be really pleased to hear that you are considering a rethink of the recipe, because I know I would love to buy the drink again. The ginger cordial market is poorly served and I hope you will come up with a winning recipe. Thank you for clarifying the points made here about capsicum, the ginger extract and sugar v glucose content. Please do let us know about any new products.

Pev Manners said...

I will do ! Many thanks. Pev

Anonymous said...

Dear oh dear. Belvoir really have made a huge blunder here. There isnt just one supplier for the ginger extract they need, they could find another. This is clearly all about cost savings - they are, I'm sorry to say, going the way of all small producers and cutting the quality in favour of the cash. Just because they are stating a consistent story to their disgruntled, previously loyal customers that does not mean it is accurate.

One of the revealing things they say is that the previous ginger extract contained "undisclosed" capsicum (chilli). What on earth are they admitting? - that they knew there were other ingredients that they, by law, should have declared but did not?! No, I'm sorry Belvoir, but nobody buys this argument. You've downgraded your ginger input and had to augment the kick with chilli, plain and simple. After all, why hide the fact you include this ingredient by stating "capsicum extract" rather than "chilli extract"?? You are embarrassed by your actions and we are saddened.

We'll be watching the downgrading of your other drinks which will clearly be happening soon.

Shame.

Wendy said...

I have always liked this product but have only just tied up that I am experiencing an allergic reaction to drinking it. I sneezed so violently a week ago that I then had gastric reflux! I then felt ill the rest of the day with indigestion so bad it was as if I had swallowed glass.
Yesterday the penny dropped when symptoms started as soon as I was again enjoying a glass of ginger cordial with sparkling water and this time it was so bad, eyes watering, nose running, violent sneezing that I ended up taking an antihistamine. This morning I still keep sneezing and my lips still feel numb.I realise this is the capsicum now added to the drink and I will have to avoid this drink in future. It is strange as I have no other allergies and eat peppers chillies etc with no effect other than finding some a bit hot like scotch bonnets in chilli con carne so I am mystified.

Anonymous said...

I love it. Infact I've just had a go at making it. This cordial has inspired me and that's saying something.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to know how much capsicum I need to make one bottle. And anyway it's good for you to.

Anonymous said...

I was running low on ginger cordial and looking to buy more. Waitress in Singapore was out of stock so I looked up how to make my own and came across these comments. Luckily when we went to Morrison's in Verwood, I found a stock of the old version and bought 3 bottles. Back home ,I got back onto this comment and checked my new bottles for ingredients. I can find no indication of there being capsicum, only pressed ginger juice and lemon, just the same as on my previous bottles. This is now a year later than the first comment I read mentioning capsicum, and also that the new liquid was clear. So hopefully, Belvoir have come up with a new recipe. The NEW RECIPE lable is quite large and is at the top of the main lable. My favorite drink is Cranberry LIGHT with a large dash of NYC and a splash of water - delicious. On special days, like Friday evening, stood your of cheap brandy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, spelling mistake on previous comment - for stood read slug

Anonymous said...

Oh, still wrong, should read "a slug of cheap brandy"

Anonymous said...

Back to three comments ago, not "waitress in Singapore" but "Waitrose in Ringwood" - My tablet thinks too quickly!!

Anonymous said...

( Loved those comment corrections :-) thanks for update suggesting it's changed, shall now give it another go. I wasn't impressed with the burning chilli element. Though yes to the sugar rather than glucose syrup (or God forbid, 'sweeteners' which are ruining so many drinks). Felt sorry for Belvoir people but sure it'll become a great story they can tell to demonstrate achieving such loyal fans

TheChiefExecutive said...

Thanks for the recent comments. I also noticed last month that the recipe has been revised.

I bulk bought supplies of the original recipe when I wrote this post and still have around a dozen bottles left, so I have no requirement to buy the new recipe.

I looked carefully at the new ingredients and can see the ginger element has been completely re-formulated which can only be an improvement. Belvoir seem to listen to their customers, and for that alone they deserve special praise.

If you're reading this please comment and let everyone know how the 2016 recipe compares to the original (or indeed the 'fiery' version. When I get towards my last bottle of the original recipe I will do a side by side taste test.

Jon said...

Thanks for the discussion! I am a big fan of this drink, but I discovered it in the last six months or so. I haven't tried the "10 pints" version. However the version I know has some good ginger fire to it, and a lengthy finish with a pleasing bit of zing and pepper.

Given the last comment in Dec 2016, I wonder if I am drinking a third recipe, rather than the second one that people did not like? The ingredients list is different to both versions in the post:

Sugar, water, lemon juice (from concentrate), fresh root ginger infusion 11%, pressed ginger juice 2% (not from concentrate), ginger extracts, capsicum extract.

I too am considering a bulk order - I buy three at a time from Tesco, and I think each one must be lasting all of a week!

TheChiefExecutive said...

Jon - yes you are a fan of the third recipe. I feel remiss that I haven't tried it yet but I still have some bottles left of the original recipe. They are past the best before date but still delicious.

TheChiefExecutive said...

I've updated the original article to review the latest '3rd' recipe which is the one currently on sale. Please feel free to join the discussion with your own reviews.

Jon said...

Good updates to the post!

Thanks for the tip about Waitrose. I've noticed they are doing a 2 for £5 deal online at present. I will see if I can get to a supermarket to match that, to avoid any carriage charges:

http://www.waitrose.com/shop/DisplayProductFlyout?productId=25670

My local Tesco has the £3.15 price, and while I think it's a fine drink, I can't really stock up at that price either, I expect I'd be buying a crate. Like you, I make it quite strong, and I also drink it by the pint, which makes it rather an expensive cordial.

Perhaps we should look into wholesalers...

TheChiefExecutive said...

Jon - I did buy half a dozen bottles at £2.36 in Waitrose last time it was on offer (we had a had a £6 off a £30 spend coupon so that tipped the scale making it £1.89 a bottle) 2 for £5 is ok (but we don't have a valid discount coupon now). I suspect the wholesale price is higher than £2.50 judging by the number of garden centres that sell it at £4.99. The Waitrose offer will be subsidised with heavily discounted stock from Belvoir to win new customers. I'm getting used to the new recipe - although conversely I find it works better for me as much weaker mix (less afterburn!).

Jon said...

Ah, £1.89 would be great. £4.99 is ludicrous, especially at the rate I drink it. I wonder if I should try to get it only at the discounted price - anything over £3 is a bit steep for a bottle of cordial.

I popped into the same Tesco today (sadly it is Tesco or nothing for a few miles for me) and to my surprise they were doing bottles £2.50, and one does not need to buy them in pairs.

So I bought six to stock up. I would guess you're right, the offer must be from Belvoir to be replicated over so many resellers, and offline too.

I think I need to start writing an opening date on each bottle, to see how long they last. If I can get a bottle to last a full week, a small miracle has happened. How long before Belvoir Fruit Farms open an addiction recovery centre for the additional income stream? :-)