An Interview with Ben and Dan Ritsema of Cranes Drinks

Dan and Ben Ritsema of Cranes Drinks

Meet Ben & Dan of Cranes Drinks…

Co-founders and Identical twin brothers Ben and Dan Ritsema launched Cranes Drinks in 2012, once graduating from university. Cranes portfolio includes a range of naturally light fruit ciders, handcrafted in Cambridge using the finest cranberries, alongside apples, to deliver a refreshingly crisp cider. Cranes Ciders are available in three different flavours: Blueberries & Apples; Cranberries & Limes and Raspberries & Pomegranates, and are available in Asda, East of England Co-op and select Morrisons stores across East Anglia.

Cranes Ciders contain 30% fewer calories and 40% less sugar than the brand leaders. Cranes also produce a double award-winning Cranberry & Blood Orange Liqueur, perfect for upgrading a glass of prosecco, creating cocktails with or enjoying neat. Most recently Cranes has launched a Cranberry Gin, which is smooth and fruity yet delightfully sharp, creating the perfect G&T.

1. Can you explain to us how the idea for your business came to you and how the whole process kicked off?

I was down is Exeter enjoying the abundance of cider they had to offer, Daniel was in Leeds drinking anything he could get his hands on, and it was there where he enjoyed cranberries as a way to compensate. We’ve always been health conscious and wanted to balance social life with being healthy, having discovered just how much sugar goes into the fruit ciders it got us thinking. After university as twins do we brought these together, with the health benefits of cranberries and not adding all that sugar we spend 3 years developing our naturally light cranberry ciders.

We achieved this through utilising the natural sugars which come from the super fruits we brew, creating our three different flavoured ciders: Blueberries & Apples; Cranberries & Limes and Raspberries & Pomegranates. Cranes Ciders contain 30% fewer calories and 40% less sugar than brand leaders, which is where we pin the success.

2. What were the biggest challenges you faced when bringing the idea to market?

We were, for the most part, building Cranes on our own. We didn’t have any brewing experience, so it involved a great deal of trial and error before we created a product which tasted perfect and something we loved to drink. I don’t know how many attempts it took, but after some long year we had the perfect naturally light crisp, alcoholic cider which was lower in calories. 

This became a lot easier when we created our Cranberry & Blood Orange Liqueur and Cranberry Gin, as we had gained a lot of experience from brewing the ciders. 

We also had to compete with the multinationals who have millions to spend on marketing. Getting our name known was difficult, but our hard work has paid off and we are seeing amazing growth. Seeing Cranes on shelves competing with these global companies is a massive achievement and an amazing feeling. 

3. Where do you think good ideas come from and what inspires you?

We find that listening to our customers helps us come up with ideas on how to improve and grow Cranes. They are the people enjoying and buying our product, so the perfect people to help develop our products. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.

We are constantly brain storming ideas. One of the perks of working with your twin brother is you can be completely honest about whether you think their idea will work or not. We love discussing Cranes with friends and family and that really helps, actually our dad came up with the brand name! 

4. What are your company’s values and why are these things important to the business?

We have three core company values:

Be Engaging: We engage, listen and interact with our customers to ensure we deliver the highest standard possible. We understand the needs and wants of the consumer.

Be Innovative: We create innovative products for our customers, ensuring we use the most natural, premium and sustainable ingredients. Staying ahead of the curve and on top of upcoming trends.

Be Delicious: We use the finest of ingredients to produce high quality products, that taste amazing. 

These three core values are fundamental to Cranes as they ensure we are constantly providing the best service and product possible, one which we would be delighted to receive ourselves. 

5. What is next for your brand?

Our full range of products will be launching onto Ocado in the upcoming weeks, this is the first major listing for our double award-winning Cranberry & Blood Orange Liqueur and Cranberry Gin. This will be the fourth major listing for Cranes Ciders, after launching into three of the major supermarkets within a year: Asda, East of England Co-op and select Morrisons stores across East Anglia. We will continue to expand Cranes, there is no better feeling than seeing your business grow and hopefully this is just the start for Cranes Liqueur and Gin.

We are already preparing for the Christmas period as it is a busy time for Cranes. We will be launching Cranes Cranberry Gin miniature bottles as they will make the perfect stocking fillers.

6. What one piece of advice would you have for someone just starting out on their business journey or currently going through a setback?

Gain as much advice and feedback as possible! Listen to all consumer and buyer feedback, no matter how little the advice seems it may make all the difference. Retail buyers know their category and consumers inside out, so it is essential to use their knowledge in order to be successful within the supermarkets. 

7. What resources and tools do you use to remain productive or up-to-date on industry trends etc?

We believe the most important tool is the consumer, there is no better way to know what consumers want than going out and asking them. We attend a lot of events up and down the country sampling and gaining insights on what customers want. We also ask our social media followers for their feedback, helping us to make important decisions. Back in in 2018 we asked our followers what they wanted us to create next, either a Cranberry Vodka or Gin. Cranberry Gin won with 68% of the votes, true to our word we launched Cranes Cranberry Gin in December. Consumers have played a crucial role in the development and success of Cranes.

More info on Dan & Ben…

Brand Name: Cranes Drinks
LinkedIn handle: Cranes Drinks Ltd
Twitter handle: @CranesDrinks
Facebook handle: @Cranesdrinks
Instagram handle: @Cranesdrinks