Here are some questions we get asked, and some we wish we were asked more often.  It's blunt, but honest. 

Here at smallscalebottling.com we love helping other people see their dreams come true and turn in to a product.  We have the flexibility to do many things that larger contract bottlers can't, or won't do.  Our service is personal.  We weren't set up as a contract bottler - we're a small soft drinks producer that happens to also help other people.  This means that we are quite busy and also that we understand the frustrations that you may experience.  It also means that we operate very differently.  There are no large scale machines that do the work - we are a labour intensive operation.  We cannot work at the same rate as a machine led operation and we cannot do it for the same cost - not because we won't but because we'd be bankrupt if we did.  So hopefully this FAQ will help me to remind you of what we can and cannot do.

Click the links below to go to the answer to your question

Q:What is it that you do when you bottle my product?  What am I paying for?
Q: Coke etc must make their products for only a few pennies per bottle.  I know you'll be more expensive, but will you be muchmore expensive?
Q: Can you do any better on the pricing for my trial run? 
Q: What can I do to get the price down? 
Q:  Your prices are higher than X,Y or Z contract filler - you'll need to be cheaper.
Q:  Can you scale up to meet my anticipated demand?
Q:  My product is still/hotfill etc which I think will be simpler to fill.  Will this make it cheaper?
Q: How do I make a soft drink?
Q: Do you have contact that I can use to buy bottles etc?
Q: How much money can I make?


 

What 'Bottling' Really Is

Bottling can be weird.  You think you know what you want, and then all of a sudden there's a million questions you need to answer.  Maybe you know the answers, maybe you need some help.

So what is it that we do as a bottler exactly?

First, let's start with what we don't do:  We don't offer to make you a product.  Now, that may sound counter intuitive, but bear with us for a minute.

What we do do:  We apply a pre-agreed sets of processes upon a set of materials and put it in to a bottle.  

So how are those two things different?

In your eyes, as the customer, what you want is your product to be bottled - but what is your product?  Is it a set of ingredients in a bottle?  No, not really.  Your 'product' is (generally speaking) a tasty beverage, free from any flaws, with a great shelf-life, some amazing labeling and you can go out an sell it or give it away without a second thought.  In actual fact most of those things are outside of our control, and outside of our remit to control.  It may appear to you that once we've applied our set of processes the same end result appears, and more often than not that is the case, but not in every case.

Let's look at your product in more detail:

  • Tasty
  • Flaw Free
  • Shelf Life
  • Labelling
  • Guaranteed (you don't have to give it a second thought)

Tasty:  When you provide us with your ingredients, or pre-blended ingredients, that is what they are - raw materials.  We don't know the quality of what you have provided us, most often neither do you exactly.  We can't guarantee that when we follow your instructions that you will get the result you're after.

Flaw Free:  OK, so let's assume that we've not made some massive cock-up in the actual bottling process and that the caps are actually on the bottles correctly etc.  Outside of that we have no idea of what will constitute a flaw to you.  What you may think is obvious we may not.  We've seen products that we wouldn't be happy to sell fly out of the door when sold - we've learned not to second guess other peoples tastes.  Is sediment, for example, a flaw, or is is character, personality and an element of the crafted nature of your product from raw ingredients, rather than an eyesore floating around in the bottle that may put people off.  We don't know, and you shouldn't expect us to!

Shelf-Life:  We don't offer shelf-life testing in-house, and we can't advise on what yours may be.  Your product is unique to you, with a unique set of ingredients, titratable acid, pH levels, Brix, Fruit Juice concentration, vitamins, minerals etc. You get the idea.  And then your choice of preservation method and bottle material will have an influence.

Labelling: We can apply the label you ask us to (assuming it fits), but that is a design choice not made by us.  It may look bad, be hideous to apply or a host of other issues.  One mans rustic label is another mans unprofessional label and we can't decide that for you.

Guarantees:  There are no guarantees in this - any number of factors, both known and unknown, can influence your product - so we don't make promises we can't keep.

 

Because of all of these factors we don't make 'product'.  We process your materials and put it into a vessel of your choosing.  We agree the process with you - any and all aspects of the process.  Storage conditions, temperatures, fill heights, caps, carbonation levels, pasteurisation temperatures and times.  None of these guarantee the outcome, but we document and follow your instructions to ensure that you get from us what you believe is right for the outcome you desire - but what you pay for is the instructions to be followed, not the product at the end of it.

Q: Coke etc must make their products for only a few pennies per bottle.  I know you'll be more expensive, but will you be much  more expensive?

A:  Yes.  If you're making 1,000,000+ bottles per day then you get economies of scale that we couldn't even imagine.  Put it this way:  Look at your ingredients costs and imagine how much cheaper they would be if you were to buy 100,000 times the amount you're looking at now.  Now imagine that scaled up to everything including machinery, labour, power etc.  Your costs can  go down but mainly in the area of label costs, boxes etc.  Our costs only go up as we increase our space requirements, labour etc.
 

Q: Can you do any better on the pricing for my trial run? 

A: No.  In fact your first trial run will probably be done on an hourly rate.   We are an artisan bottler, not Coca-Cola or Pepsi.  This means we can be flexible enough to take your product when no-one else will.  It also means that each product we bottle is different, and different = time.  Time = money for us, so we pass it on to you.  You may of course be lucky enough to do something almost identical to what we've done before - but most customers aren't.
 

Q: What can I do to get the price down? 

A:  Please see our DIY prices page.

Q:  Your prices are higher than X,Y or Z contract filler - you'll need to be cheaper. 

A:  In all likelihood the reason you're not going to go to X,Y or Z filler is because you either don't have the volume to process or because they'll charge you for 12/24 pallets when you want a lot less.  We can't be cheaper because it takes us 7 staff to do what they do with one and a machine.

Q:  Please ?! *insert extremely valid reason here*

A:  No.  I want  to help, but if you want us to still be here in 12 months then I can't.  Which is actually against every philanthropic and nice bone in our bodies.  Which is we're writing it here.


Q:  Can you scale up to meet my anticipated demand?   *hint - there'll be lots of business coming your way in the future if you can give me a better price now*

A:  Yes.  As long as you're willing to pay now  for the machinery you need in the future.  That means we need to make a profit now .  So no, no big discounts based on anticipated demand. Or even actual demand now to be honest. My staff still have to work just as hard and be paid the same if you bottle 600 litres or 6000 litres and there's enough work for me not to rob from Peter to pay Paul.  Saying that, at the moment we are working on implementing an automated bottling line, so watch this space!

Q:  My product is still/hotfill etc which I think will be simpler to fill.  Will this make it cheaper?

A:  Possibly, yes!  It won't change the day rate, but it may mean that more bottles can be processed per day.  Until we've done a trial run we won't know for sure.  If it can be done cheaper then great!