Beetroot bonanza as �1.5m Suffolk pressing plant built

FARMERS will be hoping for a beetroot-growing bonanza as a new �1.5million pressing plant takes shape in Suffolk.

Juice company James White Drinks, which is based at Ashbocking, near Ipswich, is building an extension to its headquarters to accommodate a beetroot plant so it no longer has to send the crop to Germany to be pressed.

Managing director Lawrence Mallinson said up to 1,000 tonnes of beetroot could be processed in Ashbocking and used in its popular beetroot juice drink.

The project, which attracted a �500,000 European Union grant, will create two more jobs at the business, which employs about 25 staff. It should be finished by July.

The production of beetroot juice on a commercial scale is more challenging than apple juice for two major reasons, he said. The acidity level needs to be increased and to do this without affecting the flavour is complex. Also, beetroot juice throws off a lot of sediment after pressing, and the process takes a couple of weeks. To ensure there is not a lot of sludge at the bottom of the bottle, the juice has to be given time to settle before it can be bottled or sent to be packed.

“We are currently having beetroot grown in the UK which are being pressed on the continent,” he said. “This makes no economic sense, but has been important for us to ensure that UK farmers can supply us to the spec that we require to ensure that the juice we press tastes as good as our existing supply. The plant will mean that we will be using East Anglian grown beetroot - providing jobs and income to East Anglian farmers. All part of my plan to turn East Anglia purple!

The firm has experienced growth in demand for beetroot juice because recent medical and sports science research has discovered it can reduce blood pressure. The crop is naturally very high in dietary nitrate.

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Scientists have demonstrated this is converted by interaction with enzymes in saliva to ultimately produce nitric oxide in the blood,” explained James.

“The 1998 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded for the discovery of the role that nitric oxide plays as a vaso-dilator - opening blood vessels and assisting blood flow. The other key attribute is that it actually tastes surprisingly good. So when people try it maybe initially on the basis of it helping with blood pressure, many actually are happy to continue drinking it because they really like its taste,” he said.

“The sports science world are also interested in this nitric oxide boost to the blood system – believing it can provide an extra source of oxygen to the muscles when involved under extreme duress and thus proving to be a stamina boost.

“As a consequence of this research ( led by Professor Andy Jones, Exeter University), James White have developed a concentrated beetroot stamina shot which they now supply to many elites in the sporting world – from most international rugby teams at the World Cup to many athletes preparing for the Olympics from athletics, triathlon, cycling, swimming, canoeing, rowing, hockey etc.”