Saxbys Soft Drinks is proud to be associated with ‘Made In The Manning’, an initiative of the Manning Valley Chamber of Commerce promoting locally produced food. Chrissy Jones chatted with Ian Turner, who has seen the business evolve into one of the region’s major producers of local products.
Ian, what’s your association with Saxbys Soft Drinks and role in the company? Are there any generations of the Saxby family involved in the business today?
My great great grandfather was George Saxby, the founder of Saxbys Soft Drinks in 1864. I have worked at Saxbys since 1972 (as a school boy), having just completed my 40th summer. I have been Managing Director since 1995, after replacing my father Jock Turner, who was Managing Director for the previous 25 years. He had replaced my grandfather, Roy Saxby.
My cousins, Peter Saxby and Reid Farrell, are also 5th generation and have had involvement in the business. Ian and Reid both currently work within the company. Ian Carr (husband of Jenny Saxby) is a Director, and Peter Saxby has also played a valuable role over many years. Over the years, George’s sons, Dolph and E.J (Edwin Jackson), along with grandsons, Roy, Gordon, and Frank and his great grandson, Ted Saxby (of Saxbys Pharmacy) have also been involved with the business.
We have also been privileged to have many long serving staff. The Austin and Monck families have been involved over multiple generations.
Saxbys is Australia’s oldest family owned soft drink manufacturer.
Saxbys Soft Drinks is an iconic business in the Manning Valley, having been established back in 1864. What can you tell us about the founder of the business, George Saxby?
George Saxby immigrated to Australia from Kent in England in the 1850s with his parents. They settled in Sydney, where George trained as a stone mason and also had a brief time in Victoria trying his luck during the gold rush days. He moved to the Manning Valley in the 1860s. George served twice as Mayor of Taree. He was also involved in the Manning’s first newspaper and was a founding member of the Taree Church of Christ. His first soda factory was located by the river near the Taree recreation grounds at Chatham, near Rotary Park. Factories have also been located at Victoria Street (near Valley Fair), opposite Taree Court House in Albert Street and the current location on the Bucketts Way, Taree South. Saxbys also owned and operated a factory on Isabella Street, Wingham.
Back in the early days, cases of Saxbys Soft Drinks were transported on floats to Taree Wharf and then delivered around the area by wheelbarrow! There must have been immense changes in production and distribution over the years; what are some of the innovations you’ve witnessed?
The early days were very manual: hand bottling, labelling and washing. Deliveries to Gloucester used to be a three day trip with horse and cart. Bottles have progressed from ceramic bottle, imported glass bottles from Scotland, to returnable glass with crown seals, returnable glass with screw caps, one way glass, to PET bottles. Bottling technology has changed, with much higher speed lines and packaging innovation. Major producers fill cans at over 2,000 per minute and bottles at over 800 per minute; Saxbys’ current capability is a maximum of 200 b.p.m. Saxbys now deliver nationally and ship internationally.
How many staff are employed by Saxbys these days?
We have 36 full-time and 12 part-time staff, many of them with over 20 years of service. Peter Schneider and Brian Seagrott both have over 40 years of service.
The business has come a long way in terms of its product offering over the years, having established a solid foundation with its famous Ginger Beer in the beginning. What are some of the products available to consumers now?
Saxbys produce a wide variety of both regular and diet soft drinks under the Saxbys, Solis, and Ziestch brands. Varieties include Saxbys new twist range of ginger beer and cranberry, lemon or pineapple, cranberry and raspberry, peach and pear, citrus blend, blood orange in the Solis brand, lemonade, lime, crème soda, cheery cheer, mandarin, lemon squash, pineapple and cola. These are all in both regular and diet. Other flavours include Portello ginger lime and bitters, lemon lime and bitters, raspberry, club nectar, and of course, Saxbys stone ginger beer.
How far and wide are Saxbys Soft Drinks distributed – is there an international market?
We sell our products Australia wide, as well as in New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei and several other Pacific islands. Several other markets are currently under negotiation.
What is the ethos or the mission statement of the business?
Saxbys’ aim is to provide quality refreshment and service. We have always been proud to support and invest in our local community.
What new products/ideas/developments are in the pipeline?
We are always working on new concepts, whether it is flavours, natural sweeteners or packaging. Sorry … nothing to divulge at this time!
Saxbys is a proud sponsor of the Made in the Manning promotion being held throughout the area in April. Why did you feel it’s important to be involved?
There are several reasons. The Manning Valley produces some great produce, and the community need to know what is available and hopefully enjoy the products. Secondly, although we have been producing our products in the Manning for almost 150 years and actively market our products here, there are still a number of people who do not realise that we are both locally owned and made.
Buying locally is both good for building a stronger community, helping the local economy and helping the environment with fewer food miles.
Where’s the best place for readers to find out more about the Saxbys Soft Drink business?
Our website is fairly comprehensive: www.saxbys.com.au or www.saxbys.tel