King of Babycham straight back into business

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The Independent Online
FRANCIS Showering, who invented the cult Babycham drink in 1947, is proving that life exists beyond 60 by making a comeback in business at the grand age of 81.

Straight 8, a full-strength perry, is his latest concoction, made from pears, which will be targeted at 18 to 25-year-olds and marketed under the slogan 'innocent until proven guilty'.

The comeback follows his failure to recapture the original Showerings business from Allied-Lyons, the international food and drinks company.

Allied paid more than pounds 100m for Showerings in 1968, and sold it last year to management for pounds 140m along with Vine Products, the English wine business, Whiteways, the cider maker, and Warninks Advocaat. The agglomeration of companies has been renamed Gaymer Group.

Mr Showering has formed Brothers Drink, a company whose name reflects the involvement of the four sons of Sir Keith Showering, his deceased nephew and chairman of Allied-Lyons until he died in 1982.

The brothers - Jonathan, Matthew, Francis jnr, and Daniel - are the 14th generation of Showerings to enter the drinks business, a family tradition spanning 400 years.

The first generation of Showerings were hotel-keepers and shoe makers in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, which is also the home of the latest venture. Cider and beer were originally produced behind the now defunct Black Swan Inn.

Brothers Drink almost replicates the events that took Francis Showering into the family business in 1929 when he and his three brothers - Arthur, Ralph and Herbert - started to work for their parents.

Francis Showering became managing director and was responsible for producing cider, perry and mineral water. In 1947 he launched the makings of the Showering family fortune - Babycham - which became a cult drink for women in the 1950s and 1960s.

He has no children and retired when Allied-Lyons bought the family business. Jonathan Showering, an operations director of the latest family firm, said: 'He's in the office every day. His experience is something money can't buy.'

Straight 8, named after the 8 per cent alcoholic strength of the drink, was formally launched yesterday, after test marketing in the North and South. Recommended retail price for a 275ml bottle is pounds 1.60.

The drink was developed as part of the family's plans for developing the Showerings business that it failed to buy. Jonathan Showering, who left NM Rothschild, the merchant bank, to co-ordinate the attempted buy-back added: 'We have a number of distribution outlets in the Granada region, and have links with regional brewers. We intend to get to the national brewers.'

(Photograph omitted)