IN JANUARY 1991 GEOFF READ, managing director of Ballygowan Spring Water Company, had to make a decision that could alter the whole direction of the company. Since August 1988 the management team had shaped a strategy to launch a drink to develop upon the success of Ballygowan Spring Water. The objective was to provide Ballygowan with a product to enter the soft-drinks market and so remove the weakness of being a one-product company. After identifying the market for 'new age' products, and carrying out research at each stage in the product development process, the results of a final test market were disappointing, Ballygowan had to consider whether to withdraw the product, to redesign and reposition the new range, or to go ahead and launch as originally planned.

Geoff Read founded Ballygowan in 1981 and by 1991 the company exported to IS countries and held 77 per cent of the 12.5 million litre water market in Ireland and had developed an extensive range of bottled spring water products. Tipperary was no. 2 in the market with 13.5 per cent market share. Since 1987 Pcrrier's share had dropped from 13 to 4 per cent.

Between 1987 and 1989 the company grew to be a medium-sized enterprise geared for expansion and growth. A joint investment with Anheuser Busch provided a very modem production facility covering 30,000 square metres with a capacity of 600 bottles per minute. Ballygowan's success came from being an innovator in the market for water-based products, and also from astute management of the Ballygowan brand franchise. Management now saw the need to exploit the assets of the company more profitably. In particular, the plant was not at mil capacity and the company's strong distribution network and experienced management were not being fully utilized.

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