My life in the grocery trade

Peter Barrett, Managing Director, Buchas Dog

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?

I’ve just launched a new small drinks company so I’m pretty much every role going in the company at the moment. The company is called The Bucha’s Dog, Craft Tonic Brews, and makes a fermented tea drink, known as kombucha.

BRIEFLY OUTLINE YOUR EMPLOYMENT HISTORY

I’ve been working in the agri-food sector my whole career. I graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a biological BSc in 1997 and PhD in agronomy in 2000. Initially holding academic posts with both QUB and then the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland, I then took up various commercial roles over a six or seven year period. For the last six years, I’ve run my own agri-biosciences consultancy company, predominantly providing support to the biogas industry in UK and Ireland. This is really the day job. But now I have also added the new drinks company, which is a passion project. I’ve been home brewing kombucha myself for around five years.

WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE INVOLVE?

I do all the brewing, bottling, labelling and packing myself. The challenging role right now is in the strategic and operational development of the company. Priorities are in developing the production capacity and facilities. Equally, decisions need to be made on things like investment, distribution channels and possible staffing. A major sales drive is also required. All these things are challenging, can be daunting and consume a lot of energetic bandwidth.

WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?

Simultaneously the best and worst parts by far are being in front of people when they taste the product for the first time. This typically happens at pitches to potential stockists and at market stands. With kombucha being a product of a souring process, it has a bit of an acquired taste. So not all reactions are good. But nothing is better than getting a good response. And some of the early feedback has been overwhelming.

BRIEFLY OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY.

I’m not one for routines so I don’t think I naturally encourage a typical day. I tend to feel a bit oppressed by a routine and sort of rebel against it. So far I have done most of the product production outside of normal working hours, either in the evenings or at weekends.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED WITH THE LOCAL RETAIL INDUSTRY?

I’m new to the retail sector. But one thing that has struck me about it is the energy and character of the people I meet who run small independent businesses. I see a common thread of steeliness and spark in so many people I meet now. Most who have worked hard to start small businesses and fight for them to keep them alive and thriving. As well as that I see some enormously talented people in the food industry. People who have a skill and a craft and are amazingly creative. And who are constantly trying to develop and hone their skills to serve their customers better.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?

I would like to say that I am a mountain biker. But it just doesn’t happen often enough anymore. I still do some form of exercise three or four times a week. Like most people, I also enjoy travelling and love holidaying with my wife and son. When I go on holiday, I love to check out the local agricultural and food cultures.

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF THAT NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW

Part of me has dreams to do some extended adventure travelling like transcontinental bike touring. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but maybe saying it might make it more likely.

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