Documentary series. Gregg Wallace explores Ribena's Gloucestershire factory. Meanwhile, Cherry Healey is in the lab figuring out why fizzy drinks are so appealing.
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As a nation, we love a soft drink.
Every day, we guzzle over 36 million litres of them.
Tonight we're taking you on to the production line for one of our
best-loved soft drinks.
It's wonderful, technology that I've never seen before around a drink
that I've known for years.
We'll follow the journey that 90% of all Britain's blackcurrants take, from farm...
..to bottle, via this ENORMOUS factory!
I'm Gregg Wallace.
That's an incredible sight.
And I'll find out how much flavour a tiny blackcurrant can pack.
There is that many berries in each bottle.
I'm Cherry Healy.
And I'll be discovering...
..how the plastic in your drinks bottle starts life...
..as another bottle.
This is what you are after.
-Perfect pellets of plastic.
And I hit the streets to find out why we love fizzy pop.
So it does seem that the carbonation masks some of the sweetness.
Historian Ruth Goodman...
Is this the stuff?
..reveals Britain's pioneering role in the production of our favourite drinks.
Sounds sort of familiar!
In the next week, this factory will produce 3 million bottles of this
-And this is the incredible story of how the team
here makes it happen.
Welcome to Inside The Factory.
This is the Ribena factory in Gloucestershire.
It works around the clock with over 400 staff
to make 25 different soft drinks.
Owned by Suntory, they produce Lucozade Sports...
..and five flavours of Ribena.
But tonight, we're focusing on their ready-to-drink blackcurrant version.
To make this, you need an awful lot of berries.
Cherry has been helping out with the harvest.
This 543 acre fruit farm in Kent is
one of 40 across the country that
supply our factory.
It's run by Josh Berry, who's collecting this year's crop.
-Hi, Cherry. How you doing?
-Or should I say, Farmer Berry?
You can say that if you like.
Which is a great name for somebody who grows berries.
What is that?
Is it a transformer?
It looks like a transformer, but it's a blackcurrant harvester.
How does it work?
It pulls the bush through, and as it pulls it through, it just shakes...
..the fruit off. Like that.
Simple as that.
So a quick shake is all that's needed to drop these
perfectly ripe berries straight into the mouth of the harvester.
Is there anything special about these berries that make them suitable for our drink?
We want blackcurrant varieties that have good flavour profiles
and that yield well, and that also produce a lot of juice.
So they've got to taste good and be massively juicy?
This variety is called Benstarav
and was specially bred to produce berries for our factory.
-Let's have a taste. Look at how beautiful and juicy that is.
That is so packed full of flavour.
The berries are harvested in July and August.
How long does it take to harvest a field like this?
Well, this field here is about six hectares.
It usually takes us about a day and a half to do this block.
Once inside the harvester,
the berries fall onto rotating plates
which drop them onto a conveyor belt.
This carries them towards fans which blow off any leaves that have been
..and then drops the fruit into bins on either side of the machine.
Oh, wow, look!
-There are some BIG boys here.
We're giving them a final check.
So what kind of things are we looking for?
We're basically just picking out any leaf,
any bits of wood that come through like that.
-That's about it, really.
Ah, a snail!
Oh, my God, they keep going into my welly boot.
The harvester travels at a sedate 4mph,
gradually filling bin after bin.
How many blackcurrants would fit into this?
-It's about half a tonne.
-Half a tonne?
And how many of these would you produce, say, a day?
We can pick about... Well, on a good day, if we've got a good crop in front of us,
we can pick about 52 bins a day.
That weighs about the same as four elephants.
From here the bins are collected and stacked, ready for loading.
So here we are, fresh from the field.
A great big bin of berries.
Doesn't get any fresher.
So what happens now? Do you process them, do you store them?
As soon as we can, on the lorry.
What's all the rush?
They're fresh, they want to stay fresh and they want to be processed fresh.
Do they degrade quite quickly?
The sugar levels can change if they're sitting around.
So you have to get these to the factory on time?
The clock is ticking as Josh's team load up today's crop.
From the blackcurrant farm, our
berries travel 200 miles to be processed...
..at a surprising location.
I'm at the Thatcher's cider mill in Somerset.
because between September and December every year, they are busy
pressing apples for cider, which means
their machinery is available in July to press blackcurrants.
The team here will process over 500 tonnes of them today.
Manager Mark Beresford is giving the latest delivery a once over.
-Ooh, morning, Gregg.
I won't shake your hand, if that's OK.
-Well, maybe if I give you some gloves.
-What are you doing? A bit of quality check?
Normally, by sight and smell, you can tell whether they're good to go.
These ones are all looking good.
Are you able to tell me how many berries there are in each bottle
of juice drink?
There's around about 37 berries per bottle of juice drink.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven...
..32, 33, 34, 35, 36...
In my hand is the average amount of fruit
in each bottle of juice drink?
After a quick test, which confirms their sugar and flavour levels are
up to scratch, they're ready to go.
To get the best quality juice from our berries, they have to be pressed
within 24 hours of harvest.
Our drink production line begins.
That's an incredible sight.
The smell is fantastic!
How exactly is this working?
So we've got the Archimedes screw there at the bottom...
..which just works nice and slowly, turning and pushing the fruit along.
And that takes it into the building.
I see. The slow movement of that screw
is just delivering small portions.
The screw gently pushes the berries into the factory...
..where they head to the roller mill.
What we've got is two stainless steel rollers in there, which roll
against each other.
And we gently break the fruit open.
So all we're looking to do is break the skins.
We're not actually looking to extract any juices yet.
Why can't you crush them now to get the juice out?
Well, what we want to do is to get an enzyme in there
to break the cell structure down.
The cells inside the blackcurrants are held together with a natural
gelling agent called pectin.
It's what helps jam set.
But we don't want our juice to set,
so they pipe in the natural enzyme pectinase,
which gets rid of all the pectin.
It all happens in these 22-tonne mash tanks.
It's almost tropical in there, it's just a load of steam.
It's a little bit steamy.
-It's not cooking it?
-It's not cooking it.
We've got to leave it for 60 minutes to allow the enzymes to work before
we'll come back and test it...
..and make sure we're good for pressing.
That's all right, I'll think of something to do, I'm sure.
The berries in this tank are all destined to be a still drink.
Meanwhile, Ruth's been looking into the history of fizzy drinks,
which goes back further than you'd think.
The fizzy drinks industry was born in 1783 when a Mr Schweppe
sold his first carbonated mineral water.
The gentry right across Europe adopted this with enthusiasm
as a healthy alternative to the alcoholic beverages of the day.
But it was something that happened right here in London's Hyde Park
in 1851 that increased the profile of fizzy drinks.
This was the sight of The Great Exhibition,
Prince Albert's demonstration of Victorian inventions,
all within a crystal palace.
A place where all alcoholic beverages were banned.
Schweppes paid over £5,000 -
the equivalent of more than 300,000 today -
to be the official supplier of refreshments to the event.
They commissioned a great soda fountain right in the atrium
of The Crystal Palace - a fountain that's still commemorated
on their bottles today.
Over the five and a half months of the exhibition,
they shifted 1 million bottles of soda water and lemonade.
This was posh pop.
But in the mid-1800s,
fizzy drinks exploded into the mass market too.
This is a good sight to a thirsty woman!
Malcolm McDermott is reminding me of a famous British name
in the history of carbonation.
This was how ginger beer would have been sold in the early days.
Ginger beer. Oh, I do like a bit of ginger beer.
There was hundreds of people out on the streets,
literally selling it by the glass.
Was there ever actually a Mr R White?
Yes, back in 1845 Robert and Mary actually founded the company
in Camberwell and started selling lemonade and ginger beer
on the street from a barrow just like this.
So were they selling it in bottles right from the start?
They would have been giving it out on the street in cups, because they needed the bottles back.
Yeah. So you drank it there and then when you were stood there,
you handed back the container.
Street selling was just the start of the story.
At the brand's modern-day factory in east London,
records reveal what happened next.
This is a price list from 1885.
They made a range of products.
You had things like ginger ale, lime juice, orange champagne,
pear champagne, soda water, seltzer waters.
-It is, and I think that was the thing,
when the masses got access to tasty soft drinks,
their tastes widened and they wanted to try new things.
This really caught my eye.
-It sounds sort of familiar!
Yes, Kaola was a drink flavoured with the kola nut.
So, obviously, cola - the most popular drink today,
Kaola was the precursor to that.
But it would have been a lot more bitter than the drinks that we have now, today.
These innovative new flavours drove rapid growth.
In just a few short years,
they went from one factory to six across the London area.
Carbonation had gone from
back room brewing to mechanised factory process.
By 1890, R White's were selling almost 47 million bottles
of soft drinks a year,
delivered by 309 horses pulling 203 carts.
So, at one point, they actually styled themselves
-as the largest makers of soft drinks in the world.
-In the world?
So, forget the Yanks,
at this point in history, the fizzy drinks market was really
a British market, and London was where it was at?
That's not bad from the back of a barrow, is it?
No, not at all.
In a world where the fizzy drinks market
is dominated by the mega brands,
it is quite refreshing to remember a time when it was all still
something of a novelty,
when ordinary people made their our own batches of ginger beer
and lemonade, and put their own names on the bottle.
Three hours and ten minutes since
I took delivery of my blackcurrants,
their pectin has been removed
and they're luxuriating in a nice hot bath.
So what we'll do now is we'll take a sample of the mash.
So, if you want to grab the ladle there behind you, Gregg.
It's like some sort of crazy game you'd have in a pub.
So then we just want to lower that down into the fruit.
That's it, and then we pour that into this jug here.
There we go, that's lovely.
Everything about this process is messy!
This isn't a clean job.
Our sample of mashed berries is taken to an on-site lab to confirm
all the pectin's gone. This means they'll be able to extract
the maximum possible amount of juice.
-Test's good, test's good.
Lovely, thank you.
All good. We're good to go pressing.
Cleared for the next stage,
our mix heads off to one of four juice presses.
So, then, Gregg. This is one of our presses.
Maybe not quite what you were expecting.
See, a press, to me, is pressing down on the fruit,
whether you're screwing that in or pressing it down, but using weight.
And you squeeze the juice through a cloth or through a fine sieve.
But that's not even using gravity, that's not even the right way up.
The principles of what we're doing are exactly as you've just explained.
But what are these hosepipes?
So these hosepipes, as you describe them, are the filters.
So what we have is, as this piston crushes in,
the juice is forced from the fruit and they go through this sock.
So this is the cloth that you mentioned in your traditional press.
So what's this big piece of plastic here, then?
So this sits in the centre of the filter sock, and as the juice is
pushed through the sock it will run down the gullies in this core.
OK, so we're ready to go now, Gregg.
We'll close him back up, and if you want to press play on here,
that'll be our press in action.
There we go.
The press fills with our mashed berries and the juice is forced
through the 288 filter socks.
It's channelled away through a pipe at the front into storage tanks
leaving just the unwanted parts of the fruit behind.
There we go, Gregg. So, almost all what you can see there is lots of the seeds,
which haven't been pressed through.
You're right. And the odd little twiglet.
And the odd little twiglet.
So all the juice is gone, all the solids are left behind.
The juice is filtered and pasteurised
before it heads to an evaporator...
..which boils off 80% of its volume.
This makes it easier to store and transport,
but it also throws up an issue.
Part of the problem we have is that the aromas boil off
at a rather low temperature. As you may well know,
most of what we taste is in the smell.
So we'll capture the vapour that's drawn off.
This is very much like making a quality stock in a kitchen.
The only difference is, all that lovely smell that's coming off of
the stock in my kitchen, you're capturing it.
That's right. And we'll then condense that back down into a liquid
which gives you all the aromas captured in that liquid.
That will then be tankered separately to the factory
and then added back to the fruit juice concentrate.
You're trapping the smell of blackcurrant.
-And then they're putting it back in later?
Mark and his team pump the entire season's aroma liquid
into just three tanks.
So, Gregg, those aromas, which you can have a little smell of here...
Get your hands in there.
-Get a little bit on.
-That is most certainly blackcurrant,
but it's more than just blackcurrant, it's seriously floral.
That's what gives you the flavours again, back into the blackcurrant.
A big tank of blackcurrant juice smell.
That's our aroma safely captured.
Meanwhile, the juice concentrate heads to a waiting tanker.
The guys have loaded one on, we can see it from the counter,
and all we need to do now is get the pipe off.
During the blackcurrant season,
up to four tankers a day leave for the main factory.
-There we go.
It's like oil!
If you want to hand that to driver Andy.
-All right, Andy?
And that's us all done, ready to go.
How many bottles of drink is that, do you know?
That's going to make about 200,000 bottles of your juice drink.
-If you want to signal Andy, send him on his way.
Andy? Cheers, mate.
So that's my concentrate on its way to become a still juice drink.
BUT more than a third of the soft drinks we consume in Britain are fizzy.
Cherry went to investigate why we like bubbles so much.
According to the latest figures,
we're guzzling 5 billion litres of fizzy drinks every year.
So can science explain why we love them so much?
I've come to the University of London to meet
sensory expert, Professor Barry Smith.
-Lovely to see you again.
-Hey! How are you? Good to see you.
He's been studying the effect that carbonated drinks
have on our senses.
What makes fizzy drinks fizzy?
These are liquids that have had CO2, carbon dioxide,
put into them under pressure.
And the liquid has absorbed all that CO2,
only released when we take the top off and we expose it to air,
and the little bubbles'll come out.
We first of all have that sound.
You get that lovely scoosh, the rush.
We see the bubbles foaming to this wonderful creamy head.
You put it to your ear, you can actually hear them.
So it's sonic, it's visual.
It's an incredibly multisensory drink.
So bubbles do much more than just look appealing.
To test out how they affect smell,
Barry's hooking me up to a rather sinister-looking machine.
OMG. Why have I got two probes up my nose?
Well, we're going to give you two slightly different odorants and see how you react.
OK. So, Katie, let's start.
Ah! Oh! Ooh.
OK. Now, what are you getting?
-And a zing, like a tingly...tingly-ness.
And now Katie's going to give you a little CO2 shot.
-Apparently I'm smelling the same level of orange aroma as before.
But when CO2 is released up the other probe,
it's a far more intense experience.
I need that in the morning.
-So, you got quite a rush!
Definitely. And afterwards you feel a little bit stimulated and buzzy.
So, the reason why that's happening is because the CO2,
those little bubbles, are stimulating this trigeminal nerve.
That's the nerve that serves the nose and the mouth.
And when those little nerve endings in the nose are tingled,
the body releases opiates and that
can make you feel a nice, kind of, warm glow and buzz.
And that intensifies the flavour.
The simple addition of carbon dioxide has completely transformed
my sensory experience,
but this isn't the only trick bubbles are playing on us.
They also affect taste -
something Barry wants to demonstrate by challenging the students here on
campus to a taste test.
We're going to ask you questions about how you experience these two drinks.
They're trying two cups of cherryade.
Try both of these.
They're identical, except that one is fizzy...
..and one is still.
Down in one, whoa!
But which has the more intense flavour?
It's much better - carbonated.
-Is it is more intense?
-This one, fizzy.
-So the fizzy one is more intense?
-The bubble one would be more intense.
-The fizzy one.
The fizzy version of the drink is clearly delivering a stronger punch.
The more fizzy one. Just the bubbles.
When the bubbles pop on the tongue,
they throw aroma molecules deep into the mouth and nose,
giving carbonated drinks a stronger flavour and a more refreshing feel.
Next, we want to find out how carbonation affects sweetness,
this time, using cola.
If you could taste these liquids and just tell me if you think one is
sweeter than the other.
One is the standard fizzy version.
The other has been left to go flat.
I'd say this is more syrupy and sickly.
I think that is sweeter.
You think the flat one is sweeter?
I think it is just a little bit sweeter.
Much sweeter in this one.
I prefer the fizzy one.
The consensus here is that the still cola tastes TOO sweet...
-Syrupy, sugary, not for me.
..even though both drinks have identical sugar levels.
The bubbles try to mask the sweetness.
The carbon dioxide bubbles in fizzy drinks effectively
suppress sweetness and increase sourness.
-I feel like the carbonated one is slightly more bitter...
-..but that might just be the fizz.
So it does seem that the carbonation masks some of the sweetness.
It certainly does that.
When they have something still, they say sugary or syrupy.
And they think, "Too syrupy, I don't want to have that."
But as soon as you make it fresh, you suppress sweetness,
you enhance sourness, they say, "Ah! It's just right, that's the drink I want."
Fizzy drinks play a series of sensory tricks on us,
which probably helps to explain why we get through so many of them.
My concentrated blackcurrant juice is making its way 50 miles north...
..to the Forest of Dean.
Home to our drinks factory.
Eight and three quarters hours since I took delivery of our berries,
their juice is being piped into tanks underneath the factory...
..in an area called the cold store.
Without the juice stored down here, they can't make our soft drink.
These tanks are like the crown jewels of the factory.
Jonathan Bolton is responsible for taking care of them.
-Hello. Nice to meet you, Gregg.
How much concentrate could you hold here at any one time?
Well, we have 80 tanks down here.
And each tank can hold 19,000 litres, so...
..80 times 19,000 litres is over 1.5 million litres of concentrate.
And how long, typically, would you hold it for?
Up to 12 months, so we have the whole year's harvest down here.
So an entire year's supply of blackcurrant juice
is sitting right here in these tanks,
held between eight and 10 degrees Celsius.
But before it heads upstairs,
there's one crucial ingredient to add back in...
..the liquid aromas that were captured earlier.
So if you pick that spanner up there, Gregg.
So what we need to do is disconnect this pipe here to add the aromas to
the blackcurrant blend.
This cold store was built in the 1940s
and connecting up the tanks is still a hands-on job.
Mate, I feel like I'm tightening it up.
Right, the other way then.
Gregg Wallace, a complete spanner.
Right, so if you just move that pipe.
-Put it down on the...
VOICEOVER: I've been landed with another messy task.
Now what? Put this one in?
-Yeah, put that one in.
-I've got this.
-All right? OK?
I can't believe I've made such a mess!
-Right. Now what?
-So we need to open up the valves.
-Open up these two here.
-There we go.
-And then we need to open up the two valves on the aroma tank.
-VOICEOVER: Pipes switched...
..the aroma liquids can now be sent over to the mixing tank.
So all we need to do now is to press the start button.
What with, me nose? I've got stuff everywhere! Right.
I can hear it, I can clearly hear it.
You can hear it. That's taking the aromas through the flow plates,
into the tank over there, where we're making our blend up.
I've never had me aromas sent through a flow tank before.
Well there you are, right? There's always a first time.
We're measuring out exactly 689 litres
of natural liquid blackcurrant aromas.
Do you go home smelling like a blackcurrant?
The aromas head towards the mixing tank that already contains
16,000 litres of concentrate,
boosting and intensifying the blackcurrant taste and smell.
We still have a long way to go to make the finished drink.
And ensuring it tastes just the way we expect it to
is the responsibility of a panel of rather important people.
Cherry went to meet them.
This anonymous office block just outside London
is home to a top-secret tasting panel.
The flavour of the company's soft drinks is quality controlled
by specially selected super tasters.
I had no idea that this was an actual job.
A lot of people don't even know that this job exists.
They don't understand that there's so much science behind it.
They think that you just sit and... drinking soft drinks all day.
Just one in four people have palates sensitive enough to join this elite group.
How did you know you were a super taster?
I didn't really know until I got screening for this job.
I guess growing up in Italy played a big part in it,
as from a young age I was exposed to loads of citrus fruit.
You're a super citrus taster.
I am, indeed.
For the last ten months, this 12-strong panel
have been testing versions of a radical new recipe...
..devised by in-house scientist Sam Borgfeld and his team.
So, Sam, what have you been working on?
We've been working on reducing the sugar content by 50%.
Our consumers have told us they want less sugary products,
so we feel it's important to reduce that sugar.
That is probably harder than it sounds.
It is considerably harder than it sounds.
The original formulation contains around 12 teaspoons of sugar
in a half-litre ready to drink bottle.
Why not just take 50% of the sugar out and be done with that?
Taking 50% sugar out of this product would make it taste
quite acidic, quite weak and pretty unpleasant.
You could even taste a 10% reduction,
but when you take out half the sugar, you lose the sweetness,
of course, you lose the flavour delivery because the sugar
actually carries the flavour
and brings the flavour to your taste receptors,
and you lose the texture.
So sugar actually makes the product thicker, so when you take out sugar,
it becomes watery and unpleasant in the mouth.
It's not a simple case of sugar out, sweeteners in.
If it was, that would be really easy.
Sam's team worked their way through over 100 different prototypes.
Have you made any mistakes?
Oh, some huge ones. Yeah. Some huge ones. For example,
this is a commonly used thickener called xanthan gum.
And this is ten times the amount that we should've used.
Wow. I think you've made jam.
But they've now created a recipe that they're happy with.
And, crucially, one that has passed muster with the sensory panel.
But can I work out which cup contains the new version?
So, somewhere in here is the winning reduced sugar recipe?
-That's right, Cherry.
-And you'll be able to tell which one it is,
I might not be able to.
-So we're going to start firstly by tasting sample 839.
-It's extremely sour.
What we're tasting there is the raw blackcurrant juice.
Now, the next one we can taste, 294.
It's like rubbish bingo, isn't it?
You just don't win a prize.
-That's much sweeter.
You can taste the artificial sweetener in it.
Do you think that's too much?
-I'm really seeing the difference between a good taster
and a super taster. Unless it's extreme, I'm just like,
that tastes nice.
Just tastes really familiar.
-Quite leafy, really.
It's great that we like that one because that was the 50%
reduced sugar recipe.
-The one you decided on?
I wouldn't necessarily have known that that was your new formula.
But I suppose that's what you want.
-My question is, can your super tasters taste the difference between
the original original formula and your new formula?
Right, so that's what you were aiming for.
After nearly 1,000 tasting sessions,
Sample 992 is now in the first stages of production.
It's been 15 hours since I watched my berries being unloaded.
At the factory, I'm ready to mix a batch of the new recipe.
The first ingredient I need is sugar.
Every day, ten tankers unload 27 tonnes of the stuff into silos.
It's fed through to the sugar plant.
But before it can be sent for mixing, it has to be turned into liquid.
That's the responsibility of Craig Fletcher.
So if you want to press on batch.
-OK. We want to make a 15,000 litre one.
This is worse than trying to get your ticket out of the machine at the station.
-Next batch on and that will start the process going.
That was pretty instant, wasn't it?
Sugar and water are poured into this industrial vat.
They're mixed and heated to 55 degrees.
This dissolves the sugar crystals and creates a thick syrup.
So that's the first of 12 ingredients in the recipe.
Next up, it's a sweetener.
-What is this?
-This is a mobile mixing tank.
All right. And what are we going to mix in there?
We're going to mix sucralose.
This seems to be on a much smaller scale than the sugar.
Yeah, because we're only making, I think it is four kilos.
We're going to connect the water pipe up.
If you ring the control room and just say, "Go on the water."
That's like my wife asking me to run her a bath.
-We need the water, please.
Next thing, we have to put the sucralose powder in.
I'm guessing in there.
You guessed right. Tip it nice and steady.
Sucralose is manufactured from sugar.
It's 650 times sweeter but with zero calories.
This is fine dust and that's settling on my tongue.
-And it's like having a sweet in your mouth.
It's really nice.
Now I need to load up vitamin C powder.
-Take it up.
-I don't like it.
-It'll be fine. Keep going.
Whoa! It's really swinging now.
Lower it down slightly.
I've got to get the tassel through the hole, right? It's like a game.
There we go, there we go.
That was good. Good job.
The vitamin C is emptied out to make a solution and sent through
to the mixing room...
..where it's headed for a contraption known as the dosing rig.
Watch your step.
Here, Craig connects up the rest of the ingredients
which include three flavourings, two more sweeteners,
a thickener and a natural colour.
Come on then, let's get it going. Let's get it going.
They're all measured out in precise amounts and sent to the rig.
-Would you please start the batch on A3?
The rig sends each ingredient into an enormous mixing tank.
And then all the other ingredients, including, of course,
the concentrated blackcurrant juice.
They're mixed until everything is evenly distributed
through the batch.
That is a very powerful smell.
There's nearly 6,000 litres in there.
That is a serious volume of liquid.
I don't suppose you've got a 15 foot straw, have you?
We could get one.
It won't be long before our drink is ready to go into bottles.
To make them, we'll need some plastic.
Cherry's been finding out exactly where it comes from.
And it turns out, it's from other bottles.
Every year in Europe, we use 105 billion plastic bottles
and 1 billion end up here to be recycled.
This plant in Zeewolde in the Netherlands is one of the largest
plastic bottle recycling factories in Europe.
It's run by Mark Rusink.
-Lovely to meet you.
-It almost looks like a piece of art.
So these are the bales of squashed plastic bottles?
Yes, lots of squashed PET bottles.
-PET? That's the type of plastic?
-That's the type of plastic.
Why do you recycle that kind of plastic?
Because you can use it again into new PET bottles again.
It's easy to recycle.
OK, so the PET bottles become completely new bottles?
-They are genuinely being recycled?
-You don't just bung them in a landfill.
No, no, no. Definitely not.
Most polyethylene terephthalate, or PET soft drink bottles,
are designed to be disposable.
If you're a good citizen, you throw them in your recycling bin
and your council sorts them out and sends them on to people like Mark.
How many lorry loads like this do you get every day?
That's 2.5 million bottles a day.
There are 8,000 of them in each bale,
and turning them into a form of plastic that can be reused
is far from straightforward.
So what's going on in here?
We're putting these bales on the incline conveyor.
And then they go to the shredder.
So the bottles go up this conveyor belt
-into the machine that shreds them?
-OK. How can I help?
-You can cut a wire?
-Yeah, I'll do that.
Keep a distance.
Yay! I see what you mean.
Yeah, there's pressure. Be careful.
That was a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be.
The bales are ground into flakes which head to a tank of water.
The lighter bits, the labels and caps, float to the top,
while the heavier flakes, the bits they want, sink to the bottom.
So simple but it's so clever.
A quick soapy wash gets rid of any residues of glue
or the original contents of the bottles.
Then jets of air blast the flakes
and sort them according to their colour.
I need the clear ones for Gregg's bottles.
Next, the flakes are melted down at 280 Celsius,
turning them into molten strings.
These long strings of plastic are cooled
and cut up into four millimetre pellets...
..and stored in 20 metre tall silos.
This is what you were after.
-Tiny little perfect pellets of plastic.
-So is that done now?
No. Still one step to go.
Finally, the pellets are heated back up, almost to melting point...
..and rolled in these gigantic tumble dryers for 18 hours.
This process strengthens and cleans them
meaning they can be safely turned back into drinks bottles.
So this whole process requires so much heat and water and energy.
Is it really environmentally friendly?
Yes, it is, because this only takes a quarter of the normal energy
and, of course, it's coming out of a closed loop system,
so we can do this over and over and over again.
So old bottles make pellets that will be turned into bottles again.
And after those bottles have been used,
they can be recycled again and again.
Some of this batch is destined for our factory.
577, 578, 579.
Every bottle that Gregg sees being made will contain 23g or 1,150
of these food-safe recycled plastic pellets.
16 hours and 40 minutes into the process
and my soft drink is ready to be bottled.
The factory receives three truckloads of recycled pellets
every week, so they can make all the bottles they need
right here on site.
The pellets are sent over to bottle production
and manufacturing manager, Mark Yandle.
This is the injection moulding machine.
Of course it is. The injection moulding machine.
What is happening?
It just looks like an enormous printing press.
Exactly. So the pellets now are coming into this big hopper
-above the machine.
We've put about nine tonnes of material in there.
-That's a serious amount.
-So then we heat up the pellets
to about 180 degrees, and then the pellets make their way down,
just through gravity, like a bird feeder system,
and they start to come into the extruder,
where we heat it up to 240 degrees.
-That is seriously hot molten plastic.
Here he goes. What happens here, what's this?
We're going to make a thing called a pre-form.
-Right, what's that?
-That's one of these.
A pre-form is basically a miniature bottle.
Although it looks more like a plastic test-tube
with a large screw-top.
We inject the molten material into the cavity of the mould
and that forms our shape, ready for the bottle blowing process.
Why don't you just make a bottle?
Because that's not a bottle blowing machine.
Well, put a bottle blowing machine in there, mate.
I'll tell you what, I could save you guys fortunes.
But you're promising me that will eventually become a bottle?
-That's right, it will.
-You've got an honest face.
How many is that doing at once?
Every 11 seconds we make 128 preforms.
Bottle making has to be done in two stages
because if these preforms were blown straightaway,
they'd produce poor quality bottles.
Laser-guided forklifts whisk them away...
..to a huge temperature controlled warehouse
where they rest for 24 hours.
Once rested, they're sent downstairs to the blowing machine.
So how does that pre-form become a bottle?
We heat this pre-form up in the oven so that we can distribute
the material into the mould.
Right, that's half of one of those actual moulds.
-Yes, it is, yes.
-Right, so this little blighter is heated up
and once it's hot, it's pushed into this mould.
-How do you blow them up?
So once the pre-form is in the mould, we hit it hard
-with compressed air and we blow it into the shape of this mould.
-A whack of air...
..blows it up, very much like me puffing into a balloon.
Yeah, whatever the shape of the mould is, that's what it'll form.
-How long does that take?
-It takes around 0.1 of a second.
-And we make 10 bottles a second.
So, in just a tenth of a second, the blow moulding machine
grabs a pre-form, injects it with air,
enlarges it into a half litre size,
and sends it on its way, ready for the next one.
It's producing an astonishing 36,000 bottles every hour.
Next, they make their way from bottle production to filling
through a hole high up in the wall, to be greeted by Anne-Marie Craven.
-This is where the bottles come in.
-They travel 497 metres from the bottle factory.
-What are you, some sort of bottle anorak?
-I am indeed, yes.
-You are, aren't you?
-You really are.
So our bottles have come down from the bottle making factory,
down the airveyor, and then they'll come into our filler.
-Did you call it an airveyor?
The airveyor is a conveyor system which moves the plastic bottles
using jets of air.
This area sterilises the bottle with steam and sterilant.
And it goes around on a big wheel for a certain amount of time
and at a certain temperature.
No, be precise.
-At what temperature?
Minimum of 28 Celsius.
From that, we come into our rinsing area,
where each bottle is rinsed with sterile water.
-You're going over the top here.
-Oh, I don't think so.
The blackcurrant syrup I made earlier is mixed with water
in a ratio of one part syrup to four parts water.
It's pasteurised by heating it to 95 degrees.
This kills any bacteria that can cause it to spoil
and gives it a nine-month shelf life.
-And then over here, they get filled within our filler.
A 60 head volumetric filler
is filling ten of our half litre bottles every second.
We make 36,000 bottles an hour here on this line.
-24 hours a day?
-24 hours a day.
We then have a drop of nitrogen that goes into the headspace before capping.
The liquid nitrogen quickly warms to room temperature and expands,
increasing the pressure inside the bottle.
It gives the bottle rigidity.
So can you feel the differences in hardness?
Yeah, this one is a lot spongier than this one.
This is like the Gregg Wallace taut and firm one.
-This is the one that's got nitrogen in it.
One of the main reasons they make the bottle sturdy
is so they won't get stuck in vending machines.
Once the nitrogen has gone in, our bottle is capped by the capper.
-It's actually called a capper?
Flash photographs are taken to check the caps are on correctly
and that every bottle contains exactly 500ml.
All the bottles have been to a nightclub, look,
they've all came out a bit dizzy from all the flashing lights.
Rivers of purple bottles have survived the paparazzi
and are now happily streaming along conveyors in all directions.
The scale here is truly astonishing.
We Brits get through 13 billion litres of soft drinks every year.
Ruth set out to investigate the sporting history
of one of our all-time favourites.
Looking at this scene around me,
I bet you can guess what's in this glass.
But what is barley water?
And what's it got to do with tennis?
Social historian Polly Russell has been looking into the history
of this drink.
Where did barley water come from?
Well, it's been advocated as a kind of medicinal drink
for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Barley was recommended by the Greeks and the Romans
for having calming properties, for helping strengthen the body.
Originally, barley water was just that,
grains of barley soaked in water.
-Would you like to try some?
-Go on, then.
Your ancient Roman and Greek health drink.
-It's all right.
-It's fine, isn't it?
-It's all right.
I think of it rather like something you're told is good for you
so you just sort of, like, drink it down quick and get it over
and done with and hope that the medical theories of the day
change fairly quickly.
Barley water was believed to be a cure for fevers and stomach ailments.
Variations of it are found in cookbooks all over the world,
in every period of history.
Fast forward to 1806, to one of the most...
-Regency, Jane Austen.
-..to Eliza Rundle's new system of domestic cookery.
And what you find is something which is very familiar to us,
barley water as we know it.
-So it's a handful of common barley and three pints of water
with a bit of lemon peel.
And says, "This is less apt to nauseate."
So the lemon's in there if your stomach is a bit...
-And a little bit of sugar.
-To sweeten the pill.
So we've got some here, shall we try some?
-OK, so this is with the lemon and sugar?
-I've got hopes for this, then.
It's quite light.
-Yes. It's not as potent as what we're used to, is it?
19th century women, or their cooks, made this medicinal drink at home.
The barley needed to be simmered for at least an hour.
But in 1823, a certain Mr Robinson found a way to make it more easily
and more quickly.
He patented a machine that processed barley into powder,
reducing the cooking time.
-Is this the stuff?
You see here it says, "For expectant and nursing mothers.
"For most invalids and convalescents."
You've got this medicinal theme.
Quick to make, this was one of the first food science breakthroughs
of the Industrial Revolution.
That's very malty.
I like that. Do you like it?
-I don't know. It's different.
-I feel virtuous drinking it.
Robinsons was still promoting their version of barley water as a health
drink until they hit on a brilliant new marketing ploy,
the 1934 Wimbledon Tennis Championships.
Salesman Eric Smedley Hodgson made up a mix of the barley powder
with iced water, sugar and lemon
and used it to help rehydrate the players.
More than 250 gallons were served...
..starting an association with tennis that continues to this day.
Barley water had gone from being a medicinal cure-all
to being a mass-market recreational soft drink.
And in doing so, had become indelibly associated
with the British summertime.
Almost 17 hours into the production process,
my bottles are filled and capped.
But they're looking a little underdressed.
So, Gregg, you can see that we've got our bottle of product.
Can you feel that?
Yeah, it's slightly wet.
So what we do is we apply a lubricant
before our bottle is then sleeved.
It is opened up and this places the sleeve over the bottle.
It's incredible. It's, like, rapidly putting each bottle
in its own little blackcurrant blanket.
Yeah, it is indeed, yeah.
Little plastic fingers make sure that the sleeve
is in the right position before the bottle enters a steam tunnel
that shrinks it into shape.
So that's the shrunken sleeve on the bottle.
Your blanket has become a snug blanket.
It looks like it's been ironed on.
It's wonderful, it's like technology that I've never seen before
-around a drink that I've known for years.
The bottles are sent along by conveyor to be wrapped up in cases
of 12 before being stacked onto pallets.
That is a very impressive piece of machinery.
Isn't it just amazing?
I can't believe how big it is and how gentle it is.
It just uses rollers and compressed air.
-You like it here, don't you?
-I love it.
Why? It can't be blackcurrants.
I love the people, I love the work, I love the factory.
-Come on. Thank you so much.
Each pallet, stacked with more than 1,500 bottles,
heads over to dispatch...
..where I'm meeting head of logistics, Natalie Kear.
-I've been making this.
-There it all is.
You have got a serious amount of drinks here.
-We do, yeah.
-So on a daily basis,
how many pallets come in and out of your warehouse?
17 pallets an hour will come off this particular line
-where this product was run.
-You know what?
If I had a hat right now I would take it off.
-Oh, here's one of your trucks now.
Just finishing filling the vehicle.
How many pallets on there?
There is 26 pallets on there, 41,000 bottles.
-Wow! How many lorries come in and out of here?
-About 120 a day.
Every 15 minutes, a full vehicle is leaving.
That's beyond my comprehension.
All right, Chris, take it away.
Because my batch is a brand-new recipe,
it's heading off for some final tests before it's put on sale.
The original recipe is drunk in 30 countries across the globe.
It has a big fan base in Denmark
but also goes as far afield as Australia and Jamaica.
I've enjoyed this, watching the process and looking at
the technology, but I love the journey of the humble blackcurrant,
through harvesting and heating and squashing,
having its smell removed, having its smell put back in again.
But what really amazes me is over 90%,
that's virtually all the blackcurrants grown in the UK,
go into this drink.
3 million bottles of it every single week.
Gregg Wallace explores Ribena's Gloucestershire factory. It turns 90 per cent of Britain's blackcurrants into soft drinks, producing three million bottles a week. Gregg takes delivery of 500 tonnes of blackcurrants at a cider mill in Somerset. The harvest comes in during July and August, when there are no apples to process for cider, so they press blackcurrants instead. Gregg discovers how the aroma of the blackcurrants is captured separately and later added back into the drink. Next, the concentrate and aromas are transported to the drinks factory, where they are mixed with 11 other ingredients before being bottled. Gregg watches a machine that can create a plastic bottle in 0.1 of a second and learns why nitrogen is the secret to creating a bottle that won't get stuck in vending machines.
Cherry Healey is harvesting the berries on a farm in Kent - one of 40 that supply the factory. She also heads to the Netherlands to a plant that recycles plastics. It processes two and a half million used PET bottles a day, transforming them into 4mm pellets that can be turned back into drinks bottles. And Cherry is in the lab figuring out why fizzy drinks are so appealing. She learns that bubbles play sensory tricks on us, making fizzy drinks taste colder, less sweet and more flavourful than their still equivalents.
Ruth Goodman is investigating the origins of fizzy drinks. Carbonated water was first sold by Mr Schweppe in 1783, but it was a British husband-and-wife team - Robert and Mary White - who were to popularise fizzy pop. In 1890, R White's styled itself as the world's biggest drinks company and they sold 46 million bottles a year. Ruth looks at why we associate barley water with the great British summertime.