The epitome of forward-thinking, Joe Evans is a young entrepreneur with a passion for protecting our planet. Since 2015, Joe has been at the helm of Northumberland-based drinks company Marlish, which produces and supplies premium spring water and soft drinks to retailers across the country.
After completing a degree in Biochemistry, he was all set to begin a job with a big pharmaceutical company, but the discovery of a spring water source on his family’s farm prompted a thirst for change. ‘I didn’t want to get stuck in a lab coat for the rest of my life,’ he laughs. ‘I’d always wanted to do my own thing, so I jumped at the chance to work for myself.’
Once a thriving visitor centre with educational tours, animals, riverside walks and a souvenir shop, Marlish Farm in Hartburn suffered a devastating blow after foot-and-mouth disease struck in 2001. Undeterred and determined to continue making use of the land, Joe and his cousin-turned-business partner Elizabeth Walton eventually built a bottling plant to package the water at-source. The farm is now home to a purpose-built factory churning out nationwide orders for Marlish spring water, sugar-free tonics and flavoured mixers.
‘Our vision is to build a sustainable family business,’ Joe explains. ‘We want to offer consumers a greener option, and look after the land so it can be here for generations to come.’ On the farm, which has been in Joe’s family for over 80 years, they’ve planted over 5,000 trees to create suitable habitats for wildlife and to use as fuel for a biomass system in the future. They have also installed a solar tracker system to give the factory a sustainable power source for lights, process heating and battery charging.
This self sufficiency emanates from Joe’s love of the land. Having grown up just outside Morpeth, the Biochemistry graduate has a profound fondness for the unique and unspoiled Northumberland countryside, and is determined to protect (and promote) it. ‘We’re so lucky to have such a natural and wild landscape on our doorstep,’ he beams. ‘I’ve always wanted to put Northumberland on the map – so many people don’t have a bloody clue where we are, they think it’s Scotland!’
Last year, Marlish made waves in the UK drinks industry by becoming the first brand to package spring water at-source in aluminium cans – ditching the need for single-use plastic bottles. Aluminium saves around 95 percent of recycling energy, as all the scraps left over from the production process can be melted down and used again. For this reason, around 75 percent of all aluminium ever made is still in circulation. ‘You put a can in, you get a can out,’ Joe summarises.
While he’s happy with the sustainable strides Marlish have taken in the past five years, looking to the future, Joe knows it takes a lot more than aluminium cans to force real change. When buying a Marlish product, be it in a café, bar, restaurant or even on a university campus, customers will learn about the brand’s sustainable ethos and be encouraged to make greener decisions in their day-to-day lives.
‘We’re focusing much more on our point-of-sale service this year,’ he tells us. ‘It’s not just about selling aluminium cans, it’s about making sure people know why we’re selling aluminium cans, and advising them on what other sustainable changes they can make. This takes time and effort, but that’s the price we have to pay if we want a brighter future.’
In an age where a growing threat to the planet casts an unnerving shadow over our everyday lives, the need for a shift towards sustainability has never been greater. In the UK, climate change has long been a subject of protest and controversy, but recent years have seen the crisis reach its most alarming, with Parliament declaring a ‘climate change emergency’ in May 2019. To that end, local startups going above and beyond to mitigate the harmful effects of production are a blessing that will, in time, allow us to enjoy our magnificent landscapes for longer.
To find out more about Joe and Marlish Water, visit www.marlish.co.uk