Babycham was a highly successful pear cider drink that was established in Britain from the early 1950s.
The Showering family had a long association with the inn-keeping and brewing trade in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, dating back to the 18th century.
Albert Edward Showering (1874 – 1946), a small-scale brewer, owned three public houses in Shepton Mallet by 1928. He had four sons, and two of them, Herbert (1906 – 1974) and Francis (1912 – 1995) were to prove instrumental in the subsequent growth of the business.
Arthur Edward Showering (1899 – 1979) took over the license of the Ship Inn on Kilver Street, Shepton Mallet, which was owned by his father Albert, in 1921. The rear of the Ship Inn housed a small brewery.
Showerings was incorporated as a private company in 1932, with Herbert Showering as chairman. Cider production was established by this time. Albert Edward Showering retired in 1934.
Francis Showering, a trained chemist, was manager of the Showerings cider mill by 1939. He was a stocky, hard-working, no-nonsense West Countryman. Francis Showering was managing director of Showerings by 1949.
Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, Showerings won numerous awards for the quality of its bottled ciders.
After years of research and development, Francis Showering developed a new sterile filtration process that improved the shelf quality of perry (pear cider). The product was clear and sparkling, and reminiscent of champagne.
The sale of perry in Britain at the time was very small. The Showering brothers instigated extensive market research in the Bristol area by conducting numerous pub crawls to ascertain the popularity of their new perry product.
Francis Showering determined to market the product towards women, and the Babycham trademark was registered in 1950. The product was packaged in 4 liquid ounce (118ml) “baby bottles”.
In order to prioritise the production of Babycham, brewing ceased from 1952, and apple cider production ended in early 1953. Babycham was launched nationwide from 1953 and demand immediately exceeded all expectations.
Herbert Showering was responsible for marketing the product, and advertising commenced from September 1953. Advertising was to heavily emphasise its similarity to champagne. Sales quickly boomed. Advertising agency Masius Wynne-Williams created the Chinese water deer mascot for the brand.
A significant factor behind the success of Babycham was that it appealed to the relatively untapped female market. At the same time, bottled beers and ciders were becoming increasingly popular over draught drinks due to their more consistent quality. Furthermore, the brewers who owned much of the licensed premises in Britain readily introduced Babycham to their public houses, as it was not in direct competition with beer.
Showerings was unable to meet demand for Babycham in the pre-Christmas period of 1954. Rather than compromise on product quality, which could have increased supply, strict rationing of Babycham was introduced.
Babycham became the first alcoholic product to be advertised on British television in 1955. Around £300,000 was spent on advertising between 1953 and 1956.
The success of Babycham turned the Showerings brothers into millionaires.
Showerings acquired R N Coate & Co of Nailsea, Somerset, one of the four largest cider manufacturers in Britain, in 1956.
Showerings was converted into a public company in 1959. Over 1,000 people were employed. By this time Showerings bought much of Britain’s perry pear crop, as well as importing the fruit from Europe.
Aided by heavy marketing expenditure, annual sales of Babycham reached £8 million by 1961.
William Gaymer & Son of Norfolk was acquired in 1961. Gaymer was one of the largest cider manufacturers in Britain, and claimed to be the oldest. The deal turned Showerings into the second largest cider manufacturer in the world.
Showerings merged with Allied Breweries in 1968.
2.5 million bottles of Babycham were produced every week by 1969, consuming the majority of British pear production.
90 percent of licensed premises in Britain sold Babycham by 1977.
Babycham was made with 25 percent apple cider by 1979.