By Scott Wright

IT has gone from an idea that came to life in a kitchen sink in Yorkhill to supplying some of Scotland’s most famous hotels in five years.

Now Rapscallion Soda, the fresh fruit-based soft drink formed by entrepreneur Gregor Leckie, stands on the brink of its biggest leap yet.

Five years on from its humble beginnings, Rapscallion has more than 160 stockists, among them the Gleneagles resort in Perthshire and the Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye. Distribution is building across Scotland and the UK, buoyed by growing consumer interest in sustainable, better-for-you soft drinks, and plans are being put together for significant expansion.

Mr Leckie and his small team make Rapscallion’s vegan, low-calorie sodas at a manufacturing facility he made, with the help of some friends, in the Gorbals area of Glasgow.

And it is a very quick process. The sodas, which are free from artificial flavours and colourings, can be canned and ready for distribution within two days of the fresh fruit arriving.

Currently, the action happens in a 1,500 square foot premises, using semi-automated equipment.

However, Mr Leckie revealed contact has been made with investors as he weighs up a move to transform the site into a 4,000 sq ft, fully-automated production facility. With sustainability a key, underlying ethos of the business, that move would be made in line with a strategy to become carbon neutral by 2022, and fully powered by renewable energy.

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“The next exciting stage for us is remodelling that facility in Glasgow to go fully-automated,” Mr Leckie told The Herald. “We are just starting to get our investment plan together. I have bootstrapped the business myself up until this point, and I think now we are ready to take the big leap into fully automated machinery.

“We want to be making double or treble our Scottish seasonal output next year, and I think we can.”

Asked how much he was looking to raise, Mr Leckie said it could be in the region of £350,000 to £500,000. As part of the investment drive, he is looking to bring on board experienced non-executive directors to broaden its expertise in areas such as digital and marketing. The level of funds it raises will ultimately be guided by “who is coming in and at which level”.

Mr Leckie, who is 33, explained: “We are bulging at the seams, but we are starting to get the masterplan together on paper and to engage with investors; [we are] trying just look for people who have got good industry knowledge, who have been there, done that.

“We need that age, we need that experience, that clout on the board of directors, and ultimately they can hold me accountable to our pretty grand ambitions.”

While Mr Leckie is confident the business is ready to take the next step, he admits it is also a bit daunting, not least because of the continuing fall-out from the pandemic that in recent months has result in carbon dioxide and aluminium can shortages.

He said: “Occasionally I flip-flop between, is this the right time to push hard? Or do we just maintain and really look after our customer base right now and just kind cruise out till summer?

“This year, for many people as well, is about survival.”

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Indeed, Mr Leckie admits his company had weathered a particularly tough period earlier in the pandemic, and credits the development of a website at breakneck speed with being critical to the survival of the business in recent months.

Mr Leckie said the website, which he built in just four days, had given the business a “whole new revenue stream” at a time when its customers in the hospitality industry were forced to close when lockdown was imposed. “The site allowed us to sell directly to consumers in their homes,” he said.

“We’re now getting the benefit of digital systems… I think we are all the stronger for it.”

Brexit has also thrown up problems too. Mr Leckie noted that talks with European distributors came to a shuddering halt amid the uncertainty over future trading relations between the UK and EU.

“Very quickly our business changed overnight,” he said. “Brexit was another kick in the teeth; there were huge price fluctuations, longer lead times, shaky suppliers.”

That Rapscallion is “small and agile” has been crucial to its ability to survive such challenges, Mr Leckie believes.

He has certainly presided over an eventful story since forming the business in 2016, which came after a long and varied career in the drinks and hospitality sector, some of which was spent in the New Zealand wine industry.

He credits the brand’s association with the burgeoning street food scene with being pivotal to its early development. Rapscallion initially began as a pop-up, appearing next to the Bier Halle on Glasgow’s Gordon Street with the people who used to run the city’s Riverside music festival. In fact, it was the founders of the Riverside festival who convinced him that he should establish Rapscallion as a fully-fledged business.

“Those guys really gave me the foot up in Glasgow, and gave me carte blanche to create what I wanted,” Mr Leckie said. “It was really from that I started to play around with fizzing Scottish seasonal fruit. The response immediately was incredible.”

Following those early days, when the drinks were literally made at its kitchen sink, the brand has built an audience through social media, word of mouth and Mr Leckie’s connections within the hospitality sector.

As well as supplying Rapscallion sodas, Mr Leckie has provided consultancy services to the spirits industry, working on new product development for major players such as Diageo and Glenmorangie.

Its links with Diageo have led Rapscallion to become a supplier to the drinks company’s new Johnnie Walker Experience on Edinburgh’s Princes Street; it is also stocked by Bonnie & Wild in the new St James Quarter nearby.

“I’m actually an east coast boy, but Glasgow was just talking to me,” he said. “There was a lot of young people doing really cool things in food and drink, and starting their own companies. I wanted to be a part of that music, food, creative scene.”


What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to for business or leisure and why?

Australia and New Zealand by far. My time spent working on vineyards and wineries taught me the techniques we now use in fresh fruit soft drink manufacture.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job, why did it appeal?

A farmer. I've always enjoyed working with my hands, and I love a hard day's graft. My first job was working on Dalmeny Estate, aged 15.

What was your biggest break in business?

Stocking the Fringe Festival in 2019, I landed a deal that quadrupled our volumes in one summer. That boost allowed me to purchase our first semi-automated canning machine and build a team.

What was your worst moment in business?

We had to stop trading for 10 weeks in January 2019 whilst we waited to have our shelf life testing accredited. I was days away from bankruptcy. I firmly believe that adversity is there to test our resilience.

Who do you most admire and why?

My parents. I was a wild child in my early years, but my parents always stood by me. Last year's lockdowns brought our family together again, and I strive to make them proud every day.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?

How to Spend a Trillion Dollars, saving the world and solving the biggest mysteries in science. Anything house or techno to help me through the late nights and early mornings! Time for Action podcast on Spotify is an incredible deep dive into the world of sustainability and how we can tackle this climate crisis. Highly recommend