Worker Bee: meet Deanne Blake, founder of award-winning ginger drinks brand Root2Ginger

Manchester-born Deanne launched her all-natural soft drinks brand to celebrate her Jamaican heritage and family traditions
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Mother of three Deanne Blake comes from a family who are crazy about ginger. Her dad always had a can of ginger beer handy; a shot of blitzed fresh ginger on a teaspoon would be a regular morning pick-me-up, and they would also enjoy ginger and hot water as a warming night-time drink.

After taking a while to get the balance of flavours just right, Deanne began making ginger cordials as presents for friends and family at special occasions. During the pandemic she started playing with the recipe, adding other natural flavourings such as spices, pimento and mint to make four different varieties. Deanne then packaged her alcohol-free drink into flint glass bottles with a label influenced by the collage work of her favourite artist Jean-Michel Basquiat with a gold leaf finish.

Earlier this year Deanne also entered Root2Ginger drinks into the Great Taste Awards 2022 where thousands of products from all over the world are judged by a panel of experts. To her delight, all four of them returned with awards. R2G Fiery was awarded with one star, R2G Mint and R2G Fierce (made for the brave) we awarded two stars, while R2G Spiced (infused with green cardamon, Ceylon cinnamon, star anise and pimento) was awarded the highest (and rarest) accolade of a Great Taste three-star award.

Tell us about yourself. Your background and recent projects…

I was born and bred in Manchester, raised in a large family. I am the eldest of seven sisters. I am the mother of three amazing children all of whom play an active part in our family business.

I resigned from a senior management role in a private fostering company three months ago in order to work full time on Root2Ginger and develop our business both nationally and hopefully in the future internationally.

What got you started in your field of work?

I have Jamaican heritage and grew up drinking ginger beer as a family treat with traditional Jamaican patties. I watched my mother and aunties make ginger drinks over the years and began following this family tradition over 25 years ago. I gifted my ginger drinks to family and friends at Christmas and many of them insisted that I should make more of it throughout the year but I was too busy.

During the pandemic I had more time on my hands and realised people were more concerned about their health. It was an opportunity to raise awareness about the health benefits of ginger as well as make an enjoyable drink. It was during this time that I developed my branding and perfected my first two recipes for production and the vision for our family business began to take shape. I had no idea that our drinks would be such a success but quickly found that there was a demand for them in both the alcohol and alcohol free drinks market.

Who have been the biggest influences on your work?

My Mother, Aunty G and my Aunt Nen, I have childhood memories from the age of five of them making ginger beer in their kitchens. They made a wide range of drinks from fresh ingredients including pineapple punch, Guinness punch, carrot juice, sorrel, etc, and they were all great cooks and bakers. They were hard working women who were particular about how they did things and had a strong work ethic holding professional jobs whilst raising their families and being active in their communities.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

I have two. Our first day of trading at Alty Market on 1st May 2021. Me and my three children had such a great day and our stall looked just as we had planned, we were so happy that day as it was all new to us and we did it. Also our recent achievement of gaining Great Taste Awards for all four drinks in our product range on our very first entry. This includes three stars for our Spiced which was developed as our family evening comfort drink during the lockdown. I began to throw spices in our ginger mix and make hot tea during the evening, it was a happy accident and we are delighted with it.

What does your typical day involve?

I wake up at approx 5.30am and enjoy the silence of the morning and watching the sunrise. I try but don’t always succeed in starting the day with some exercise, usually a walk or swim. I then go through my emails and messages and order stock as required. I am currently seeking new retailers so this involves having meetings and visiting potential stockists and wholesalers to do tastings. We allocate specific days to cold press fresh Peruvian ginger and batch our drinks which are still made by us as a family.  When not preparing for markets across the UK or events like BBC Good Food Show we also provide cocktail events for Manchester clients, showcasing our drinks to make a range of alcohol and alcohol free cocktails. Each day is varied and I love that it provides an opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills. I have a lot to learn and so far I am enjoying the career switch and all the creative energy it has generated in me.

And how do you relax on your days off?

Running a new business is full time and I don’t really have a dedicated day off but when I do take time out I enjoy being outdoors camping/glamping, spending time with my children, walks in Saddleworth, going to the theatre or cinema and seeing my family and friends.

What is the best advice you have been given or can give?

Believe in your product, use quality ingredients and take care in what you do.

If things hadn’t worked out, what else could you have seen yourself doing?

I am a qualified teacher and social worker with over 30 years of professional experience in children services, policy, performance management and quality assurance. I enjoyed a long career at Manchester City Council followed by several years as a self employed consultant and more recently in a private company.

Tell us one thing about yourself people might be surprised to hear… 

My middle name but it shall remain a surprise, ha ha!

Red or Blue?

Neither sorry I’ve never been interested in football, tennis is more my thing. I am glued to the TV during Wimbledon.

If you could change one thing about Manchester, what would it be?

I would return Piccadilly Gardens to the wonderful flower beds and a place of contemplation, I have fond memories of sitting there with my mum and sisters when I was younger. This was the pit stop for us before we got the bus home after a day shopping in town. Now it is a reminder to us all of Manchester’s homeless population and the need for the city to do more to accommodate people with permanent places to live.

And finally, what do you love most about Manchester?

Definitely the people. I think we’re the friendliest people and I love the Northern sense of humour. Having lived for some years in London and Bristol, I appreciate the North even more and was glad to come home. I’m a proud Manucunian with Jamaican heritage.

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Root2 Ginger concentrated ginger drinks are hand crafted using premium organic products including cold pressed Peruvian ginger root, raw cane sugar, lemon juice, fresh limes and spices with no artificial colours, additives or flavourings. All you need to do is add still, sparkling or even hot water – they even add a fiery kick to a mojoto or a rum punch. They are available online, at Altrincham Market and selected farm shops and independent retailers.

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