Belu, the sustainable water company that supplies Fifteen, Lime Wood, and the Hoxton Grill, has hauled itself back into the black for 2008 with a wafer-thin profit.
The company made a pre-tax profit of £4,300 for the 15 months to 31 December 2008, compared with a pre-tax loss of £698,800 in the year to 30 September 2007. Meanwhile its turnover climbed to £2.7m in 2008, compared with £1.5m for 2007.
Belu, which brands itself as an environmentally friendly product, pledges to provide a person in the developing world with one month of clean water for every bottle it sells.
Over the 15 months, the firm spent £213,000 on environmental projects. The company's managing director Reed Paget told Caterer that the funds were largely used to develop plant-based plastic bottles, PVC-free bottle caps, and developing a low carbon product. It spent £22,184 on clean water projects, split between Oxfam in Bangladesh and a project in Madagascar with Fresh2O.
Paget said: "If we had not invested in being as green as can be, we could have had £1m of surplus profit since 2004 that we could have put into clean water projects. But we felt that was premature. It was better for us to get our company as sustainable as possible, with a view that we would then be green and more charitable in the future."
The accounting period for 2008 was extended to 15 months after the company, which has just 10 staff, underwent a full financial and environmental audit by accountancy firm KPMG. Normally companies with an annual turnover of under £5m are not required to call in the auditors.
Paget said: "The audited accounts take a reasonable amount of staff effort and for a small company it is time-consuming. The team that worked for us said we were the smallest company they had ever audited. There was a whole load of green claims that we wanted them to validate so that the market was aware we had ticked all the boxes."
Directors' pay for the 15 months in 2007/08 totalled £56,250. Meanwhile the company, which counts Ben Goldsmith and The Big Issue among its funders, has long-term loans totalling more than £1.5m.
Paget said that 2009 had been tough, but predicted a better 2010.
He said: "We are expecting a good year. The one big event has happened in the past year is that one of the larger drinks wholesalers, Matthew Clark, have had a range review and have chosen Belu as a green brand. As the market shifts towards eco-friendly products, we hope that will turn into a positive for us."
By Neil Gerrard
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