The Showerings family been linked to drinks-related industries in Shepton Mallet, Somerset for over 14 generations.
In the 1940’s four brothers - Arthur, Herbert, Ralph and Francis - grew up with their father owning pubs locally. Fast forward to adulthood, and Herbert had a fledgling business idea of which he invited his brother, Francis to join. Trained as a chemist, Francis had a fantastic palate and therefore quickly became responsible for creating all Showerings products, including Babycham - a trailblazing drink for women in post-war Britain.
'Three Babycham lorries loaded with Pear Juice from Switzerland'
WW2 And The Female Stereotype
From 1939 – 1945, World War 2 raged throughout the country, and men went to war for the second time. Many women played a vital role in keeping the country moving at home by doing jobs that were traditionally thought of to be male roles, that were unladylike, or it was thought they were not capable of doing.
Breaking down these boundaries, women picked up the male jobs, and began to enjoy similar activities to the men, and after a day’s work, they would go to the pub with their friends and have a drink. Prior to this, it was seen as ‘taboo’ for women to go to the pub, and on the rare occasion they did, they were not to go up to the bar directly, and their male partner had to order their drink for them. Women were not able to drink spirits of any kind, halves, or pints, as it was considered unladylike. The traditional alcoholic drink choices for women consisted of port and lemon or half a stout.
As the war ended in 1945, morale in the country was at an all-time high. Women were entering pubs with their partners and celebrating alongside their male family and friends. They would regularly order champagne to drink as a treat!
Herbert saw all these changes in social status and behaviour in women and decided to develop a drink that could be consumed in a similar fashion to champagne and aimed solely at women.
Plant Pears For Your Heirs
At the time, the Showerings were only producing apple cider, and when visiting local orchards to buy the latest harvest, they noticed pears which would have otherwise gone to waste. Never ones to miss out on an opportunity, the brothers decided to purchase the pears and create a pear-based drink. Here begins the story of Babycham.
Francis was always investigating new ways to perfect the taste of his new creations, and in that process came across the Wasser pear. This unique fruit could only be found in Switzerland and was used at the time to make a pear-based spirit. The brothers propagated the tree, grafted it with another variation of perry pear, and planted thousands of acres of the plant in locally bought farms in and round Shepton Mallet.
Champagne De La Poire
Originally, Babycham was listed under the name, Champagne De La Poire, inspired by the natural gases produced during the fermentation process of the drink. Traditionally during perry production, CO2 is blended into the liquid, but due to the special qualities of the Wasser pear, the CO2 was formed naturally when the fruit fermented, which gives Babycham it’s gentle sparkle.
The brothers always felt that the name Champagne De La Poire was a mouthful, and not the easiest to say, especially when trying to order a drink in a crowded pub. The brand’s advertising agency came to the factory, to try and come up with a new name, and they spent hours batting ideas back and forth to no avail…
Towards the end of the meeting, the transport manager for the factory asked the brothers, “Where would you like the baby cham sent to?”. The production staff had been referring to the large (750ml) bottles of Champagne De La Poire as ‘big cham’ and the smaller bottles, as ‘baby cham’. The name stuck and grew into the brand and name we know today!
The Launch Of TV & Advertising
It was the brainchild of Herbert Showering to advertise Babycham on TV. The popular TV channel, ITV, was about to launch so the brothers went in search of an advertising agency.
The Showerings approached the best advertising agency at the time who were based in London and pitched their idea to agency owner Jack Wynne-Williams. Following the meeting, the agency asked what the budget was for such exposure, of which there was none. Jack Wynne-Williams could see the potential in the brothers, and in Babycham, so he took a chance on the company and agreed to take on the account free of charge as a sign of goodwill.
'An early Babycham television advert'
Ever grateful, Herbert joked to Jack Wynne-Williams that they would buy him a Rolls Royce once they hit £1 million in sales! 12 months after this joke had been made, Jack Wynne-Williams was visiting the brothers, and at the end of their meeting, a Rolls Royce key was slid over the table to him. As promised, a brand-new Rolls Royce was parked outside waiting for Jack with the personalised number plate - JWW1. This act of kindness was featured in Murray Walker’s autobiography as the single, most generous thing that he had come across in his marketing career.
Babycham became the first alcohol advert to ever appear on television, and the second ever advert to appear on television at all, alongside Colgate toothpaste.
Its Own Glamorous Glass
When Babycham first began advertising on TV, demand for the drink exploded and manufacturing equipment had to be upgraded regularly to keep up with the demand. When it was first installed, Showerings owned the fastest bottling line in the world, and where demand increased, so did the distribution. At one point, it was rumoured that there were only 2 pubs in the country that did not sell Babycham. Ironically, those pubs were both based in Shepton Mallet, a mere stone’s throw away from where the drink is made.
As Babycham was a feminine brand, when it was first sold in pubs, outside of a pint glass, there were only a few glasses that it could be served in. The brothers decided it would be a good idea to invest in creating new glassware specifically for Babycham, and that is where the iconic glass comes into the story. Modelled off the popular champagne glass of the time, the Babycham glass was a hit.
Babycham was originally produced in 200ml bottles but was reduced to a 100ml bottle to coincide with the similarities between Babycham and champagne, as a classic champagne measure was 100ml.
The advertising agency then scooped up this idea and ran with it, and Babycham began being advertised as ‘The genuine champagne perry.’, ‘The Babycham bottle fills a champagne glass.’ and ‘The genuine champagne perry sparkling in its own glamorous glass’.
The Landlady's Tipple
After Babycham was created, the company often ran blind tastings to test how well the drink would perform. Babycham was served alongside champagne, and the consensus was that everyone preferred the light, refreshing sparkling perry that was Babycham.
At pubs and bars, drinks were ordered and as a tip for the landlady (who was usually the person serving at the bar) the customer would order ‘one for you too’, so Babycham became the drink of choice for landladies behind the bar. For a while, Babycham became known as ‘The Landlady’s Tipple’ for this reason.
The Chinese Water Deer
What made Babycham so iconic was the charming deer. Featuring on all the adverts, bottles, and glasses it became a firm favourite and intrinsically associated with the brand.
The Babycham deer was inspired by the Chinese Water Deer. They are larger than a muntjac, but slightly smaller than a roe deer with large fluffy ears and a small black nose, giving them a similar appearance to a teddy bear. The Showerings purchased 3 of these deer from the Duke of Bedford and allowed them to roam in their own grounds and, over time, the herd grew over time to roughly 24 deer.
Babycham Is Back Home!
Following the sale of Babycham to Accolade wines in the 1990’s, the brand somewhat disappeared for a while… that was until 2021, when the current owners of Showerings, the 4 brothers of Matthew, Francis, Jonathan and Daniel purchased our beloved Babycham and brought it back home to Shepton Mallet, Somerset where it firmly belongs and where once again it will be loved and like a family member.