Hitchin’s Ransom Naturals still leads the way in pharmaceutical and food industries – in the spirit of their founder 170 years on
- Credit: Archant
Tucked away in a corner of Hitchin, there is a team hard at work developing innovative products for the food and drink and pharmaceutical industries, carrying on the work started by their founder more than 170 years ago.
Ransom Naturals, as we now know it, began life back in 1846 when chemist William Ransom opened the first essential oils extraction drug store in Hitchin.
Mr Ransom’s business boosted the town’s economy, the stock room was filled with herbs from all over the world, and people in the community were employed to work either in his laboratory or to collect raw materials from the wild.
Mr Ransom’s pharmacist son Francis joined the business in 1913 – when the firm’s commitment to research and development was established and it was renamed William Ransom and Son.
After their deaths, Francis’ son, botanist Richard Ransom took over and drove the company through the Second World War.
And today, the firm’s work is still going strong, and is based on the principles and values it was founded upon all those years ago.
In 1981 the firm moved to Bancroft, to a spot now occupied by Sainsbury’s car park. They then relocated to their current site at the Mead Industrial Estate in Bury Mead Road in the early 21st century.
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In 2012, the company was acquired by private firm The O’Brien Group and became Ransom Naturals Limited.
A Ransom Naturals spokeswoman told the Comet: “Throughout the decades, we have successfully partnered traditional methods with an innovative approach to new product development.
“We have done so by adapting and harnessing the latest in scientific techniques in order to continue to meet the ever-changing needs of the international market and customers while staying true to their love of nature.”
In 2007, Ransom Naturals was awarded Good Manufacturing Practice accreditation, quite an achievement as they became the first herbal-related pharmaceutical company in the UK to achieve such an accolade.
Their food and drink extracts are used in products available nationwide and include everything from herbs you’ll find in your garden like basil, mint, and fennel to the more exotic plants including echinacea, ginkgo biloba and guarana.
Their specialist pharmaceutical and healthcare products include capsicum extract – where the capsaicin, or the heat from chillies, is used in creams or patches to treat pain.
They also make belladonna tincture – known as deadly nightshade, it has muscle relaxing and anti-inflammatory qualities.
The firm is constantly evolving and a £1 million expansion is set to go ahead later this year which will improve the laboratory and other facilities.
Maria Alfano, who has worked in sales and customer service for 46 years, said: “When I started with the company, everything was handwritten and we used typewriters!
“The product names were all in Latin. Orders would come through the telex/fax machine and were so long that we would measure them.”
And just as in decades gone by, Ransom employees and members of the community are urged to get outside during May and June and pick wild elderflowers products – and are paid for their haul.
The spokeswoman added: “When the fresh flowers arrive the extraction process begins almost straight away to ensure an absolutely perfect end product. “As a result, the Ransom fresh elderflower extracts have become synonymous with the finest tastes in this category.”
“This year, Ransom’s demand is greater than ever and, as a result, they are still in need an even greater abundance of fresh elderflower blossom.
“So we are hoping that everyone in a position to help will be quick and join in with the harvest! When the weather is good, it’s an excellent way to spend a morning, afternoon or evening in the countryside.”
For more information on Ransom Naturals, including details on the elderflower blossom picking, call 01462 437615 or see ransomnaturals.com.