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Mystery that threatens cult soft drink.

ADDICTS of a cult soft drink have blown their corks because supplies of a secret ingredient have mysteriously dried up.

Marsh's Original Sass has been manufactured by Purity Soft Drinks, of Wednesbury, West Bromwich, since 1993.

The drink - with a distinctive liquorice taste - sells by the lorry-load in the north west of England.

Marsh's Original Sass was made in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, for nearly 100 years until the factory closed because of the high cost of bringing plant up to modern standards.

While Purity took over production, the rights to the top secret "No 2 acid" were retained by the Marsh family.

Now supplies of the vital ingredient have mysteriously dried up - so Sass is in danger of vanishing for ever.

Stuart Nalley, operations director of Purity Soft Drinks, said: "Sass is made to an old-fashioned recipe that used to be produced by Marsh's in Barrow.

"We provide the basic ingredients but the formula for the No 2 acid came from up north.

"A few months ago, we asked for some more because we were running out and we were told there were problems producing it.

"We do not know the exact nature of the difficulties, but it may be connected to tougher food safety regulations."

Purity Soft Drinks, founded more than 100 years ago, is the largest glass-returnable soft drinks firm in the country.

The family-owned company produces 12 million bottles a year under the Purity, T. Mason and own-brand labels. It is also a contract packer for Pepsi, Virgin Cola and Britvic.

The firm used to despatch 12,000 bottles of Marsh's Sass to Barrow-in-Furness and surrounding area every month.

Sass drinkers in Cumbria are in anguish and despair at the drought. Fans guzzle it by the gallon and even send bottles to friends and relatives around the world.

Scott Mercer, of Ulverston, near Barrow-in-Furness, said: "Life will be unbearable without Sass."

Phyllis Hardcastle, of Barrow, who has been downing six bottles of the elixir every week for the past 65 years, said: "I am horrified."

No one was available from the secret ingredient suppliers to shed further light on the mystery.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 31, 1999
Words:353
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