A SOMERSET man turned his obscure hobby into an international business - collecting FRUIT STICKERS.

Carl Middleton, 55, began accumulating the colourful labels from fruit including apples, bananas and oranges nearly two decades ago.

He would visit as many shops and local markets as possible to grab the weirdest designs he could find before compiling thousands in books.

This pastime has since grown into a profitable enterprise for Carl - who now ships his arty albums to countries including Italy and Canada.

But he still keeps around ten books at home for personal use - and carries one at all times so he can grab any stickers that catch his eye.

He estimates that he has made "approaching 5,000" albums to date - and counting.

Carl said: "I was interested by the variety - that sort of inspired it. I collect all and any.

"They're interesting in terms of they're a small scale but there's a lot of information and such a variety on them.

"Some people have strange relationships with their albums. Some are on their third, fourth, fifth.

"I used to rent desk space from an architectural company. I think they have kept theirs going for about 18 years!"

Graphic designer Carl started collecting fruit stickers in 2002 after walking past a fridge plastered in all manner of colours and designs.

He's been in love with the hobby ever since and developed it into a business by almost chance.

The idea for the albums were initially developed as a means of encouraging healthy eating in children - but have since become popular with all ages.

His books now sell for £5 online, in a variety of colours - although his other half has not always been keen.

He said: "My wife has always complained. She would say: 'When are you going to give these things away?!'.

"I was in a studio and they were having an open event and I needed to contribute.

"[I] decided to make an artist's book and that was where the first one came from. They sold out quickly so I made another 50 and they went again.

"People have then got in contact and placed orders - from Canada, London, Scotland and Milan.

"I've got an Etsy and eBay account which I sell them from. I'm approaching 5,000.

"I have never really pushed it. I was asked if I [sold the albums] wholesale and it went from there.

"I would be the worst person on 'Dragons' Den'!

"There are no rules - simply eat fruit, collect stickers (in no particular order) and fill your album. Once full - buy another one."

Carl, from Milverton, Somerset, will keep an eye out whenever he's out and about for new additions for his own collection.

He said: "I really like the ones that are badly printed, or the colours don't match.

"I used to keep a record of every one that I bought but that got a bit lively.

"There's a guy in Norway who has got 42,000 different stickers!

"It was better when I lived in London - there seemed to be more on offer.

"But there's an unwritten rule - you are supposed to buy the fruit!"