Independent cider producer Aston Manor Cider is investing in an entirely new multi-million pound fruit processing facility at Stourport-on-Severn.
Progress on the entirely new location is sufficiently advanced for it to have already started to accept apples to be milled and pressed when it was expected that the development would be first become operational for the 2014 harvest.
Having announced in April that 1,000 acres of new orchards would be planted to support the growth and development of Aston Manor Cider, the new capacity and capability at the Stourport site is a vital element of the long-term plan of the business.
Gordon Johncox, managing director at Aston Manor said: “Our planting scheme is vital to our progress as is this purpose-built operation commissioned ahead of schedule and already pressing apples.
“Whilst it will be a number of years before the new orchards yield a crop at the level we expect, we are adding some 350,000 trees to the landscape and we need to have the quality of infrastructure to cope with up to 30,000 tonnes of fruit each season in just a few years from now.
“In its own right, Stourport represents a significant investment; however, it needs to be considered in light of the commitment we are making to our growers – on a conservative estimate, we will spend over £50m in the next 25 years on just the apples grown from the planting scheme.
“There will be more besides from our existing orchards and all of that will be pressed here to be used in the fabulous ciders we make.”
Rodney Clifford, production director at Aston Manor Cider is responsible for the new factory and the planting scheme, he said: “I am delighted that we have made better progress than we could have expected and that the early results reflect the quality of operation we have put in place.
“With considerable investment we have succeeded in dramatically improving both our capacity and capability – we already believed our operations offered greater flexibility than any other cider maker, and this extends that advantage further.”
The new cider press will handle around 800 tonnes of fruit a day, six days a week throughout the harvest period. There is scope to extend the capacity of the new facility.
The apple varieties selected and being planted have been carefully considered to deliver the character and quality of juice required by the cider makers and also to seek to extend the harvest to improve the efficiency of the pressing operation.
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