Aston Manor Cider, the UK’s largest independent cider maker, has revealed that record investment and exceptional growth in the last few years has meant it believes it is better placed than any other cider maker to continue to make progress.
Gordon Johncox, managing director, said: “We have worked hard and invested significantly over several years and without question I believe we are better placed than any other cider maker to continue to grow and develop the cider category – both for retailers and for our own brands.
“In the last six years an ambitious investment programme in production facilities, our ability to develop new products and in securing our fruit requirements through new orchards has transformed our business.
“Some £30m has been spent to increase the capability and capacity of our facilities. Conservatively the new planting scheme we are embarked on will also mean a further £50m invested over the next 25 years.
“Having added to the experienced team we are being recognised for how our insight and performance is driving the market and, in particular, creating opportunities for retailers.”
“Then there are the exciting prospects from the considerable development work we have put into export markets. We expect to make progress on several fronts in the next year.”
Whilst fruit cider has helped drive the cider market, the trend appears to be slowing down. Though fruit cider has risen in popularity, 82 per cent of the category is still apple and pear cider.
Gordon continued: “As we are dedicated exclusively to producing cider, we have excellent insight. What we are seeing recently is many consumers increasingly rejecting ubiquitous, mass produced brands, and looking for something with authenticity, provenance and flavour.
“Focused on cider and participating in every sector of the category, we are excited about the platform we have to grow our brands and to achieve even more working with retailers – in both instances we see a move to more premium and authentic ciders.”
“Premium cider is the only category in growth as consumers drink less volume but are spending more on quality.
“We have the credentials and the capability to perform well in this area and are dedicating significant resources into the premium cider sector.
“We have kick started this investment with the launch of a new premium cider, under the Friels brand.
“Friels First Press Vintage is made in small batches using juice from the first press of culinary and dessert apples. The refreshment for the cider comes from a selection of apple varieties, from the 2014 harvest.
“In addition to continuing investment in the mainstream products in our portfolio, this is the start of us diversifying our offering further with a heightened focus on more premium ciders.”
Aston Manor Cider made a substantial investment in a new planting scheme which has seen almost 400,000 trees added to the landscape covering 1,000 acres of new orchards. The scheme will support farmers and growers with 25-year contracts, which will greatly increase the volume of apples processed.
In anticipation of thousands of tonnes of additional apples needing to be pressed, Aston Manor invested around £7m at a purpose-built fruit processing facility at Stourport-on-Severn.
The new operation, now fully commissioned and operational, handles around thousands tonnes of fruit, six days a week for the duration of the intensive 12-week apple pressing period.
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