Capital expenditure of £5m in 2015, bringing the investment total to £30m over the last five years, is identified as the reason Aston Manor Cider continues to outperform expectations and transform its business. The numbers, revealed as the accounts for 2015 are filed, point to a consistent investment approach and are a clear signal of the confidence the management team has in their future prospects.
Also reported is a 27% increase in export sales despite activity in some overseas markets being scaled back. The Birmingham-based business also posted results that reflect how it outperformed the UK cider market, the largest cider market in the world.
Gordon Johncox, managing director at Aston Manor Cider, said: “We are committed to investment that increases our capability and capacity.“When we do this we can do more for our customers, we increase our resilience and we are able to change our mix of business. Building a sustainable and successful cider business means exploiting profitable export opportunities selectively and strong performance in the UK. The progress we have made in the last few years in the UK has been to shift a greater proportion of our sales to more premium products and exit low-value business – whilst still doing better than the total market in what are very challenging conditions.”
UK cider sales have fallen in the last two years and whilst not immune to prevailing market conditions, Aston Manor is doing better than the category as a whole.
Gordon Johncox added: “Aston Manor Cider is in good shape, is focused on cider and in our view better equipped than any other producer to grow and develop the cider category.
“We take the view that our marketing investment should add value and avoid the price promotions that depress value to chase volume.
“The slight dip in our UK sales is better than the experience for the total market, though is a reflection of how tough trading has been – not helped by a poor summer in 2015.”
The investment programme includes the development of a world-class fruit pressing and processing mill in Stourport-on-Severn and regular upgrades across all sites.
This has resulted in all of its production facilities being awarded the highest possible rating for quality of operations from the British Retail Consortium.
Aston Manor is the only cider maker with two production sites with an AA* rating – only obtained after an unscheduled audit visit.
As well as in production and logistics, in the last year Aston Manor committed record investment in their portfolio of award-winning brands.
Gordon Johncox said: “We pride ourselves on being the only producer who offers a quality cider to cover every consumer and every occasion, and our new product development and partnerships enhance this.
“We have extended our relationship with the RFL and in Rugby League, giving us a great platform for consumer engagement. This also supports our successful work to grow our on-trade sales where the distribution deal for Kingstone Press cider with Marston’s PLC has grown sales in that channel by 15%.”
On the outlook for 2016 and beyond, Gordon added: “Whilst the cider industry will remain very challenging, we anticipate that we will outperform the market again. We’re pleased with how we have improved the mix of business we do and that we are able to invest to support the future success we expect to see at home and abroad.”