Chapel Down’s wine, beer and cider sales up 15% to £11.8m

English drinks group Chapel Down has announced that its sales rose by 15% in 2017 to £11.8 million, with the company estimating that it now represents over half of the growth in English sparkling wine in the UK off-trade.

Announcing its results for the year ending 31 December 2017, Chapel Down revealed that its wine sales alone were up 20% to £8.12 million, compared to £6.8m in 2016. Its beer and cider sales, sold by its Curious Drinks brand, also experienced growth, and were up by 7% to reach £3.68m, up from £3.44m the previous year.

In its statement, the company also revealed that the decision to enter the US market had paid off, having reached its target of selling 10,000 bottles of sparkling wine within its first full year in the country.

This follows a successful crowdfunding campaign, launched in December 2017, which secured £18.53 through the issue of new shares and a further £1.47m through an open offer to existing shareholders. The group also launched two spirits, a gin and a vodka made from Bacchus and Chardonnay grapes respectively, which are now stocked in Majestic outlets as well as on-trade accounts including Le Gavroche, Roux at Landau, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

Sales in the winery shop totalled £1.5 million (up 16%) with the pop-up site in Bluewater contributing a further £170,000. Despite the growth in sales, gross margin on wine was slightly down (40%, down from 43% in 2016) which the company attributes to “euro exchange rates and increased cost of raw materials”.

The wine producer has planted 50 acres of new vines this spring, meaning that it now has added 172 acres of vines on leased land since 2015. It sources fruit from 533 acres, including 24 partner vineyards, and has plans to double this acreage to over 1,000 over the next three to four years.

 

On the beer and cider side, the new Curious Drinks brewery is set to open in the first quarter of 2019 at a cost of £1.3 million, bringing an estimated 160 full-time jobs and 50 additional supply chain jobs to the area.

The brewer acquired planning permission from Ashford Borough Council back in October 2016, and between 2015 and 2016, raised over £1.7 million to fund the project with the help of 895 investors. It completed payment for the site in November 2017. It will begin test brewing on the site later this year.

In his statement, CEO Frazer Thompson praised his team and in particular the new managing director for beer and cider, Gareth Bath, who joined the company in October 2017 from his position as managing director at BrewDog. In the off-trade, the beers are sold through Majestic and Waitrose while the brewer also launched its canned variant into 232 Tesco stores nationally.

After stating that Britons will “starve if the labour issue is not sorted after Brexit,” Thompson also stated that: “We are lobbying as an industry and are confident that there will be a solution given the strategic and cultural importance of a strong domestic food and drink industry and the growing importance of tourism to our economy.

He added: “Brexit has had no significant impact on our business to date”.

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