One of the UK’s largest independent cider producers bought by French firm

Aston Manor Cider, the owner of brands including Kingstone Press, Crumpton Oaks and Frosty Jacks, has been bought by French farming and food cooperative Agrial Group for an undisclosed sum.

Announcing the move in a statement on 31 August, Aston Manor said that deal provides “a hugely exciting opportunity to create a global force in cider” and that the “strategic fit between the two companies is compelling”.

Founded in 1983, Aston Manor claims to be the UK’s largest independent cider producer and has a portfolio which includes Kingstone Press, Crumpton Oaks, Knights, Frosty Jacks, Golden Valley, Chardolini and Friels.

It has production and packaging facilities in both Birmingham and Tiverton and has orchards in Worcestershire and Herefordshire. After investing £10 million in its Tiverton site to expand production capacity, it later added a further processing and pressing facility in Stourport-on-Severn in 2013. The following year, it also announced a multi-million pound project to build a further logistics hub a short distance from its main production site.

Exporting its cider range to over 20 countries, the company also produces own-label ciders for a range of different clients.

Gordon Johncox, chief executive of Aston Manor Cider commented: “Aston Manor have been looking at strategic options and for a partner to continue the growth of the company and in doing so to broaden our offering.

“With Agrial we have found this partner, a strong group with a well-developed portfolio of products and a well-developed international platform. The operating philosophy and values of Agrial are closely aligned to our own and the leadership of Aston Manor are delighted with this agreement and the opportunities it brings.”

Agrial Group operates within the milk, fruit and vegetables, beverages and meat sectors and is France’s largest cider producer.

Marc Roubaud, managing director of the drinks division of Agrial commented: “It was crucial for Agrial to assert our global ambitions in the cider market by gaining a foothold in the World’s largest cider market, close to our heartland and the orchards of our members.

“Aston Manor Cider and Agrial are companies with a similar profile and with shared priorities on both brands and private label and we are excited to combine our strengths to offer all our customers”.

The global cider category is strengthening, growing by 2.5% in 2017, the equivalent of 6.3 million nine-litre cases. Back in July, in the UK, it was reported that the British apple harvest was progressing well, although the prolonged dry spell was beginning to cause undue to stress to the trees. The heatwave, however, did boost sales of cider over the summer months. 

Prior to the warm weather, in the year ending 25 February 2018 spending on beer and cider rose 6.3% or £191 million in the UK off-trade.

The category has seen considerable investment in the past year, with Scottish craft beer giant BrewDog investing in London-based urban cidery Hawkes back in April. 

In January, US beer giant Molson Coors bought Aspall Cider in a deal thought to be worth £40 million. Trade fair ProWein also gave cider a share of the limelight, while cider has also capitalised on the trend for pink drinks. 

In addition, cider brands including Magners, Bulmers, Addlestones and Blackthorn are set to benefit from the acquisition of Matthew Clark, Bibendum and their other subsidiaries by their owner, the C&C group, along with AB InBev.

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