Sandford Orchards, one of the fastest growing challenger brands in the cider industry, has bucked the business trend during the pandemic by investing £1.2 million into expanding its bottling and canning capabilities and developing and implementing a new branding strategy. Sandford Orchards, whose ethos is to produce the best tasting cider ‘done right’ is now well placed to meet an increased demand for real cider driven by a strong consumer interest in authenticity and quality.
Barny Butterfield, Chief Cidermaker comments: “Whilst other businesses have retrenched during the last twelve months we have taken the opportunity to press forward with our expansion plans buoyed by an ever-growing number of consumers who are looking for an antidote to the standard commercial cider brands.”
Barny explains: “ At the end of 2019, we made the strategic decision to invest heavily in a full rebrand and we appointed award-winning branding agency Kingdom & Sparrow and market research agency Branding Express, who conducted focus groups across the UK. Blind tastings showed that consumers unanimously agreed that our cider tasted delicious, more natural and flavourful than mainstream alternatives. Our research also confirmed that there was a great opportunity for us as our ciders are far higher quality than the cheap mass produced ciders available but more accessible than the pricey craft options. This gave us the confidence to continue to invest in 2020 with the implementation of the rebrand and an expansion of our packaging capability to include setting up our own canning line for the first time.”
Barny elaborates: “At the beginning of the first lockdown our usual canning business became too busy to provide us with the capacity that we needed. We knew that canned cider offered us a huge potential market, as it is not well served by quality craft ciders, so we took the plunge and invested in our own in-house canning line which delivers 3,500 cans of cider per hour. In the same period we also purchased brand new state of the art bottling machinery to allow us to meet the growing demand for our products and match our ambitious projections. This has tripled our bottling rate to an impressive 6000 bottles an hour. Alongside this, we have also increased automation in our kegging line thus ensuring that we control the whole process from orchard to glass and have the ability to meet future demands.”
Barny continues: “We believe that we make the best tasting cider and we are proud to do it properly taking a fresh, natural, low impact approach and using the best apples in the world. With our new branding and expanded capacity we are starting 2021 in a strong position to meet the needs of our fast growing fan base as well as those consumers wanting to trade up to something more authentic and better tasting. We make simply great cider and we are optimistic that 2021 will be a simply great year for us.”
Founded in 2002, independent, family-owned Sandford Orchards is based in Mid Devon in the oldest working cider mill in the UK. They press and ferment whole juice from the finest locally grown bittersweet apples and age it to perfection to create beautifully balanced and naturally refreshing cider.
Sandford Orchards’ range of ciders includes session ciders and a selection of flavoured ciders which will soon be joined by some brand new vintage ciders due to be launched in March.
Gordon Johncox, the chair of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) and the chief executive of Aston Manor Cider, addressed MPs, government officials and industry figures to outline a British success story in need of support.
Gordon outlined how collaboration across the industry by cider makers of all scales is a positive feature, though the hard-pressed sector still needs support from government.
As a relatively small industry, representing the best interests of every cider maker informs all aspects of activity of the NACM. The vision of the association is that all producers can operate successfully and fairly in a competitive market, whilst continuing to support their communities, employees and apple growers.
To enable this, he called for a balanced regulatory environment for cider makers reflecting the unique circumstances of producers. In particular, MPs, Ministers and officials were urged to deliver a consistent application of regulations.
Gordon challenged the Government’s willingness to understand the specific situations of cider makers. While headlines from the Autumn budget stated that cider duty was frozen, ciders in the middle duty band received a 25% tax increase, impacting many small cider makers.
Following his speech, Gordon commented: “Cider businesses of all sizes are working hard to deliver a sustainable future for the benefit of consumers and the rural environment. The industry is a significant part of British heritage.
“We need the support of politicians to work with us to return cider to more positive results, remove red tape and the unnecessary rules that limit innovation and investment. This support can enable cider makers produce fantastic products that interest in our category.
“We work to see every cider maker flourish and grow in line with their ambitions, whilst maintaining the highest standards. We firmly believe that with our collaborative nature and how we support one another this can be achieved when we can rely on consistent and sensible legislation.
“In recent months we have seen members providing orcharding experts when others experience weather related problems, large companies have supported smaller producers to expand their packaging ranges. When something is challenging or if advice is needed, small producers will always be supported, and to me, this is why the UK cider industry is so very special.”
The Parliamentary Cider Group Reception was an opportunity to showcase the best of British cider, which is home to the largest cider market in the world. The evening was attended by cider makers from across the South West, Midlands and further afield, as well as many MPs that represent cider making regions within their constituencies.
The NACM is the UK cider industry representative body, working on behalf of large and small producers:
375g eating apples (3), peeled, cored and finely diced
120g dark muscovado sugar
¼ tsp powdered ginger
½ tsp garlic salt
¼ heaped tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp chilli flakes
4-5 rasps of nutmeg
Place all the ingredients in a large pan. Bring to the boil and keep on a medium to high heat for the first 15 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes or so.
Reduce the heat to medium and keep it bubbling away so that it starts to reduce. Keep stirring the relish every 5 minutes.
The relish is ready when it goes darker in colour and the liquid evaporates. This should take about 45 -55 minutes. Allow the relish to cool. Serve in a pretty bowl or jar on a cheese board along with your favourite crackers.
Fuss Free tips!
If the relish needs to reduce to a darker colour and there is no liquid left add a splash of hot water. If you wanted to make enough for just one event you could halve the recipe and it will cook in 30 minutes.
If you wanted to store the relish for a longer period, follow your usual preserving methods or sterilize some jars by placing glass jars in an oven for 15 minutes at 150˚C/300˚F/Gas Mark 2 and boiling the lids in water. Place the relish in the jars whilst they are hot and place wax paper over the top.