Cider manufacturer raises glass to record revenues

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Birmingham-based Aston Manor Cider has hailed the resilience of the business as it responded to the toughest trading period in its 40 year history with record revenues.

The company posted revenue of £154m for 2020, up from £137m in 2019, during a year when the hospitality sector was closed for several months.

Aston Manor said the performance was only possible because of a significant change in the product mix across different formats and a consistent programme of investment over several years.

That investment was evident again in 2020, when despite the restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business completed a £6.6m investment project to install a new packaging line and related works to reduce energy usage and transport movements at the Aston site.

The new line has enhanced the capability to pack different products in cans of different sizes and also with different shape profiles.

This supports the development of Aston Manor products, the exclusive and private label drinks packaged for customers, and further increases the capability the business has as an expert contract packer.

Chief executive Gordon Johncox said: “We pride ourselves on our teamwork and being ambitious in what we can achieve, though even with high standards, the response throughout 2020 and since has been remarkable.

“I am enormously proud of how people in all parts of Aston Manor stepped up in the face of a trading environment never encountered in our history.”

He added: “The whole hospitality sector has had to close for extended periods and has suffered terribly since March 2020 – and we are doing all we can to support a return to sustainable business levels in such a vital sector of the UK economy.

“In the take home sector, there was considerable disruption at the outset and during the three ‘lockdowns’ everyone experienced. And whilst some of the sales lost in the hospitality sector did switch to supermarkets and other stores, alcohol sales were markedly down in both 2020 and so far in 2021.”

These fundamental change in the drinks market meant both the products made and the packaging formats used were different to those forecast. In addition, the business moved quickly to introduce new working practices, provided personal protection equipment (PPE), and implemented other measures to ensure the wellbeing of employees.

The net effect increased the anticipated operating costs, with the operating profit for the business matching the figure for 2019 (at £2.6m).

Johncox said: “In unprecedented times, I am delighted to report that Aston Manor continued to make progress on the things that are important to us – namely, product quality, manufacturing excellence, and increased sustainability.

“We continue to invest in our focus areas of product quality, sustainability, and manufacturing excellence. And we will develop new drinks and target new markets to ensure we remain a flexible, capable and successful business.”