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Aston Manor has reported a net profit of £0.4m for 2021, down from £1.6m in 2020 given, ‘the most difficult trading period in decades.’

Gordon Johncox, chief executive, said: “Very many businesses and commentators suggested that 2020 was exceptionally challenging, though our assessment is that 2021 was every bit as difficult, if not more so.”

“Our response was exceptional and driven by the commitment of our people and sustained investment in our capability over several years, we maintained a focus on continuity of product availability to our customers.

“Though, we are not immune to supply chain issues and the seemingly relentless increase in input costs with the shortening of notification periods. We have taken steps to mitigate the impact as far as possible, though we have no option to increase our prices and review elements of our product mix.”

Turnover was down to £139m, from £154m in 2020, as the business took the necessary strategic decisions to withdraw from sub optimal sales agreements.

The contribution from expanded contract packing operations was a worthwhile feature of the mix of business secured.

The cost of materials and energy all increased significantly during 2021. At times, vital resources like CO2 were either very scarce or simply unavailable. The business acted to secure essential supplies and to mitigate the adverse impacts of global supply problems.

Aston Manor also report that investment in enhanced capability and to increase the sustainability of operations has continued into 2022 and will continue in 2023 and beyond.

The investment in the development of employees also saw the launch of several wellbeing initiatives and a new leadership development programme.

Independent recognition of product quality and exceptional packaging design across Aston Manor brands and private label was also very much to the fore in 2021. Across three major international competitions including the World Cider Awards, Aston Manor received 23 product quality and 5 design awards – a record.

Gordon Johncox added: “Whether for value ciders right through to the most premium drinks in our own portfolio or for businesses we are a partner for, product quality and outstanding design are priorities for us, as is addressing the need for greater sustainability.”

Reflecting the commitment to production excellence, all three facilities – at Aston, Stourport-on-Severn, and Tiverton – received the highest ratings available in independent audits. For the Tiverton site, this was for the sixth year in a row, and at Stourport, it was for the fifth year in a row.

The commentary in the Annual Report also noted that proposed changes to alcohol duty need to better reflect the circumstance of the sector. If not, the UK cider industry and vital suppliers in the rural economy might be adversely impacted, seriously diminishing the competitiveness of producers at precisely the time when they hope to recover sales at home and abroad.

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