The latest results from Aston Manor Cider point to the successful integration with the Agrial Group and the progress being delivered by the strategy in place to increase both sales and the capability of the business.
Against a backdrop of market uncertainty, a poorer summer (versus 2018), and regulatory intervention in Scotland that displaced sales into other alcohol categories, the business still posted figures reflecting modest increases in both turnover and profitability.
As well as responding to a more challenging trading environment during 2019, the midlands-based business integrated reporting systems and started to explore opportunities with their new parent organization – a cooperative with agriculture at the heart of its activities and sales of 6.1 billion Euros in 2019. The drinks division that Aston Manor is part of reported sales of 365 million Euros last year.
Arnuad Degoulet, Chairman of Agrial, commented on the resilience and stability that the group enjoys and pointed to how the, “integration of Aston Manor in the UK is progressing positively and is a real source of satisfaction this year”.
The management team for the cider-led business is embarked on a strategy that is intended to grow market share and deliver new opportunities through improved product quality and expanded capability alongside increasing sustainability in all operations – and success is being reported on all fronts, with that continuing into this year.
2020 has seen unforeseen challenges for every organisation including Aston Manor. The global pandemic has meant unprecedented disruption to all areas of activity as for others in the drinks sector. Aston Manor continues to lead through this disruption, maintaining business operations and service levels.
Chief executive Gordon Johncox paid testament to the efforts of everyone in the business when he commented: “Whilst no-one would want to experience a repeat of what we have seen, how we met the challenge showed us at our best.“We demonstrated resilience and agility to contend with supply issues and extra costs to deliver a different mix of business that has actually meant increased volumes whilst maintaining exceptional production standards.”
Aston Manor is the only UK drinks producer to enjoy the highest accreditation (of A++) across all production sites from BRC GS. In order to sustain this accreditation, the business is subject to unscheduled independent audits.
This has been delivered by consistent investment across all sites that has increased capacity and added new capabilities that are being exploited to grow sales and develop new products.
Investment in excess of £30m in the last five years has been boosted by a further £6m in recent months to reconfigure the Aston production site and add a state-of-the-art new packaging line.
As well as enabling existing products to be packaged in new formats and sizes, this investment has supported a first venture outside of cider with the launch of ‘Sol Duc’, an alcoholic seltzer in three flavours. A relatively new category in this country, alcoholic seltzers have proved enormously popular in the US in recent years and analysts predict they are set to take off in the UK market.
The capability, flexibility and quality assurance across sites in Birmingham and Devon has also meant a significant increase in major drinks producers and retailers wanting to work with Aston Manor as it has become one of the most innovative contract packers in Europe.
Gordon Johncox explains: “Even in challenging times we are seeing how our clear strategy is working in the ways we expected.
“We have unrivalled production quality and continue to build our competence and flexibility for our benefit and that of other major producers and retailers whilst delivering on our commitment to be increasingly sustainable across all areas of operation.”
Advances to address greater sustainability include achieving ahead of target the promise of zero waste to landfill from all sites and the switch to 51% recycled PET in our PET packaging – a move that will save around 1,000 of raw material annually.
Gordon Johncox added: “We are proud of the progress we are making and take confidence from how our strategy is working – it prompts us to re-double our efforts to do more for the benefit of our customers, our suppliers and our people.”