Westons Cider, the UK’s leading authentic cider maker, has unveiled a brand-new canning line at its Herefordshire mill.
The £3 million production line, which began packaging 440ml cans of its bestselling Stowford Press earlier this month, will produce 12,500 cans per hour and reflects the increasing dominance of canned products within the cider category and beyond.
The latest investment in the business also represents a significant step forward, as Westons Cider continues to target ambitious growth plans amid a challenging year for cider in the on-trade.
“Over the past year it’s become clear just how important it is for us to control our own destiny, particularly when it comes to getting our world-renowned ciders from our mill into people’s hands,” explains Helen Thomas, Managing Director at Westons Cider.
“Bringing all of our canning requirements in house means we’ll control our supply chain end to end and will no longer be reliant on third parties. This will mean we can provide a better service to our customers by responding even more quickly to future upticks in shopper demand.
“We see this as a great opportunity to futureproof the Westons Cider business by removing some of our external costs – plus the price fluctuations that often come with these – and exploring packaging alliances with some of our key partners.”
Cans have become a key format for the cider category in recent years, as shoppers move away from value amber and white ciders, often packaged in plastic bottles, towards more premium options. Cans now make up more than half of all off-trade cider sales (59%).
“Shoppers love cans because they’re easy to chill, recyclable and lightweight, while, for drinks manufacturers, cans offer a brilliant branding opportunity,” adds Thomas.
“Last year, as shoppers’ habits changed due to the impact of Covid-19, many of us switched to less frequent, higher spend shopping trips. This means multipacks, particularly those in canned formats, now command even more attention in-store. In fact, our Stowford Press 10-pack is up 540% year-on-year, demonstrating just how popular larger pack formats are becoming.”
Westons Cider currently operates comprehensive on-site packaging facilities for all its bottled, bag-in-box and draught ciders lines. The cider maker’s latest investment will mean all cider cans produced will now be packaged at its site in Much Marcle, Herefordshire.
The news coincides with an update to Westons Cider’s Stowford Press four-pack, which has undergone a packaging refresh to further hero the canned format. The updated multipack comes at a time when the brand is performing exceptionally well – +34.5%) and – will incorporate a lighter cardboard structure, meaning 29 tonnes of cardboard is removed from across the brand every year. It will appear on shop shelves from June.
“Covid-19 presented the entire industry with some serious challenges,” continues Thomas. “But we maintain an optimistic outlook for the cider category and we’re already starting to see the green shoots of regrowth in pubs, bars and restaurants, as consumers rush to reconnect with their nearest and dearest.
“Now, we’re gearing up for a big summer of cider sales, better equipped to handle surges in demand than ever before.”
Westons Cider, which was established in 1880, currently employs 230 people and has a turnover of £65 million. Run by the fourth generation of the Weston family, Westons Cider produces ciders including Henry Westons Vintage, Stowford Press, Old Rosie, Mortimer’s Orchard and Rosie’s Pig.
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