In April it spent £2.5 million on 1,000 acres of new orchards to plant 350,000 apple trees.
The new fruit processing facility and cider press is the next step in a long-term scheme that will see Aston Manor, Britain’s second-largest cider producer, aim to put in place the infrastructure to supply the UK with cider for generations to come.
The facility, at Stourport-on-Severn in Worcestershire, has just started pressing apples.
Managing director Gordon Johncox said: “Our planting scheme is vital to our progress as is this purpose-built operation commissioned ahead of schedule and already pressing apples.
“While it will be a number of years before the new orchards yield a crop at the level we expect, we are adding some 350,000 trees to the landscape and we need to have the quality of infrastructure to cope with up to 30,000 tonnes of fruit each season in just a few years from now.
“In its own right, Stourport represents a significant investment; however, it needs to be considered in light of the commitment we are making to our growers – on a conservative estimate, we will spend over £50m in the next 25 years on just the apples grown from the planting scheme.
“There will be more besides from our existing orchards and all of that will be pressed here to be used in the fabulous ciders we make.”
The firm’s production director Rodney Clifford said early results “reflect the quality of operation we have put in place”.
He added: “With considerable investment we have succeeded in dramatically improving both our capacity and capability – we already believed our operations offered greater flexibility than any other cider maker, and this extends that advantage further.”
The new cider press will handle around 800 tonnes of fruit a day, six days a week throughout the harvest period, and will handle 30,000 tonnes each season. There is also scope to extend the capacity of the new facility.
Johncox said: “This is further evidence of our focus on the category. Already the largest independent cider maker in the UK, this both signals and supports our intention to work with growers to source the best fruit to be able to make top quality cider.
“It is also recognition of the long-term commitment Aston Manor has to the category – we are a cider business and only a cider business determined to build on the popularity of cider and perry both in the UK and in export markets.”