Following a record-breaking year, Thatchers’ new range of cans plus its 75cl Family Reserve sparkling cider will spearhead 2017 plans for the on-trade.
Also planned are further food matching initiatives and customer training at William’s Barn, in the orchards at the firm’s Somerset headquarters.
Unveiled earlier this month, Stan’s is Thatcher’s rebranded Traditional Range, named after managing director Martin Thatcher’s grandfather. The range includes three from the current selection, plus two new ciders, Leaf Twister and Barrel Roller. Both are crafted with local bittersweet apples; Barrel Roller is a recreation of one of Stan’s traditional recipes.
Thatchers Family Reserve is a new departure for the fourth-generation firm, in the shape of a 75cl sparkling cider, interestingly described as ‘ Sparkling Apple Wine’ on the label.
Refreshing with a light hint of tannin, Family Reserve is inspired by an ancient family recipe Thatcher unearthed last year, and is made from the Katy apple –‘it makes such good cider ,’ he says.
‘It is cider, but we are trying to open up another market for cider,’ Martin Thatcher told Imbibe. ‘Cider is often referred to as Somerset Champagne. This could be served on the same occasions as Prosecco. It spreads the demographic.
‘I think there’s potentially quite a large market,’ he continued, acknowledging that the sector probably needed a few producers ‘so that it’s credible’. Currently only available in limited quantities, fresh supplies of Family Reserve are promised for later this year.
While the cider industry as a whole is in decline, Thatchers racked up 10% growth in 2016, following 11% growth in 2015. 20,000 tonnes of apples were pressed and over 100 million pints sold, Thatcher said. Turnover grew to £65m, and Thatcher said the company was on track to reach its 2021 turnover target of £100m.
To combat the potential oversupply of bittersweet apples, Thatcher called for more orchard research from the industry. ‘What we really need to be doing is growing the very best apples to make the very best cider,’ Thatcher said.
‘What tends to happen is that the growers end up focusing on the apples that produce the best yield which from their point of view I perfectly understand. But from the consumers’ point of view we need to produce the cider that is perfect for them, not just the most efficient one to produce.’
There is a trial orchard at Thatcher’s with over 450 different cider varieties.