The UK’s largest independent cider maker, Midlands-based Aston Manor Cider, has announced a partnership with Marston's.
Previously distributed by Thwaites, the new deal starts with three-year on-trade exclusivity for Aston Manor’s flagship cider brand, Kingstone Press, and extends to distribution of its current bottled portfolio and future new ciders and perries. In addition to access to Marston’s 6,000-strong pub estate, the Beer Company is the division in charge of sales outside the Marston’s pub estate.
Known by many through being the official cider for both the Rugby League and Tough Mudder, Aston Manor wants to see the Kingstone Press break into the top 10 cider draught brands – it’s currently at number 15.
Aston Manor owns 300 acres of its own orchards in the cider heartland of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, plus long-term contracts with local farmers. The last five years has seen £30m capital investment, plus the planting of 1,000 acres of new orchards in Herefordshire.
With 90% of its sales currently in the off-trade – Aston Manor is responsible for nearly a third of all cider sold in retail – the company is keen to grow its share of the on-trade.
The partnership announcement coincided with the launch of Friels First Press Vintage 2014, the company’s first vintage cider. Plans are in place to release this in 33cl can in the New Year, and to launch a bottled First Press Vintage Perry from the 2015 harvest. Kingstone Press’s Wild Berry Flavoured Cider will join its Classic Apple on draught in the New Year.
Other new products under research include the bag-in-box format for some of its premium ciders and a lower alcohol cider.
The partnership marks a move from Marston’s to become more involved with the cider category. Whereas a few years ago, many of their outlets would have had only one cider on tap, ‘these days, they are carrying two or three,’ says Simon Barnes, Marston’s on-trade sales director. ‘Our customers want a greater range with more provenance.’