After a year of 'will they, won't they?', it was announced that family-based Aspall Cyder has been snapped up by brewing giant Molson Coors in a deal reported to be worth £40m.
Production will stay at Aspall Hall in Suffolk, with brothers Barry, the current chairman and Henry Chevallier Guild, remaining involved on the board, in strategic and ambassadorial capacities.
As a result of the purchase, Aspall Suffolk Draught is likely to see extra emphasis in the market, becoming the ‘hero’ brand. Molson Coors followed the same strategy with Doom Bar and Sharp’s, when it bought the Cornish brewer back in 2011, Phil Whitehead, managing director of Molson Coors UK & Ireland, told Imbibe.
No immediate rationalisation of the range is planned, Whitehead said, and he sees ‘real opportunity in innovation’, with Henry remaining ‘a really active part of our innovations team’.
Aspall is not expected to join the mainstream part of Molson Coors’ cider category. Rather, ultra-premium ciders like the limited edition 1728 bottle fermented sparkling cider, are likely to be on the drawing board.
As well as provenance and heritage, the key to Aspall’s reputation has been the high juice content of its ciders. ‘I don’t see it [juice content] dropping away,’ said Chevallier Guild. ‘Molson Coors has bought into a brand that is premium, so to mess around with the liquid would be a stupid thing to do. Our ability to retain that juice content is greatly enhanced by having a partner like Molson Coors taking the product to market.’
Master cidermaker Colin Hamilton remains in charge of production. ‘He [Colin] is absolutely pivotal to us making sure that the investment is done correctly,’ said Chevallier Guild.
While there are no specific growth targets in mind, Whitehead sees scope for considerable growth, placing particular importance on the brand being ‘seeded in the right types of outlets, and the right types of occasions, and attracting the right sorts of consumers’.
The goal for Molson Coors, he said, is ‘to have the premium cider within the UK’ rather than to chase market share. With Rekorderlig and Carling ciders already in the family, ‘We really needed to add a premium cider to complement our other brands,’ he said.
No redundancies are planned, fruit sourcing policies are unlikely to change, with the bulk coming from the UK, and Aspall will keep the ancient spelling of ‘cyder’, in deference to the company’s heritage.
Want to read about some more cider goings-on? Susanna Forbes picks her four Cider Superstars to watch here.