The National Association of Cidermakers has a new chair and deputy chair after Martin Thatcher’s reign came to an end.

Helen Thomas of Westons is now chair and Gordon Johncox of Aston Manor has become deputy chair of the generic cider body.

It is the second time Thomas has held the position, having previously chaired the NACM in 2007.

“It is a great privilege to be appointed chair of the NACM once again, and I am really looking forward to continuing to support the industry, championing growth and tackling the issues that the cider industry faces today,” said Thomas, the fourth generation of the family to run the business set up by her great-grandfather in 1880.

“I hope to bring to the role my experience of growing Westons into the company it now is, employing 230 people and producing a wide range of premium ciders which represent the breadth of the category.

“The cider industry has changed and developed dramatically since I was last Chair in 2007. The industry had committed to initiatives to support and encourage market growth and the mood then was full of hope for the future as cider makers from across the UK presented brands of long-standing alongside many new innovations.

“Between 2007 and 2009 the cider market continued to grow. We developed better training programmes, invested in apprenticeships and continued to innovate. We planted new orchards and expanded our mills to accommodate the increased crop. We continued our industry ethos of a British industry supporting the British rural economy.

“However, in 2009 the duty escalator was introduced, which created a very challenging trading environment for cider producers. Excise duty has now increased by more than 16% and we therefore need support from the Government to turn this situation around.

“There are sub-sectors of the cider market which are in strong growth, such as traditional premium, super premium and craft cider. We will therefore be working hard to champion these sub-sectors to help bring long-term growth back to the category. Cider is now a familiar and important part of consumers’ drinking repertoires, with almost half of UK consumers now drinking cider regularly, consuming over 1.4bn pints a year, however we need to introduce even more people to this exciting and vibrant category.”

Johncox, who has been managing director at Aston Manor since 2011, added: “I’m looking forward to the challenge of taking up such a key position representing and championing the interests of the whole cider industry – worth over £3bn in retail sales.

“I have been involved in the leadership of the NACM for a number of years. To be invited to be deputy chair is a great honour and, I hope, recognition of the contribution I have made and will continue to make.

“I believe we have two major challenges to consider – with the profile of cider higher than ever before – we need to create and seize the opportunities to inform people about the quality of ciders now available, the role of cider in rural communities and to educate different audiences just how good our performance is in all aspects of being a sustainable industry.

“At the same time we need to robustly seek to work with all interested parties to reduce the misery of alcohol abuse and explain our stance, defending the industry from misplaced and misinformed criticism of what we do.”

The NACM has recently appointed its first permanent members of staff in chief executive Fenella Tyler and head of communications Gabe Cook, and is on a mission to educate more consumers about the cider category.

Tyler said: “Helen brings with her a vast amount of experience of living and working within the cider industry and her family has a great tradition of cider making. This makes Helen extremely well-equipped to deal with the challenges we are facing to help us bring long-term growth to the category.”