Herefordshire cidermaker Westons has laid out ambitious plans to grow sales by 40% in the next five years after moving into the flourishing fruit cider market.

The Henry Westons and Stowford Press supplier grew sales by 8% in the past year by increasing distribution and enjoying rate-of-sale spikes in the take-home trade.

Commercial director Geoff Bradman said: “We are the fastest-growing scale producer in the on-trade, and the second fastest behind Thatchers in take-home. Our commercial strategy is bearing fruit and it will be upweighted.

“Over the course of the next five years we have an aggressive 40% business growth target. On a compound basis, that’s 6% a year, and we have been growing faster than that over the past few years, so, while it’s a big number we are confident we can achieve it.”

Westons is now the world’s 10th-largest cider producer after Strongbow supplier Heineken, Savanna supplier Distell, Kopparberg, Angry Orchard producer Boston Beer, Magners supplier C&C, Somersby brand owner Carlsberg, Thatchers, Rekorderlig and AB-Inbev.

It sees fruit cider as the big opportunity for future growth, predicting it will account for half of category sales by 2022. It is not worried by the threat of fruit wine and fruit lager, because it believes an apple is the perfect conduit for other fruit flavours.

It has launched Stowford Press Mixed Berries to capitalise on the opportunity. 

It is an on-trade exclusive, but it could be rolled out into the off-trade if it proves successful. 

IRI and CGA data shows that far more cider is consumed in the off-trade than the on-trade, and that the take-home market is driving the growth.

But the on-trade remains the best place to launch and trial innovation for the majority of BWS producers.

Bradman told DRN: “The insight is that there has been a steady migration of consumers from the on-trade into the off-trade.

“Pubs are closing and going through a difficult time and that trend has been driving the growth in the off-trade market. 

“Our business is slightly bigger in the off-trade. It’s about 50% off-trade, 45% on-trade and 5% export.

“We are introducing new products into the off-trade, such as Flat Tyre and Rosie’s Pig. 

“Stowford Press Mixed Berries is launching in the on-trade and then [it can] migrate into the off-trade. From a commercial perspective we are able to get more trial more quickly in the on-trade, and the risk to the business isn’t as high due to minimum runs and the costs of putting it together. 

“We are doing new things in the off-trade, but anything we launch into any channel has to be the best in class, such as Henry Westons, Old Rosie and Wyldwood.

“We could take value out of the brand and look at developing something for the mass market, but our values and quality focus will always lead us to strive to be best in class instead.

“We are a family business, so we have the luxury of being clear about our strategy and being definitive about what we do, rather than chasing numbers.”

The off-trade cider market is up 2.2% in volume and 5.3% in value to £1.2 billion (IRI, year to March).  

The Co-op is a star performer in the cider market as it accounts for 5% of UK grocery sales but 9% of cider sales, highlighting the importance of convenience to the category.

Tesco accounts for 25% of the category. Last year it had 26.5%, so it has lost share slightly while Aldi and Lidl have gained. 

Of the big four, Sainsbury’s at 12% is the only one to under-trade in cider. It has 14% share of total grocery, so it is not performing quite as strongly in cider as it does in overall grocery.