A Westcountry cider manufacturer rescued by a Midlands based family-run firm, is to further upscale production following an £8 million investment in the business.
The former Devon Cider Company, which was bought out of administration by Birmingham based Aston Manor two years ago, is set to see its workforce increase from 67 to more than 100 in a new recruitment drive. The move comes ahead of a further planned £4 million investment to upgrade and expand the facility, beginning next spring.
The Tiverton-based plant is currently recruiting up to 30 new staff, to keep up with demand that has seen the business as a whole experience 25 per cent year-on-year growth, over the past three years.
Since the Mid Devon factory was acquired by the Ellis family – headed by former Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis – it has increased its production line from one to two eight hour shifts and has brought on a brand new canning line. The increased workforce at the facility will see the production lines move up to operate on three and two shifts, respectively.
The Devon Cider Company was acquired as a going concern by Aston Manor in November 2009, following its second collapse into administration within two years. At the time, staff numbers had dwindled to 33 from an estimated 400 workers in the 1970s and 80s. The buyout did not include the plant, land or machinery, which Aston Manor acquired from the collapsed company’s creditors in separate transactions, as part of its £8 million investment.
Cider is now manufactured at the East Devon facility under the Aston Manor name, with production still continuing on former Devon Cider brands 3 Hammers and Old Moors. The plant has also accommodated the expansion of production on brands also made at the Birmingham facility, which include Crumpton Oaks, Golden Valley and Frosty Jacks.
The company also manufactures own-label ciders for the major high street supermarkets, which accounts for 50 per cent of its output.
Aston Manor’s managing director Peter Ellis said: “The take-home drinks sector has grown enormously, due to the decline of the public house sector. We can sell everything we make and it’s quite exciting to run a cider business, as it is the only drinks sector that’s growing. People are turning to cider because it’s less expensive and there’s no viable alternative in terms of innovation, in wine and beer.
“We have gone from a single shift on the PET line to double shifts and we have introduced the new can line in the last six months, but we don’t want to stop there.”
Aston Manor also plans to spend millions on upgrades to the Hereford facility where it grows apples and presses them into the juice fermented in its production processes in Devon.
Reflecting upon the company’s eventual £12 million investment at Tiverton, Mr Ellis said: “We are here for the long haul and we want to make this Devonian business a place for the local people to be proud of, and to feel part of.”