The UK’s largest independent cider manufacturer, Aston Manor has been bought by the Agrial Group.

Aston Manor manufacturers the majority of the UK’s own-label cider products as well as brands such as Frosty Jacks, Kingstone Press, Crumpton Oaks, Golden Valley and Chardolini. Agrial Group is a French farming co-operative focusing on milk, fresh produce, drinks and meat. It is also France’s largest cider manufacturer, with its 13,000 member farmers producing 120,000 tons of cider apples per year.

Aston Manor CEO Gordon Johncox said the company had been searching for a partner to “continue the growth of the company and in doing so to broaden our offering”.

Agrial’s French drinks boss Marc Roubaud said the takeover would allow it to “assert our global ambitions in the cider market by gaining a foothold in the world’s largest cider market.”

Aston Manor has embarked on a massive investment programme, planting 400,000 apple trees in order to meet growing cider demand. Off-trade sales were up 6.1% year on year as of February 2018, though much of this growth is from foreign manufactured flavoured ciders such as Kopparberg and Rekordelig.

However, there are other challenges for the cider category. In Scotland the cider market has been disrupted by the implementation of minimum unit pricing, with sales of high-strength ciders such as Frosty Jack's and certain own-label products heavily affected. The implementation of a similar minimum unit pricing scheme in Wales next summer is likely to have a similar affect there.

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