HEINEKEN - Bulmers

Heineken owns cider brands including Bulmers, Strongbow and Inch’s

Heineken has defended its decision to chop down a 300-acre cider apple orchard in Monmouthshire, Wales, despite criticism from environmentalists.

The Strongbow and Bulmers producer – which holds a 27.8% share of the total cider category by value [NIQ 52 w/e 30 December 2023] – said waning interest in the drink had left it with “a huge surplus of apples” that had “no other use than creating cider”.

It has felled the orchard on the Offa’s Dyke path, uprooting thousands of trees planted in 1997 in preparation to sell the site.

The move has drawn ire from environmentalists including BBC presenter Chris Packham, who described the brewer as an “environmental vandal” for razing the site, which is home to a significant number migratory birds.

Heineken, however, insisted it had acted in line with the Wildlife Act.

“Over a number of years, the cider market has slowed and the yield of apples per acre has increased leading to a huge surplus of apples,” a spokesman for the brewer and cidermaker said. “The bittersweet apples grown at the commercially farmed bush orchards at Penrhos have no other use than creating cider. In order to make best use of the land to grow other crops, the bush orchards had to be removed.”

Despite volumes of cider in the UK slipping by 7.3% [Kantar 52 w/e 20 January 2024], Heineken said it remained “absolutely committed” to returning the category to growth.

“As the leading cidermaker in the UK, over the last couple of years, we have invested millions of pounds into our cider brands, supported British agriculture and showcased the cider category,” the spokesman said. “We continue to source all our apples from around 6,000 acres of orchards in and around Herefordshire and will continue to do so.”