Sales at Westons Cider have hit record levels as the group behind the Stowford Press, Henry Westons and Old Rosie brands grabbed more UK market share.

The company’s share of UK cider production rose in the year to 31 March 2015 and was accelerating ahead of a declining market, the newly published accounts revealed.

Westons has invested heavily in recent years at its manufacturing facility in Herefordshire to boost capacity and in its marketing spend to raise brand awareness.

Revenues hit a record £58.6m, up from £55.3m in the previous year, as its premium brands continued to grow in popularity. It represented a 0.9% increase in UK cider market share to an all-time high of 4.8%. Cider lost 1.8% of value to £731.6m on volumes down 4.3%, according to the latest figures from Kantar [52w/e 19 July 2015].

However, international sales, which account for about 6.5% of the business, slipped slightly from £1.7m to £1.5m in Europe and from £868k to £643k in the rest of the world. Exports have grown significantly in recent years and Westons is now in 43 countries worldwide.

Pre-tax profits jumped more than 30%, from £1.5m to £2m, in 2014-15, despite investing £1.7m on tanks and cider-making equipment during the period. Westons lifted its operating profit margin to just more than 3.7%, compared with 2.9% in 2013-14. “This met expectations as our three-year plan called for a step change in our business,” MD Helen Thomas said in the business review in the accounts.

Head of sales Geoff Bradman added: “We are really pleased that our additional investment over the last three years has started to pay dividends for us. While the off-trade cider market is currently flat, the traditional premium sector of the market in which we operate is in strong growth, currently growing by 7% year-on-year. As category leaders of this sub-sector of the market, with Westons brands accounting for 46% of the sector, we anticipate this growth to accelerate over the next year as consumers continue to look for increasingly premium products with genuine heritage.”

Westons is pumping £10.5m into the business in the coming 12 months, with £6m to support its brands and £4.5m for additional storage tanks to boost pressing and fruit handling capacity, head of sales Geoff Bradman told The Grocer back in May.

In June, the company kicked off its biggest ever above-the-line investment in higher-end cider brands Henry Westons, Wyld Wood and Old Rosie and it also announced its biggest outdoor campaign to date for its mainstream cider brand Stowford Press.