Westons launch of canned craft cider Caple Rd boosted sales

Profits fizzed higher at Westons as the cider manufacturer outperformed the struggling UK market thanks to growing consumer demand for more premium and craft brands.

Sales increased £500k to a record £59.1m despite volumes in the cider market going flat in the year to 31 March 2016. Westons also improved its market share position from 4.8% to 5.5%.

The maker of Stowford Press, Henry Westons and Old Rosie said a recovery in the on-trade in the sector helped increase price per litre as consumers look for premium products and craft ciders.

“Westons have four of the top five brands in the growing traditional/craft segment, and we are well placed to take advantage of the growing trend towards premiumisation,” MD Helen Thomas said in accounts filed at Companies House.

Westons has invested heavily in growth in recent years, with about £10m pumped into the business last year to support its brands and increase capacity at the Herefordshire headquarters.

The cider maker, which is the official sponsor of England Cricket, advertised heavily in the period, launching its biggest-ever marketing push, and launched an on-trend canned craft cider in supermarkets under the Caple Rd brand.

Operating profits jumped 73% to £3.8m in the period as Westons increased margins by 2.7 percentage points to 6.4%, thanks to a tight control over costs.

Thomas added that Westons was shielded from the worst of the aftermath of the EU referendum result since the year end thanks to the UK being its biggest market and most raw material being locally sourced.

“In this respect we are well insulated from the external shocks but it does mean that the state of the UK economy is more important to us than the external situation,” she said.

The slump in the value of the pound was also expected to be a boon to Westons’ overseas trading, Thomas said.

The group now trades with more than 40 countries, but exports slipped in 2015/16, with trade to Europe down £100k to £1.5m and £20k to the rest of the world to £620k. UK sales were about £600k higher at £57m.