Belgium's leading cider producer is planning to enter the UK just over a year after winning its independence from S&N.

Stassen was bought back by the family of the same name in January 2008, 16 years after being sold to Bulmers, which was itself swallowed by S&N in 2003.

The launch of the Stassen bottled cider brand will take the family-owned company head-to-head with S&N brands Strongbow and Bulmers, as well as market-leading premium brand Magners.

The Belgian producer is planning to launch 'over ice' apple and pear ciders in early May. Both have an abv of 6% and will be available in 33cl and 50cl bottles.

Ex-S&N executive Chris Wallace will be the launch's UK representative. "We're talking to a couple of well-known drinks distributors with no current involvement in the cider market, and hopefully will have something finalised in four to five weeks," he said.

A marketing budget was in place, Wallace added, although it was "nothing like the level of Strongbow's".

S&N sold Stassen to raise cash in an attempt to fight the hostile takeover approach from Heineken and Carlsberg last January.

Bulmers launched a version of the Stassen brand - a range of fruit flavoured ciders - in the UK in 1992, but withdrew it soon after.

Stassen was involved in the development and production of the Jacques fruit-flavoured cider brand, which has since been taken in-house at S&N's Ledbury plant in Herefordshire.

The Belgian firm still has a contract to make Strongbow for the European market and Strongbow Gold for the UK.