“While other businesses have retrenched during the last 12 months we have taken the opportunity to press forward with our expansion plans buoyed by an ever-growing number of consumers who are looking for an antidote to the standard commercial cider brands,” said chief cidermaker Barny Butterfield.
Butterfield said extensive market research through focus groups resulted in positive feedback on the taste and quality of the company's existing products. "This gave us the confidence to continue to invest in 2020 with the implementation of the rebrand and an expansion of our packaging capability to include setting up our own canning line for the first time.”
“At the beginning of the first lockdown our usual canning business became too busy to provide us with the capacity that we needed. We knew that canned cider offered us a huge potential market, as it is not well served by quality craft ciders, so we took the plunge and invested in our own in-house canning line which delivers 3,500 cans of cider per hour.
"In the same period we also purchased new bottling machinery to allow us to meet the growing demand for our products and match our ambitious projections. This has tripled our bottling rate to an impressive 6,000 bottles an hour. Alongside this, we have also increased automation in our kegging line thus ensuring that we control the whole process from orchard to glass and have the ability to meet future demands.
"With our new branding and expanded capacity we are starting 2021 in a strong position to meet the needs of our fast growing fan base as well as those consumers wanting to trade up to something more authentic and better tasting."
Founded in 2002, independent, family-owned Sandford Orchards is based in mid-Devon in what it claims is the oldest working cider mill in the UK. It presses and ferments whole juice from locally grown bittersweet apples, ageing it to create its cider.
The company said its cider range includes session ciders and a selection of flavoured ciders and was soon to be joined by new vintage ciders in March.