The Aston Manor Cider Mill at Stourport-on-Severn has posted a new record for pressing locally grown apples to produce the greatest ever volume of juice that will now be used for a range of award-winning ciders.
Starting in 2014 and over several years a major investment meant the planting of 1,000 acres of new orchards, adding over 400,000 trees to the landscape. As those trees mature, they are providing more fruit to be processed.
Investment at the Cider Mill has both increased capacity and improved the ability of the site to make apple juice of exceptional quality available to expert cider makers. That investment includes a centrifuge being commissioned to further refine the juice produced.
In keeping with the sustainable approach of Aston Manor, 3,295 tonnes of pomace – the apple residue after the juice is extracted – has been sent for anaerobic digestion to generate green energy from an entirely natural source.
Under the direction of site manager, Brendan O’Donnell, and across 57 pressing days, the maximum volume processed in a day was 498 tonnes, a 17% improvement on the best performance in 2020.
The business has an unrivalled track record of recognition in product awards in recent years. In both 2020 and 2021, no other UK cider maker won as many accolades at the World Cider Awards, a major international competition.
Brands like Friels, Kingstone Press, and Crumpton Oaks are regularly singled out by the expert judges for different competitions. The Malvern Gold cider produced with locally grown fruit processed at Stourport has been recognised as the World’s Best (still) Cider for an unprecedented three years in a row.
Gordon Johncox, chief executive of Aston Manor, said: “It is great to see how investment over several years is further improving the already exceptional performance at the Cider Mill in Stourport.
“The site is vital to our ability to make a broad range of quality products as it provides the cider apple juice we need.”
In recent months further investment has meant additional flood defence measures have been added at the riverside site given the increased incidence of disruption through flooding – prompted by climate change.
In the coming weeks, work will automate pomace handling during the pressing season to increase operational efficiency and enable the business to provide more certainty to farmers and growers delivering apples to the site in the future.
As new orchards take several years to become fully productive, with the break-even point reached after eight or nine years, there is likely to additional fruit available to the Cider Mill for the next few years.
Over the lifetime of the long-term contracts agreed with growers, it is conservatively estimated that Aston Manor will inject over £55m into the rural economy as a result of the planting scheme.