Sandford Orchards has bucked the business trend during the pandemic by investing £1.2 million into expanding its bottling and canning capabilities and developing and implementing a new branding strategy.
Barny Butterfield,chief cidermaker at Sandford Orchards
It says it is now well placed to meet an increased demand for real cider driven by a strong consumer interest in authenticity and quality.
Chief cidermaker, Barny Butterfield, said: “At the end of 2019, we made the strategic decision to invest heavily in a full rebrand and we appointed award-winning branding agency Kingdom & Sparrow and market research agency Branding Express, who conducted focus groups across the UK.
“Blind tastings showed that consumers unanimously agreed that our cider tasted delicious, more natural and flavourful than mainstream alternatives. Our research also confirmed that there was a great opportunity for us as our ciders are far higher quality than the cheap mass-produced ciders available, but more accessible than the pricey craft options. 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.”
Barny added: “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 a brand new state-of-the-art 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.”
Founded in 2002, independent, family-owned Sandford Orchards is based in mid-Devon in the oldest working cider mill in the UK. They press and ferment whole juice from the finest locally-grown bittersweet apples and age it to create balanced and naturally refreshing cider.
Sandford Orchards’ range of ciders includes session ciders and a selection of flavoured ciders which will soon be joined by some brand new vintage ciders, due to be launched in March.