£100m deal to create ‘global force’ in cider

French food group Agrial plans to create a “global force in cider” after agreeing to buy Aston Manor for close to £100m.

The Ellis family, including former Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis, his son and former chief executive Peter, and grandson and current CFO James, has run the Birmingham business for 35 years. The UK’s largest independent cider maker was established in 1983, originally brewing beer before it started making cider in 1996.

Today it only produces cider and exports to more than 20 countries, although the vast majority of its revenues come from UK sales of brands including Frosty Jack’s, Kingstone Press and Knights. Its most recent published accounts, for 2016, showed profits of £4m on annual sales of £113m.

Marc Roubaud, managing director of the drinks division of Agrial, said: “It was crucial for Agrial to assert its global ambitions on the cider market by gaining a foothold in the world’s largest cider market, close to our heartland and the orchards of our members.”

Agrial is a French co-operative owned by its 13,000 member farmers and is France’s largest producer of cider. The £5bn-turnover group has 180 companies and subsidiaries in Europe, Africa and the United States.

James Ellis, who is staying with the business along with managing director Gordon Johncox, believes Agrial is “the perfect fit” for Aston Manor.

He said: “It was extremely important to the family that we found a new owner that mirrors our own values, that will offer strong custodianship of the family business that we have built and loved for 35 years, and that will provide both the company and our staff with continuing opportunities to grow.”

Aston Manor Cider employs around 300 people across its production and packaging facilities in Birmingham and Devon, and orchards in Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

Aston Manor Cider – winner of the 2017 Business Masters Innovation award

Aston Manor has won a number of awards in recent years, including TheBusinessDesk.com’s Business Masters for manufacturing in 2015 and innovation in 2017.

Aston Manor and its shareholders were advised by Andy Lawton Smith and his team at Gowling WLG, who have worked with the company and the Ellis family for more than 15 years, PwC’s tax and legal teams in Birmingham, led by Chris Romans and Nick Baker, and Lazard.

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