Carling, Sharp’s and Cobra owner Molson Coors officially announced the £40m buyout today (8 January), following a year of negotiations with the family-owned cider makers.
The business was not perfect and would need a significant cash injection to stand it in good stead for growth, Molson Coors UK and Ireland managing director Phil Whitehead told MA.
“We see the [Aspall Cyder] business as successful and we want to invest in that and there are two areas we are going to focus on.
“One is investment in the Aspall Draught Cyder product and to get that even more out there,” he said.
“The second area is to make sure we have got a world-class manufacturing facility. In Aspall’s [cider mill] there are areas that need investment and we are to put a significant amount of capital in to the brand over the next three to four years to grow the site.”
Earmarked to invest
Between £5m and £7m has been earmarked to invest in the business in the coming years, said Whitehead.
Molson will flex its contacts and knowledge of the on-trade to bring Aspall into more pubs, he added.
There are plans to build the brand into premium pubs and bars, specifically Aspall Draught Cyder.
“We think there’s a real opportunity to bring it further into the on-trade,” said Whitehead. “The scope and reach that we have got in Molson Coors and the relationships with customers in the on-trade can help us to bring the brand into more outlets.”
It was also key for the brand to remain true to its roots, added Whitehead, and former owners Barry and Henry Chevallier Guild would play a role in keeping Aspall grounded.
As part of the deal, the Chevallier Guild brothers would remain ambassadors and have a hand in new product development, said Henry.
Decision to sell
The decision to sell made sense to the brothers, added Henry. A number of options, including crowdfunding, had been looked at to grow the business in the future.
It was believed selling to Molson Coors would allow the brand values and the liquid to remain, added Henry.
The Chevallier Guilds had invested all they could in the business, including taking out loans, but they were unable to continue the growth without significant financial risk, said Henry.
Meanwhile, there were no plans to make redundancies following the merger, Whitehead said.
He likened the buyout to that of the Cornwall-based Sharp’s brewery in 2011 and drew similarities between the processes.
Many of the Sharp’s staff were given the opportunity to work in the wider Molson Coors business following the buyout.
Molson Coors had also invested significantly in the brewery, to the tune of more than £7m, including a £2.5m investment in 2016. Turnover was up £41.6m for the 12 months to 31 December 2016, from £40.9m the previous year.