Stepping into the role, Gordon Johncox, CEO of Aston Manor, said the cider industry needed to pull together to fight back against unfair accusations and he underscored this with a call for a 2p reduction per pint in the upcoming Budget.
Speaking at a reception in the House of Commons Johncox said: “While we all work well together, we can struggle when we are singled out unfairly. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel under siege when time and again fingers are pointed at the cider category in isolation.
“With our 6% market share, it’s simply impossible for cider to be the source of all problems relating to alcohol misuse.”
He pointed out the ciders hit by the new duty brand, to be introduced from next February, accounted for less than 1% of all alcohol consumed in the UK. “A large number of these are premium ciders, made by the very smallest of cider makers, who will be inadvertently impacted by this change in duty.”
“I would strongly urge policy makers, and anyone interested in effective and proportionate action, to look carefully at the misinformation that is so often presented. To target just cider clearly oversimplifies a complex issue. We must insist that policy is evidence based, informed by the real market context.
“Policy singling out cider is unlikely to be based on factual evidence and could potentially fail against key objectives,” he added.
'Smallest alcoholic drink sector'
He said a fair and balanced environment was vital for the industry to survive and thrive: “We now represent the smallest alcoholic drink sector in the UK. Our category has been in long-term decline, and the main part of the cider category, apples and pears ciders, which are taxed as cider, and the backbone of our industry, now make up just 6% of the market.
“Cider makers need these ciders to thrive as they form the basis for the infrastructure that makes innovation, export and long term sustainable growth possible. For that to happen we need a fair and balanced environment to operate in, especially when it comes to excise duty. So this evening so asking for a 2p per pint reduction in the duty for standard ciders.”
He also called for unity within the sector to help ensure the messages got through, and cider makers large and small had a role to play in that campaign. As such the NACM had “approved plans to open up the association to all cider makers, whatever their size”. Previously smaller producers had regional representation, but now they could be heard directly he said, adding that the move was a huge step change for the NACM.