Heineken defends decision to cut down apple orchard

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Shocking: Heineken hits back after receiving backlash for cutting down apple trees (Credit: Getty/Veronika Roosimaa)
Shocking: Heineken hits back after receiving backlash for cutting down apple trees (Credit: Getty/Veronika Roosimaa)

Related tags Cider Social responsibility Heineken

Heineken has hit back at claims it committed an act of “needless environmental vandalism” by cutting down hundreds of acres of apple orchards.

Following a downturn in sales within the cider category alongside an increase in the yield of apples, the global brewer and pub operator cut down almost 300 acres of orchard in Monmouthshire ahead of selling the land so other crops could be grown.

However, while Heineken, which is known for cider brands such as Strongbow and Inch's, maintained the decision was made with British farmers and sustainability in mind, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) described the move as an act of “needless environmental vandalism”.

CAMRA real ale, cider and perry campaigns director Gillian Hough said: “This is an act of needless environmental vandalism by Heineken and it is simply shocking.

“Orchards provide a unique habitat for wildlife, including species that can only make their homes in trees of this kind. 

Very upsetting 

“The beginning of May usually marks the blossoming of orchards across the country and birds are nesting up. To see images of these trees uprooted, lying in piles like toothpicks is very upsetting.”

According to CAMRA, the amount of cider apple trees cut down would occupy the space of 140 football pitches and could have been “productive for decade” but were now “lost forever” to the detriment of the local environment.

“Given Heineken’s recent “Brew a Better World” sustainability campaign, and their many claims in the media about their wide-ranging environmental commitments, tearing out this orchard feels especially cynical.

“If they were sincere about these claims, they would be investing in orchards, and in producing high quality, high juice content ciders, not wreaking destruction”, Hough added.

Though a Heineken spokesperson explained the bittersweet apples produced at the commercially farmed bush orchard had “no other use” than creating cider, meaning the trees had to be removed ahead of the sale to ensure the viability of other crops.

In addition, the spokesperson said all the wood was shredded for biomass and the bushes were removed in line with The Wildlife Act.

Committed to investing 

They continued: “In November 2023, Heineken made clear its intention to sell Penrhos Farm in Wales, one of two apple farms which the company owns. 

“Over a number of years, the cider market has slowed and the yield of apples per acre has increased leading to a huge surplus of apples.  

“We firmly remain a cider, beer and pub company. The cider market has declined over the last few years, but we are absolutely committed to investing in the segment and returning it to growth.

“As the leading cider maker in the UK, over the last couple of years, we have invested millions of pounds into our cider brands, supported British agriculture and showcased the cider category.

“We continue to source all our apples from around 6,000 acres of orchards in and around Herefordshire and will continue to do so.”


Related topics Cider

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