H. Weston & Sons Ltd - Grow Our Own

Good for society
  • The local economy has been strengthened by at least £10m a year.
  • The project has created more than 90 jobs directly and 150 jobs have been secured indirectly.
The Samworth Brothers Rural Action Award, Finalist, 2016

Local farmers are being encouraged to grow more apples and pears as part of H. Weston & Sons’ Grow Our Own project which aims to secure a sustainable high quality supply for the company's ciders.

Westons Cider logo

Grow Our Own was set up in 2006 to encourage local farmers to grow more apples after beverage producer H. Weston & Sons realised there was about to be a spike in the demand for cider.

Westons was established in 1880 in the village of Much Marcle and produces more than 40m litres of traditional ciders and perries every year for the UK market and beyond. 100% of Westons’ ciders are made from apples sourced from within Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

Grow Our Own supports all new growers with technical advice, communication and financial support. It is important that growers earn a sustainable wage from their fruit so the relationships between the cider maker and the apple growers are based on fair trade.

Encouraging local growers has allowed Westons to remain independent, rooted in its local rural base and committed to the long-term future sustainability of Much Marcle and its rural environs. 

Westons has invested over £16m in new apple growth over the last seven years.  The number of apple growers has increased by 232 in ten years as a result. Westons has also created an extra 90 internal jobs as a specific result of its Grow Our Own strategy.

Background

Westons was established in 1880 in the village of Much Marcle and produces more than 40m litres of traditional ciders and perries every year for the UK market and beyond. 100% of Westons’ ciders are made from apples sourced from within Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

H. Weston & Sons is a fifth generation family owned business. At the helm, as Managing Director, is Helen Thomas who is the great granddaughter of the founder. Westons distributes cider to more than 10,000 pubs and restaurants in the UK and sells a wide selection of products to all key supermarkets and independent retailers, as well as exporting to 43 countries.

Westons’ key objective is to be a family owned independent cider maker for the next 100 years and beyond. In 2005, the 2006-9 three-year strategic plan predicted a significant growth in the cider market due to changing drinking habits and new entrants to the market.

Growing new growers

The purpose of the Grow Our Own programme was to secure the means of helping to achieve this growth by working with local apple growers to increase the supply of apples to Westons. In order to do this the company needed to grow the supply from existing growers, persuade some growers to supply to Westons for the first time and support new farmers to grow apples as a crop for the first time. Each grower’s apples had to come from within the three counties for provenance and traceability. 

Westons needed 1,200 acres of new orchards to be planted by growers both old and new. In the early years of orchard planting, growers needed technical help and support as it takes seven years to bring an orchard to fruition.

Supporting the community

To support new orchards in the initial development period, Westons supplied letters of intent to assist growers with banking requirements, contracts with minimum price guarantees and regular estimates of acres and tons to manage cash flow arrangements.

The local community relied on Westons for jobs, existing and future, both direct and indirect. The relationship between, growers, local workers and Westons was symbiotic. Each stakeholder was key, and growth for all three in wealth, in knowledge and opportunity, made it worthwhile for all three to engage. 

What H. Weston & Sons' Managing Director said:

“Five generations, spanning three centuries, have been involved in the business and we want this to continue onto the next generation and beyond. We have lovingly produced cider in the village of Much Marcle for over 130 years. We have never wavered in our commitment to making the very best quality traditional cider with fresh juice. Its characteristic rich style and flavours simply bursting with the taste of fruit, cared for by our local growers and made by local people.  

We are a rural business, with values deeply rooted, which enable us to balance a respect for the past with ambitions for the future.” - Helen Thomas, Managing Director, H. Weston & Sons Ltd

Good for business
  • The company has secured its supplies of apples for the forseeable future.
  • Company turnover has been increased by at least £20m.
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