Heineken will not renew contracts with some orchards that provide its cider apples, in response to “oversupply across the industry”.
The Dutch drinks manufacturer, which owns cider brand Bulmers, has contracts with around 190 apple growers, mainly in Herefordshire.
However, because of improved farming methods and conditions there is an “excess of apples”, it says, leaving some growers surplus to requirements.
The company said many of its growers were on long-term, 20-year contracts, and that arrangements made this long ago “may not be fit for purpose in an ever evolving industry”.
Heineken declined to say how many contracts hang in the balance, but confirmed some were due to “expire naturally”.
“We don’t need as many apples as we do now because processes are improving,” Heineken spokesperson Rebecca Miller told SM.
“It’s no secret that there is an oversupply of apples across the industry driven by increased lifespan of orchards, bumper crops and changing market dynamics,” the company said in a statement. “We’re working closely in partnership with our growers and are committed to ensuring a sustainable long term supply of cider apples.”
“Heineken is committed to Herefordshire, investing £58m over the past few years to upgrade our operations. We have positive long term relationships with our growers, supporting them to improve the productivity and sustainability of their orchards,” it added.
One problem faced by growers is the increasing popularity of ciders based on alternative fruits such as strawberries and lime. Alternative fruit cider products made by Kopparberg, a Swedish company, now occupy the top two spots in the market for bottled cider, according to an annual industry report by UK cider maker Westons.
Fruit cider now represents more than a quarter of the UK cider market at 27%, up from 1% in 2008, said the report. Apple cider has subsequently lost 27% of its market share over the decade, down to 67%.