The owners of an award-winning family-run cidery in Warwickshire are learning to be as innovative as possible when it comes to navigating their way through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jolyon and Charlotte Olivier launched a second successful crowdfunding campaign for Napton Cidery, exceeding their financial target within weeks, and are now looking ahead to a future of recovery and growth.
The investment campaign was central to the entrepreneurs’ plans to re-emerge from the pandemic once again robust enough to build on the early success of their business, which started life as a hobby nine years ago.
The couple were first introduced to the taste of craft cider on a family holiday to Cornwall. Returning home, they soon started experimenting with an apple tree in their own garden.
We spoke to Jolyon about what drives the family business and the resurgence of cider among drinkers.
How did it all come about?
We made our first batch of cider, as most do, from the apple tree in our garden. Turns out we were born to be cider makers! We started Napton Cidery several years later with the sole mission to collect unwanted apples from our village and surrounding orchards to create amazing ciders and, before you know it, we’re producing 90,000 litres of cider from 17 different cider apple varieties as well as juice and cider vinegars!
How has the business grown in the nine years?
Since our last round of investment two years ago we employed a small team, worked on our branding, and, in March last year, opened a new tap room. Unfortunately, though, it promptly closed due to COVID. We had been planning a big launch to celebrate. We also had six pubs lined up ready to install our kegs, all of which sadly had to close as well.
What does the cider-making process consist of?
The apples are harvested from several carefully selected orchards and pressed in Herefordshire before being transported back to us. The next stage is the fermentation which can take up to 9 months. The cider is then re-racked off the dead yeast, blended, and matured for a further 3-6 months and sometimes longer. Some of the cider is matured in oak, most is blended and some are selected to produce a single variety cider.
What is Napton Cidery’s main USP?
Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. All of our apples come from traditional unsprayed orchards, organic and biodiverse growers, so no unnatural chemicals are introduced into the ecosystem. The cider is also naturally fermented using only wild yeasts, is packaged in recyclable materials, and all ingredients sourced as locally as possible, within the UK.
We prefer not to use bush orchards which are long rows of apple trees all bunched quite close together. With these, once a disease hits a tree it spreads around the whole orchard which is why they have to be sprayed with pesticides. We decided very early on that we wanted to make cider that is environmentally friendly by using apples that aren’t over-farmed.
Environmental sustainability is one of our top priorities and we’re always looking into how we can improve. We’ve switched to using recyclable packaging and we have a lot more ideas we’re also working on. Our goal has always been to build, manufacture and sell high-quality cider made in the most natural way possible.
How has Covid affected the business?
We have had to cancel tours, tastings, cider-making workshops, and monthly live music events at the cidery, pivoting instead to more of a focus on our home deliveries.
We had to do some crisis management and rewrote our business plans in March but we were determined to find a way through. I don’t know where we would be without the web shop’s home delivery service. We were a business that was ready to grow but had its wings clipped.
But there has also been one lasting positive effect on the business. We’re selling more directly to the consumer now so we’re actually getting to know our customers a lot better, and it’s helped small businesses come together and help each other out.
What does the future of Napton Cidery look like?
We’re hoping to pick back up on our plans to produce a new line of apple-based spirits within the next 18 months. And we are looking to get into national and international markets as well as introduce 500ml canned products into our cider range. We are looking forward to a very exciting future ahead of us.
What has it been like running a business with your spouse?
We have had our ups and downs, but we learnt to keep business and family life as balanced a possible, being passionate about our business keeps us focused and dedication is the key. We both have different strengths to bring to the business which really helps bring in exciting aspects to Napton Cidery.
* A pint of Napton cider contains on average around 12 apples.
* The craft cider market has increased from 5% in 2016 to 9.4% in 2020.
* 164 apples are squeezed into every 70cl bottle of apple brandy.
* A 1,000-litre fermentation tank needs around 1.5 tons of apples to fill it.
Napton Cidery’s products can be found at: naptoncidery.co.uk/shop