Hunt’s Cider can be found nestled in the rolling hills of the South Devon countryside, with its 18 acres of apple trees and over 200 years of history. A family business in the truest sense of the word, it is now being run by 8th generation cider makers, brother and sister duo Richard and Annette Hunt (with some advice from their Dad along the way).
The company was recently featured on BBC’s Countryfile to showcase the resurgence of cider making in the region.
The business is going from strength to strength, producing half a million litres of cider each year which is worlds apart from when their grandparents used to produce 9,000 litres annually and sell their cider from the kitchen window.
The distribution model has also changed quite dramatically since then, now selling predominantly to pubs and retailers throughout the South West of England as well as to customers buying online and at their shop on site in Stoke Gabriel near the River Dart.
Annette tells the story that neither she nor Richard really considered the family business when they were younger; both pursuing different careers before gravitating home. However, their early careers have helped them now that they are running the family business.
Richard started his career as a professional rugby player and this insight into team sports helps with managing their team of staff. Annette studied food at university and then worked for Tesco’s head office and Samworth brothers, as well as working on a cattle station in Australia for two years.
Annette explains that when she first started working in the business, she used her retail experience concentrating on getting their products into retail outlets as whilst pubs are more profitable, they do come hand in hand with more complex arrangements. Having the retail outlets in place has also been a lifeline to the business throughout 2020.
Whilst Covid has had a certain impact, they have been luckier than some. Annette comments: “The pubs having to shut was a massive thing for us but we have been incredibly lucky that local people got behind us having home deliveries which definitely kept the show on the road.
“What’s more, now the pubs have reopened, the same customers have gone into the local pubs and told them that they should stock our cider as they have enjoyed it throughout lockdown. That gives us the leverage to go into more places and follow up on enquiries, so that’s definitely been a positive point coming from it. We are slightly down on sales but not by much so we’re feeling very grateful.”
When asked what their biggest challenge has been, Annette replies: “Growing pains. To have grown the business to the scale that we have done has been hard – from the tank space, the kit to do the job and having staff that we now employ – it all comes with a rapidly growing business. They are nice problems to have but that’s where we are.”
The business has recently built a new cider barn which holds up to one million litres so there’s plenty of space for their operation to grow.
It is very much a family business but the operation and day to day running is left to Annette and Richard, with their parents offering advice from their experience every now and again but it’s down to the two siblings to decide if they take the advice.
To ensure that they are running and growing their business in the best way financially, they now work with regional accountancy and business advisory firm PKF Francis Clark.
Richard and Annette decided to start working with us after having seen the help and advice we gave their parents. Annette comments: “We chose to work with PKF Francis Clark as we saw them as being more polished and contemporary. It’s been brilliant. They know our business and they come to us if they think we could benefit from something. It’s fantastic having someone who is proactive and who is looking out for us as well as us going to them for things we would like.”
Andrew Squires, partner at PKF Francis Clark added: “It’s been great working with the Hunt family to support them and help them grow their business. They are a hard-working family and a classic example of clients who require an holistic approach from us. We interpret financial information to advise not only on tax but on more general commercial matters too.
“Decisions made now have an impact over many years to come and are key to maintaining the cider making business through future generations. Their reputation and reach regionally continues to grow and I like many others I know, am always delighted to purchase excellent cider made locally, as so much of what’s offered often comes from so far away.”
So what’s in the future for Hunt’s Cider?
Cider can be a seasonal product but they are soon to launch some winter lines which is exciting for the business. Annette also explains that they would like to be a tourist destination, as well as increasing the distribution of their product to more pubs and restaurants.