Essex ‘craft cider’ maker launches bid to raise funds to scale up production

Mark Hughes, founder of The Big Bear Cider Mill Picture; ANNA SAUNDERS

Mark Hughes, founder of The Big Bear Cider Mill Picture; ANNA SAUNDERS - Credit: Archant

An Essex craft cider maker has launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise £300k to enable it to scale up production.

The Big Bear Cider Mill at Tumblers Green, Stisted, near Braintree, has bought disused gravel pits and turned them into orchards.

The firm, which was founded by Mark Hughes in 2008, has planted thousands of trees and is now building a new cider mill.

It makes craft cider from pesticide free, traditional cider apple varieties, grown in the regenerated gravel pits.

But it said while momentum has grown for its product, demand was now outstripping supply. It now wants to build the new production facility to allow it to press and blend more than a million litres.

The cider maker has the land, approvals, infrastructure and a 10,000sq ft steel building frame for the facility already in place.

It sees craft ciders as “the next big thing” following the rise of craft beers.

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“The Big Bear Cider Mill is an artisan cider producer from Essex aiming to produce craft cider on a large scale,” explained Big Bear Cider founder Mark.

“The infrastructure is ready for an apple-to-can production facility capable of 1m plus litres of craft cider.”

He believes the new facility will provide a better quality of cider from some of the mass-produced drinks.

“We love craft cider, but it’s only seasonally available and traditional in packaging and concept. Big brand cider is available all year round but is produced from concentrate so lacks depth and quality.

“Our solution - to make our own; not easy as it involved planting thousands of trees. Our mission was launched. From the first batch of cider five years ago, momentum grew, people loved it, and now demand outstrips supply.

“Our answer - a production facility to allow us to press and blend over a million litres PA. To achieve this we are crowdfunding on Crowdcube to raise £300K to fund the completion of our new cider mill.”

“We plan to make quality craft cider, marketed with a strong brand appeal, and year-round supply, made in Essex,” he said.

The end product, which is set to be chemical-free, and naturally vegan and gluten-free, is a “brilliant craft cider on a large scale.”. The UK cider market is currently worth around £2bn.