H P Bulmer - Bulmers (UK) is an industrial cider producer based in Hereford. It was the world's largest independant cider producer until it was taken over in 2003 after it ran into financial difficulty.
Bulmer's was started at Credenhill to the west of Hereford City by Mr. H.P. Bulmer (Percy) in 1887. When he was young Percy Bulmer suffered from asthma, which prevented him from attending school. As he grew older and he found it harder to find employment, due to his lack of qualifications, he decided that he would have to come up with a business that he could run himself.
By the 1980s Bulmer's had 60% of the UK cider market and was the world's second largest pectin producer.
Inch's, which had grown to be one of the largest independent producers, was acquired principally for its White Lightning brand. Inch's once-popular Stonehouse cider is now available only in keg form, and even then only in very limited circulation. Similarly, Bulmers' own real cider brand, Old Hazy, once had good distribution through Hogshead and similar pubs, but was dropped in the mid-1990s. Production of Inch's Cider was stopped two years later, though Bulmer's retained the company's orchards and contract growers. White Lightning was made a Bulmer's brand.
In 2000, Bulmer's acquired The Beer Seller, a wholesale drinks distribution company, giving them a direct line through which to deliver their brands into pubs and clubs in every corner of the UK. The Annual Report of 2001 showed that Bulmer's had 60% of the UK cider market and that their Strongbow brand was the tenth most popular drink.
By the turn of the millennium storage at the Bulmer's plant is on an immense scale. Some cider is stored in original oak casks holding up to 272,760 litres (60,000 gallons), but for sheer size look to the west of the city and you will see the Bulmer Strongbow tank, which represents the largest alcohol container in the world and can store 68,190,000 litres (15,000,000 gallons) of the industrial cider.
In September 2002, Bulmer's share price collapsed and at one point it dropped as low as 75p. A company that had once been worth £250 million was now worth £60 million. 280 of the 1,000 employees were made redundant to try and cut costs and many of the apple-growing farmers agreed to being paid over six months. In 2003 Bulmer's sold their Australian business.
In 2003, Bulmers was bought by the Scottish and Newcastle Brewery for £278 million. Today Bulmers makes 65% of the five million hectolitres (110 million gallons) of cider sold annually in the UK. 45% of the apples produced in the UK today are used in cider making, and apple juice concentrate is brought in from the EU to make up the shortfall but the amount of this used is falling.
During the spring of 2006, the company relaunched Bulmers Original in the UK, a premium packaged cider aimed at the "served over ice" market, which has grown in popularity over the last few years. Bulmers Original is a 4.5% ABV industrial cider and is primarily sold in pint bottles, but also on draught, in 1 litre bottles and 500ml can. In November 2007, the Bulmers range was joined by Bulmers Pear cider and in Spring 2008 by Bulmers Light, which is the same ABV as the Original but with 30% fewer calories.
Amongst the other brands produced by Bulmers is Jacques which is a 5.5% ABV cider made in Belgium by Stassen SA. This is available in Fruit De Bois (cider with cherry, raspberry and blackcurrant flavours) and Jacques Orchard Fruits launched in Summer 2008.
Scottish and Newcastle was taken over by Heineken UK in 2008.
Principal brands are:
- Strongbow (dry)
- Strongbow Sirrus (bottled competitor to Magners)
- Bulmers Original (another bottled Magners - originally a Henry Westerns cider, was sold to William Magner for 1p on the basis that he didn't think cider had an international future)
- Bulmers Pear Cider
- Scrumpy Jack (dry)
- Woodpecker (sweet, usually bottled)
- GL (sweet, sold in the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire area only)
- White Lightning (white)
- Jacques (flavoured cider produced in Belgium by a S&N sister company, apparently)
- Inch's Harvest Dry (a reasonably palatable drink that does actually taste of cider apples - probably the best of Bulmers' output)
- Symonds Original (in 2L plastic bottles, appears to be the pre-Magners Bulmers Original rebranded)
- Address: The Cider Mills, Plough Lane, Hereford, Herefordshire, HR4 0LE.
- Tel: (01432) 352000.