Cider was first produced at Thatchers Cider in Sandford, North Somerset, in 1904. Now employing over 100 people, this family led business has become an integral part of the regional business community, as an employer, a customer to many other regional suppliers, and as a producer of top quality Somerset ciders.
Thatchers is one of the country’s most respected family cider makers – Martin Thatcher, fourth generation of the Thatcher family is managing director, and his father, John, chairman. There’s even a fifth generation waiting in the wings. John Thatcher is acknowledged as one of this country’s leading experts in apple cultivation.
Thatchers commitment to quality starts in its 360 acres of stunning Somerset orchards. Harvesting the best quality apples allows Thatchers cidermakers to craft the tastiest ciders, and it’s here in the orchards where much attention is focussed. Over recent years John Thatcher has been carefully rethinking the way he plants his orchards, and has developed a method of close, hedgerow planting. The trees form a hedgerow around 9ft high and when pruned effectively offer maximum sunlight to the fruit, and maximum efficiency for careful harvesting. Newer apples varieties such as Gilly, Angela, Lizzie and Prince William, as well as firm favourites such as Dabinett, Tremlett’s Bitter and Somerset Redstreak have been planted in this way.
The hedgerow planting benefits from a new tri-modular straddle harvester, which has been developed by Thatchers and SFM Technology of Martock. Using a shake and catch system, the harvester carefully picks the fruit, ensuring handling is kept to a minimum and delivering the apples to the mill at Myrtle Farm in top condition. As well as picking the fruit, the new machine will also spray and shape the trees.
Thatchers puts as much care into the orcharding process as it does into the innovation of new and interesting ciders, taking pride in the development of a sustainable company for future generations of the Thatcher family. Thatchers plays a lead role in research and development of apple varieties with the National Association of Cider Makers, and maintains an exhibition orchard which is home to over 500 different varieties of cider apple trees.
40 million pints of Thatchers cider leave the gates of Myrtle Farm every year, headed for pubs and clubs up and down the country, as well as high street supermarkets who have chosen to offer their customers the highest quality Somerset cider. Brands include Thatchers Gold, Katy, Thatchers Rosé, Thatchers Vintage and Green Goblin, as well as draught ciders Heritage, Cheddar Valley and Traditional. Thatchers continues to communicate the message of its ciders to consumers throughout the UK, with a national TV and outdoor poster campaign that runs under the banner “Thatchers, the people who care about cider”.
Managing director, Martin Thatcher says, “North Somerset is home to some of the most outstanding scenery, innovative businesses, and finest produce in the country. I can’t think of anywhere else we would rather be to run our business.”
Thatchers are also exporting to Australia and the US. Visit our news item (9 September 2014) and BBC's website to view a video about Thatchers 10-year deal to sell cider in Australia.