Wednesday, 30 January 2013

January: Building sales, distribution and snowmen

I was looking forward to writing this post - the first in a series on cider making month by month, but things did not start well...

"So, Mike. What happens during January in the world of Henney's cider making"


But there has been some activity this month. Whilst very little is happening in terms of the actual cider making, January is the perfect time to work on building sales and distribution. And certainly I have heard plenty of phone activity coming from his office this month.

Henney's is stocked in most of the major supermarkets in the UK - no mean feat when you consider there are no account managers or sales teams - just Mike.

Since the very beginning Mike has had a couple of key objectives - firstly (and obviously) to make a really good craft cider, but secondly to make a really good craft cider that is as widely available as possible.  And of course, if you want to make something widely available, supermarkets are going to play a key role.

From the word go Mike has had a really positive attitude to supermarkets. It probably helps that his background is in account management for other, major drinks brands so he is used to dealing with big retailers, not suspicious of them.

But there is a lot of work to do in maintaining and developing supermarket listings. This month has involved endless phone calls, messages and emails trying to get appointments with the appropriate buyers - cider commonly falls into the same grocery category as beers, and the category buyers are very, very busy.

If it's already a strong account for Henney's, Mike is still keen to meet with the buyer, review sales and introduce new products (have you read our post on Henney's Exhibition?).

And if it's a new retailer then he is simply trying to make a contact, maybe get an appointment to present the range. Plus buyers change roles all the time so there are often new people to meet.

And if all goes well and an appointment is made, then that's a full day out of the office and lots of traveling - curiously enough there are very few supermarket HQs based in Herefordshire.  It always makes me smile when Mike says he will be out all day because he is "going to Tesco's" - as if he off to do a giant shop.

And then there's all the promotional proposals to work out - most retailers work a long way in advance and are, naturally, keen for suppliers to put together discounts and promotional offers that they can pass on to their customers.

So that's what January has been all about. Phone calls, emails, meetings, proposals.

Oh, and a spot of playing in the snow.

Mike builds his customer base
Sometimes by hand.

And don't worry - Mike promises me that February will involve such things as 'racking' and 'blending' - in other words some proper cider making stuff.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Introducing: Henney's Exhibition Cider

Inspired by the traditional cider making competitions that take place in Herefordshire every year, Mike has created a new addition to the Henney's range of ciders: Exhibition.


Exhibition is a dry cider of the highest "exhibition" standard, and at 7.2% vol it is a strong and characterful addition to the Henney's cider family. 

Late in the spring, when cider from the previous autumn has matured, cider makers exhibit their cider for judging in friendly competitions, and the new Exhibition cider represents Mike's entry into the coveted 'dry cider' class.

It is, in short, his selection of the best cider from the season.

Entries at our local Big Apple cider competition

As with all the Henney's ciders, Exhibition is made only from the juice of Herefordshire grown cider apples, and it's rich complex aroma and taste is typical of traditional ciders from the region.

Just launched, Exhibition is not yet widely available, but for anyone who simply can't wait, it is already available through our wonderful local wine shop, The Hop Pocket Wine Company. They sell all the Henney's range for £1.99 a bottle, 3 for £5 or packs of 8 for £12. Call them on 01531 640592 to order - they send anywhere in UK for a delivery charge of £7.99.

We would love to know what you think.... Cheers!


Update - now also available through a handful of Tesco branches. Please leave a comment or email us if you'd like to find out which one is closest to you.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Welcome to the Henney's blog

Up until today anyone searching for Henney's Cider in the world of social media would not have had much luck.

For Mike Henney, the man behind the brand, is not a very social creature. And social media is not really his sort of thing.

But, with a bit of grumbling, he has finally accepted that it couldn't hurt to have more of an online presence, and he has agreed to let me share some of his cider making world with you.

I'm Charlotte, his other half (in life, not in cider making). I don't know much about cider but I do know something about social media. So hopefully, between the two of us, we'll create something  that's half decent and half interesting.

You can read a bit more about both of us here.

So, for now, I am off to finalise the new Henney's Facebook and Twitter pages, and I will be writing more soon.

And Mike says hello, even if he is still a bit suspicious about the whole thing. Who knows, I might even have him writing his own posts before long, if only to correct my mistakes..!

The Henney's range of ciders


Henney's Dry Cider

Lightly sparkling, 6% vol. 500ml, serve lightly chilled.
Our best selling cider. "Sweet appley aroma. Palate has a delicious bittersweet apple character with some spicy bite and a bit of tannic grip. Very fruity and quite pure, with a nice savoury twist" - Jamie Goode, wine journalist



Henney's Medium Cider

Lightly sparkling, 6% vol. 500ml, serve lightly chilled.
Similar in character to our dry cider but with a touch more sweetness and acidity.

Henney's Apple Sweet Cider

Lightly sparkling, 5.7% vol. 500ml, serve lightly chilled.
Our sweet cider is blended using a drop or two of concentrated apple juices. This gives it a lovely mouth feel and a palate that is fruity and full of apple flavours.

Henney's Vintage Cider

6.5% vol. 500ml, serve lightly chilled.
Made from a single year's pressing and naturally still. "Appley and intense with real depth of flavour, it tastes of late summer with notes of apricots, herbs and apple crumble and is the sort of cider you serve with food" - Jamie Goode, wine journalist.

Henney's England's Pride Cider

Lightly sparkling, 6% vol. 500ml, serve lightly chilled.
Our medium cider re-branded to celebrate "Englishness" and our tradition of cider making. Similar in character to our dry cider but with a touch more sweetness and acidity.

Henney's Exhibition Cider

Lightly sparkling, 7.2% vol. 500ml, serve lightly chilled
A dry cider of the highest 'exhibition' standard. Late in the spring, when cider from the previous autumn has matured, cider makers exhibit their cider for judging in friendly competitions. This cider is representative of our entry to the coveted 'Dry Cider Class' and is an example of our best cider from the season.

Meet the 'team'

Okay 'team' is a bit of an exaggeration as Henney's truly is a one man band....



Mike Henney started cider making in Bishops Frome, Herefordshire in 1998. It all began with a cider making kit and some fermenting in the airing cupboard, but it wasn't long before he bought his own small press and a crop of cider apples.

Mike did everything himself - from late autumn nights working the press in his garage, to early mornings setting up his stall at farmers markets.
Thirteen years later and things have grown a bit. He now produces upwards of one million liters per year, and is on the shelves of all the major supermarkets.

And yet to this day Henney's remains a one man business.

Of course he has a bit of help now - apples are pressed on a rather larger scale at a farm on the edge of the village, fermenting takes place in large stainless steel tanks (no longer in the airing cupboard), and bottling and delivery are carried out by an independent firm in the nearby Forest of Dean.

But Mike still works from a small office at home - no flashy corporate premises - he still wears overalls and blends every single drop of Henney's cider himself. And then he puts on a shirt and tie to present his product to the retailers, cider bottles clinking in his briefcase.




As for me, well I don't know the first thing about cider making and certainly don't have an official role within Henney's - as I said it really is a one man business - but I just happen to live with Mike, to have a very good view of his life as a cider maker and to have some experience with social media, PR and so on.

My day job is selling toys, so a world away from apples, tankers and supermarkets. I am flat out in the few months running up to Christmas, but the rest of the year things are fairly quiet for me, so I should have plenty of time to badger Mike with questions, take photographs and write about the goings-on at Henney's.