Westons has been producing cider at its Mill in the village of Much Marcle in Herefordshire since 1878. Since then, using apples grown on the farm, it has continued to lovingly produce cider and perry to the highest quality. “Yet whenever I’m asked about the secret of our success, people seemed surprised when I say the most important ingredient isn’t actually our apples,” says Helen Thomas, the fourth-generation managing director of the Weston family business.
“While apples are of course vitally important, for me the key ingredient is our staff. We’re a family business and they are very much part of the family. It is only through their dedication and passion that we can produce the quality of cider fit to bear our family name. This is why we nurture our people as carefully as our apples. This approach originated with our founder, Henry Weston, and included a hogshead in the cider house for the farm workers to fill their wooden ‘costrels’ and literally share the fruits of their labour.
“When I joined as a director, it was really important to know where we were going and how to get there,” she continues. “We decided to remain independent and have developed plans since then. We are here for future generations.”
And that meant growth. “You have to grow,” she says. “If you don’t grow, you stand still. If you stand still, you go backwards. You have to expand the business to meet its needs and, as it grows, you have to put the right resources into it.”
“We have achieved our success by making quality products and through the passion of our people,” she says. Today, Weston exports to more than 40 countries and has established a business in Australia. “The world is our oyster.”
A Westons Academy has been established. “It is for everyone, including myself,” says Helen. “We are all on a journey, so we need to have the skills and the training to take people onto their next step.”
A training and development plan now enables Westons’ employees – from farmers to cider makers to marketeers to logistics – to move across the organisation. It’s all part of the long-term vision. “We have been in business for 130 years,” says Helen, “but we are only a little way on our journey.”