Dunbar’s Thistly Cross Cider hails £150k Asda deal

Peter Stuart and Asda's Brian O'Shea toast their new deal. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Peter Stuart and Asda's Brian O'Shea toast their new deal. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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ONE of Scotland’s top cider makers – which avoided ruin after being hit with a bizarre tax bill for making wine – is celebrating after signing a major contract with a supermarket chain.

Bosses at Thistly Cross Cider in Dunbar said the £150,000 deal agreed with Asda would transform the business and install its five varieties of traditional cider across 56 UK stores.

The firm creates its range of beverages from homegrown fruit plucked from South Belton Farm and is billed as Scotland’s only original cider maker.

Thistly Cross boasts 14 staff – a workforce which has doubled over the last year as demand soared.

Hailing the new deal, firm director and co-founder Peter Stuart said: “We’re delighted that the business has grown in the way that we hoped.”

The supermarket contract comes in the wake of a precarious period for the East Lothian cider maker after bosses revealed they could be forced out of business by the taxman, who decided the firm was actually making wine.

It was thought the company’s tax bill could more than double because inspectors ruled the whisky casks they use in the brewing process flavour the drink, turning it into a “made wine”.

The move would have cost Thistly Cross thousands of pounds in back-dated taxes.

Today, Mr Stuart revealed the dispute with the taxman had ended amicably and he was proud to watch the firm grow.

“HMRC appointed a QC and we had to pay a fine, but actually it went in our favour,” he said.

“They were happy with our processes and what we were doing, and that’s helped Thistly Cross to grow.”

He said the Asda deal would catapult the brand into national consciousness.

“The question we’re most often asked is: ‘I love your cider but where do I get it?’” said Mr Stuart.

“That’s what this deal represents.”

The agreement will see the company’s Original 7.2 per cent, Traditional 4.4 per cent, Real Strawberry, Real Ginger and Whisky Cask 6.9 per cent cider lines stocked in stores from this month.

With its strawberries grown on South Belton farm and the whisky cask cider aged for a minimum of six months in single malt barrels used by Glen Moray distillery, company staff said they were proud to support local producers.

Director Julia Rennie said: “Our cider is made in Scotland from the finest quality fruits, so it’s great to see that Asda is continuing to invest in providing a range of products full of Scottish provenance and taste.”

Brian O’Shea, Asda regional buying manager for Scotland, said: “The Thistly Cross Cider products are premium quality and will give customers a new and local choice.

“Feedback from everyone who has tried the new lines has been incredibly positive so we look forward to working with the business closely and hopefully increasing the range of products available in-store in due course.”