Heineken Uproots Huge Apple Orchard as Cider Sales Slip

By Staff
3 Min Read

Heineken is a huge multinational corporation and it’s affected by market realities like supply and demand just like any other company. But when the answer to those issues is destroying an apple orchard, it’s hard to see it as just business.

Heineken owns Penrhos Orchard, a 300-acre site in Wales that was planted in 1997. The company said last year that it wants to sell that land because demand for cider has declined and left it with a “surplus of apples.” It said the apples grown in the orchard are bittersweet, meaning they have no use besides making cider. So Heineken, in line with the Wildlife Act, uprooted the entire orchard, which was the size of 140 football pitches (or soccer fields) and shredded all the wood for biomass.

How do you like them apples? Well, a lot of people don’t like them at all.

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The BBC spoke with ecologist Chris Formaggia, who said tearing up the orchard will have a big impact on wintering thrush species of birds who would use the orchard for shelter and foraging. WalesOnline rounded up comments from readers who blasted the move by Heineken, calling it a “horrific act of violence” and “disgusting behavior.”

Heineken defended its decision to chop down the apple trees and said it was “incredibly important that we act responsibly and sustainably at all times.” It also claimed that the amount of cider consumed in the UK has fallen by one-third in the past 10 years.

Heineken owns cider brands including Bulmers, Strongbow and Orchard Thieves. The company reports its cider business results under the Beyond Beer tag, which also includes the company’s ready-to-drink and wine options. Last week, the company said its Beyond Beer portfolio grew revenue by close to 10% during the first quarter, driven in part by a strong performance from Savanna, a cider brand it acquired as part of its tie-up with the Distell Group.

The UK is the world’s biggest market for cider. The National Association of Cider Makers said UK cider represents 39% of the global market. So, any declines in that market would be especially felt by producers. And as the NACM pointed out, the amount of cider consumed has been steadily decreasing since 2009.

Still, as Heineken is probably realizing, it’s hard to chop down nearly half a square mile of apple trees and still have the public on your side.

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