The takeover of the UK's largest independent cider maker has been confirmed, with promises to create a "global force" in the drink.

French agricultural co-operative Agrial has announced today it has completed its rumoured buyout of Aston Manor Cider, the company founded by former Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis.

The confirmation follows news earlier this month that a string of directors at the manufacturer had resigned from the board, to be replaced by a trio from Agrial.

Aston Manor Cider was founded in 1983 and owns brands such as Frosty Jack's and Knights among others, exporting to around 20 countries including the US and Russia.

It will not be rebranded and a spokesman said there would not be any management departures as a result of the deal.

Head cider maker Rodney Clifford was among the directors to step down from the board earlier this month
Head cider maker Rodney Clifford was among the directors to step down from the board earlier this month

Agrial operates in four sectors - milk, fresh vegetables and fruit, beverages and meat - and operates a factory in Lichfield through its Agrial Fresh Produce division.

It also owns well-known salad brand Florette among many others.

Originally based in Normandy, the group has regularly expanded since its creation and is now present in Europe, Africa and the United States.

Its beverage division operates in a number of sectors, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and is claimed to be France's largest producer of cider.

Last year, financial advisers from Lazard were recruited by Aston Manor Cider to hunt for a buyer in a takeover deal valued at £100 million at the time but terms of the buyout have not been disclosed.

Gordon Johncox, chief executive of Aston Manor Cider commented: "Aston Manor has been looking at strategic options and for a partner to continue the growth of the company and in doing so to broaden our offering.

"With Agrial we have found this partner, a strong group with a well-developed portfolio of products and a well-developed international platform.

"The operating philosophy and values of Agrial are closely aligned to our own and the leadership of Aston Manor are delighted with this agreement and the opportunities it brings."

Aston Manor Cider's bottling hall
Aston Manor Cider's bottling hall

Marc Roubaud, managing director of the drinks division of Agrial, added: "It was crucial for Agrial to assert our global ambitions in the cider market by gaining a foothold in the world's largest cider market, close to our heartland and the orchards of our members.

"Aston Manor Cider and Agrial are companies with a similar profile and with shared priorities on both brands and private label and we are excited to combine our strengths to offer all our customers."

James Ellis, Mr Ellis' grandson and chief financial officer at Aston Manor Cider, said: "It was extremely important to my family that we found a new owner that mirrors our own values, that will offer strong custodianship of the family business that we have built and nurtured for 35 years.

"This deal will provide both the company and our staff with continuing opportunities to grow.

"Agrial is the perfect fit and we are delighted to build Aston Manor's future with them."

Advisers on the deal were Lazard, Gowling WLG and PwC.