Cider-maker Aston Manor Brewery saw sales increase by almost half last year – and said demand has remained strong despite the spending slowdown.

The family firm, in which former Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis owns a controlling stake, saw revenue rise by 48 per cent last year, to £79.3 million.

The company, which increased its workforce by more than 40 across the year, posted an after-tax profit of £2.87 million, down slightly on the £3.04 million announced last year, after paying a dividend of £5 million, documents filed on Companies House show.

The directors’ report states: “2010 was another outstanding year for Aston Manor Brewery, despite the difficult environment. We have once again delivered double-digit growth in both revenue and profitability.”

The growth came on the back of a more than 50 per cent rise in demand in the UK – which is by far the company’s dominant market.

A total of £75.6 million of sales were in the UK, while sales to continental Europe rose from £2.9 million in 2009 to £3.5 million, and £154,303 came from the rest of the world.

The report continues: “Raw material cost inflation is a key challenge facing the cider industry during 2011, and whilst we are not immune to these pressures, we continue to exert tight control over these costs.

“Nonetheless, we are experiencing yet further revenue growth in the first half of 2011, and as such the directors continue to be optimistic for the business results in 2011 and beyond.”

The accounts show that Aston Manor has increased its workforce on the back of soaring demand, with a total of 182 members of staff, compared to 140 last year, including a 122-strong production team.

The cost of wages and salaries rose from £3.2 million in 2009 to £4.8 million last year. Meanwhile, directors’ remuneration increased from £713,236 to £942,602.

Total borrowings increased from £10.5 million to £14.1 million.

Aston Manor, which was founded in 1983, took over the Devon Cider Company in November 2009 and has since taken on the firm’s Tiverton site in a £2.75 million deal.

The growth has seen the firm’s output grow to produce 1.4 million hectolitres a year.

Among the company’s brands are Frosty Jack’s Cider and Knights Cider, which it took over in 2006.

The progress comes at an interesting time for the UK cider sector after giant AB InBev UK announced the roll-out of Stella Artois Cidre earlier this year.

The move marks a radical departure for Stella Artois, which became the first lager brand to move into the cider market following on from sales growth at the likes of Magners and Bulmers.