The boss of Birmingham's Aston Manor Brewery told yesterday how the business had bounced back after being linked to an industrial contamination scandal.
Managing director Peter Ellis spoke out for the first time about his sense of betrayal by a trusted colleague who schemed to target a key rival's products.
But he underlined his pride in the Thimblemill Lane company, which is now turning out a record 2.5 million bottles a week and was in a position to grow year-on-year profits after a loss in 2004.
Aston Manor has also just snapped up a cider making business to ensure its English apple supplies.
Brewery director Michael Hancocks was jailed in August 2003 for 18 months after planning to get yeast-based contaminants into the production line of HP Bulmer, a key rival to Aston Manor.
Mr Ellis, son of Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis, said he had been close to Hancocks and felt a sense of betrayal when the plot came to light.
He endured sleepless nights and, although no customers were lost, the issue had "major repercussions internally within the business," he said.
Hancocks pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud Hereford-based Bulmer.
Paul Harris, from Hereford, was also jailed for 15 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to contaminate with intent to cause economic loss.
At a separate hearing, chemist Richard Gay, of Tyseley, Birmingham, was sentenced to a 200-hour community punishment order and ordered to pay £5,000 costs after admitting possessing materials with a view to the commission of an offence.
Mr Ellis said: "We have tremendous loyalty among our staff here and in a way it pulled us together, solidified us.
"It could have threatened the company but that is well behind us now."
The business is now enjoying a strong upturn, benefiting from the increasing popularity of cider among 18 to 30-year-old customers, a decline in alcopops, and a powerful advertising campaign featuring comedian Johnny Vegas.
He said the business had secured nine per cent of the overall cider market in the UK and that was based on the "off" trade rather than in pubs.
Mr Ellis said turnover in 2004 was £18 million, rose to £25 million in 2005 and was set to be £32 million in 2006.
The business made a £138 000 pre-tax loss in 2004 but 2005 showed "a substantial profit" and 2006 was expected to show a further large improvement.
Mr Ellis said: "We have worked long and hard and we are proud of what we are achieving.
"To think that around ten per cent of the UK's cider comes from the heart of Birmingham is quite a thing."
The company has bought the Knights Ciders business, based near the Malvern Hills, from founders Keith and Zaz Knight.
Aston Manor has been buying juice from Knights for many years. Mr Ellis said a rival had been eyeing the business so he bought it to ensure long-term supply of apples, as well as pressing and fermentation facilities, and to lay the foundations of another major step in the company's expansion plans.
Aston Manor brands include Frosty Jack's and Polaris with the business also bottling for its Walsall subsidiary Highgate and carrying out contract work.
Mr Ellis said it was investigating heavily and had spent £500,000 on a filtration system and was putting in an equal sum into a packing machine from Italy.