This year Essential Care celebrates ten years as a Soil Association licensee. Another company that has enjoyed a long alliance with the Soil Association – in fact the longest – is Aspalls, and they are also from Suffolk!
Aspall’s are celebrating 40 years as an organic brand. The Aspall family was connected to the organic movement by Lady Eve Balfour, a key founding member of the Soil Association. Lady Eve was a friend of Perronelle Guild, the grandmother of the current generation running Aspall.
Since Aspall’s achieved landmark organic status 1973 for their apple juice, their brand has become a household name. But when they first received the Soil Association symbol the business was just selling apples and cider locally in Suffolk.
Then vinegar was introduced as a profitable by-product of cider-making and things started to take off. “When people ask me how long we’ve been making vinegar,” says Barry Chevallier Guild – current manager and 8th generation of Aspall’s founding Chevallier family, “I tell them: ‘intentionally, since 1974. Unintentionally since 1728!’”
The vinegars sold well in health food stores while apple juices produced for supermarket own-brands were the bread and butter of the business. Then a fortuitous combination of the UK organic market’s rapid ascent mid-90s combined with some great label design led to Aspall’s first supermarket appearance.
Seeing the first Aspall-branded vinegars displayed in a supermarket was a proud moment for Barry. “I stood there admiring them in the Ipswich branch for so long that the security guard moved me on!”
Aspall’s have also done very well with their organic cider which accounts for 60% of the business. And it is the organic cider vinegar which is their best-seller. Growing organic for fruit for processing is a lot easier than producing eating apples, Barry admits. “When neighbouring growers have got fed up trying to grow perfect fruit for supermarkets we’ve been able to persuade them to convert to organic and supply us, rather than grub up their orchards.”
Two months ago Aspall’s signed an export deal with Wholefoods in the USA for a range of organic vinegars. “We’re not about being the biggest, or selling the most,” says Barry. “But for the person who chooses good quality there’s always going to be a market for what we make.” A sentiment we couldn’t agree with more at Essential Care. The quality rather than quantity philosophy is what we believe in too!
With thanks to Soil Association Certification News for permission to re-use material and quotes from their original article.