Daniel Emerson of Stonewell Cider

‘We’ve enjoyed triple-digit growth for many years…without compromising on the quality of the products’ :

Daniel Emerson Stonewell Cider

Daniel Emerson from Stonewell Cider talks to GS1 Ireland about the triumphs and challenges of life as an artisan cider producer.

We recently took some time out to chat to one of our GS1 Ireland members, Daniel Emerson of Stonewell Cider. He filled us in on how Stonewell was set up, his big successes, and what the future has in store for the Co. Cork cider company.

Background 

Daniel, along with his wife Géraldine, set up Stonewell in 2010. Daniel grew up on a farm in Ireland but left to in the 90s to live and work in the UK, South East Asia and France, where he met his wife. He had been working 7 am to midnight, commuting long hours, in a high-stress environment, had two young children and felt that he needed a change of pace. So he returned to Ireland in 2009, which happened to be at the height of the recession. He had been making cider as a hobby and seeing the growing popularity of cider in Ireland, decided to start a business and Stonewell Cider was born.

Big Successes

Stonewell has gone from strength to strength over the past 9 years without compromising on quality. ‘We’ve enjoyed triple-digit growth for many years in a row and managed to do that without compromising on the quality of the products we are producing’. That is clear from the string of awards that they have collected along the way, including the Pommes d'Or in 2017 for their Stonewell Medium Dry Cider and numerous Blas Awards for their other variations. They received a Food Writers Guild Award in 2014 and Daniel considers this one of the brand’s biggest successes. As he says, ‘It’s a prestigious award and you can’t enter…food writers from around the country can nominate Irish products that they feel are worthy of the award, so it’s independent’. When asked about the effect that these awards have had on the business, Daniel downplays the achievements, ‘The impact of these awards are hard to quantify, they give us a platform and we are happy to participate, while being selective about the ones that we choose to enter’.

Stonewell Cider Cappoquin Orchard Apples

Future Plans

While Daniel has enjoyed massive success with Stonewell, he emphasised the importance of innovation and staying relevant in what is a crowded market. Stonewell plans to roll out two or three new products in time for the busy summer months as well as expand their international sales. Consumer education, he stressed, is more important than ever. "Consumers are making smarter food choices and are more aware of the ingredients and quality of the food choices they are making.’ But Emerson says that this has not quite translated over the drinks sector yet. ‘There is still no requirement for drinks producers to list ingredients on their products’. This makes it more difficult for the craft breweries and smaller producers to distinguish themselves from the bigger companies. ‘We’re planning to spend more time on consumer education, to make people more aware of what goes into the alcohol products they are consuming’.

What advice would Daniel give to other Irish drinks producers?

When asked what advice he would give to up and coming craft drinks producers, Daniel spoke about getting the basics right first, perfecting your ingredients, Stonewell Cider Productstechniques and processes before you think about bringing a product to market. ‘It goes without saying to first and foremost learn about your product’. After that, he said that what small producers often forget to factor in is distribution costs. ‘Figure distribution to market into your financial planning from the start’ as well as how to establish an effective distribution network,for without it nothing happens’. Even though Daniel started out making cider as a hobby, he had to change his mindset as soon as Stonewell was founded, ‘Don’t start an alcohol business thinking that it is going to be a hobby or a lifestyle business. Treat it like a business from the beginning.’

GS1 Membership

It was early on in the life of the company that Daniel realised they would need barcodes on their products in order to trade with the bars and off-licences. Daniel found GS1 through an online search and found the process of barcoding their products simple and straightforward. He started using the online tool, Barcode Manager, and found this particularly helpful and easy to use. As time went on, with a growing product range, Daniel needed another barcode licence and again found the membership staff at GS1 Ireland, ‘extremely cooperative and patient’.

For more information on Stonewell Cider, including a range of recipes and a list of stockists, click here.

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All photo credits: Stonewell Cider.

 

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