Times are hard for UK cider maker HP Bulmer, with profits tumbling and the number of disposals growing. But they could have been even harder had a recently uncovered plot to contaminate the company's brands been carried out.
Last week, businessman Michael Hancocks pleaded guilty to masterminding a plot to pour yeast-based contaminants into Bulmers' Woodpecker, Strongbow and Scrumpy Jack brands, thereby prompting a recall which would benefit his own company, Birmingham-based Aston Manor Brewery, maker of Frosty Jack cider.
A court in Bristol heard that Hancocks had contacted a former employee and chemical scientist, Richard Gay, to create the yeasts which would spoil the cider and cause diarrhoea and vomiting. These yeasts were then transported to Bulmers by Paul Harris, the partner of Hancocks' daughter, who also recruited an employee at Bulmers plant to introduce them to the production line.
But Russell Jordan, a forklift driver for HP Bulmer, revealed the plot to the police, who discovered that three separate loads of the yeast-based contaminant had been delivered to Bulmers' plant, although none were ever introduced to the product line.
All three men pleaded guilty, and are expected to be sentenced next month.