A CRAFT cider brand has become the latest company to sign up to a support scheme which it hopes will help them put Essex on the cider map.

The Big Bear Cider Mill were contacted by Braintree Council after its economic development team spotted a Times article on the cider company's crowdfunding bid.

It is run from Stisted by husband and wife team Mark and Kathryn Hughes who were offered advice by the council about schemes and sessions with mentors via the LoCase funding method.

LoCase - Low Carbon Across the South East - is a European Union funded project which aims to help businesses fight and adapt to climate change.

Mrs Hughes said: "We knew there were grants and support out there, but we had no idea on how to access or prioritise them.

"Braintree District Council has provided us with a web of support, acting as a hub of resources, pointing us in the right direction.

"Any business thinking of expanding or exploring ideas to diversify should take advantage of the council’s business support programmes.

"I was surprised the council do offer this support to businesses, and I was impressed with the quality of support that has resulted from their initial contact with us."

The duo set up their cider company at Tumblers Green farm five years ago after planting apple trees to make cider for friends and family.

Demand soon began to outstrip supply and earlier this year they launched a crowdfunding bid for £300,000 to build the business.

They use environmentally-friendly practices such as worm composting which sees worms turn organic waste into fertiliser.

Mrs Hughes said: "Worms can consume and compact waste so well that they can reduce the volume of organic matter by 95 percent.

"If everyone used worm farms then rubbish could be reduced by 2,000 pounds per person.”

They also work work with Costa Coffee on their Grounds for Ground scheme which uses coffee grounds to provide additional nitrogen to feed the soil.

Tom Cunningham, economic development councillor said: “I am excited to try some Essex craft cider and I know The Big Bear Cider Mill has huge ambitions for global success.

"I am glad that we have been able to help match them up with relevant support, mentoring and funding schemes.

"Although Cider is predominantly a west country trade, The Big Bear Cider Mill is putting our district on the map.”

To apply for this support email economicd@braintree.gov.uk.