A LEADING drinks manufacturer has denied it is trying to put a fledgling Taunton cider maker out of business.

Jonathan Dunne says C&C, which makes and distributes cider, beer, wine and soft drinks, has threatened him with legal action over the name of one of his products.

The row has blown up since Mr Dunne, who established The Taunton Cider Company five years ago, started producing Proper Natch cider.

It was a nod to Natch - Natural Dry - one of the most popular drinks produced by the former Taunton Cider company based at North Fitzwarren.

That company was taken over in the 1990s by Matthew Clark, which belongs to Ireland-based C&C, owner of the Natch trademark.

Mr Dunne, who produces a number of ciders from apples grown in four local orchards, said: "I've been making Proper Natch, which is an amazing product, but now C&C is threatening us with legal action and could close us down.

Somerset County Gazette:

The Taunton Cider Company's Jonathan Dunne.

"Their product is called Natch. Ours is Proper Natch. It feels like we're being attacked by a foreign country.

"Why do C&C have to take us on unless we stop making Proper Natch?

"Ultimately, I'm going to have to sell off my stock of Proper Natch and change its name.

"I've taken over the care of traditional cider orchards in Somerset that would otherwise have been ripped up.

"I'm protecting thousands of wildlife species, creating jobs, using heritage Somerset apples and supporting local businesses.

"Every penny we make is spent locally and I'm hoping Somerset will rally round me."

A spokesman for C&C Group plc said The Taunton Cider Company attempted in 2018 to register the Natch trademark, which belongs to the former.

He added: "At our request the registration attempt was withdrawn, however Taunton continued to produce and sell a cider using the Natch name.

"In late 2020 we contacted Taunton to seek a reasonable solution as we were concerned about confusion in the marketplace.

"Despite recognising the issue of our registered trade mark rights, Taunton have been very clear that they are unwilling to cease use of the name.

"We understand and appreciate the work that goes into producing quality cider, and as such seek a phased approach to removing the product from sale.

"This will allow Taunton to work towards the sale of existing stock, before relaunching the product under a new name should they wish to do so.