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Learn about our history

The history of a group of companies, which, thanks to sacrifice and effort, is considered one of the leading Spanish companies in the food sector.

Ferrotipo de emigrantes asturianos en Cuba con una botella de sidra (h. 1885).

Longing for progress

Looking to America

The beginnings and development of El Gaitero cider and Villaviciosa’s cider industry came about as a result of two basic social ‘ingredients’: the granting of authorisation for sea trade in the Port of Gijón in the 18th century, thereby enabling it to set its sights on the New World in America; and the waves of emigrants that set sail for America in the 19th century in search of prosperity and a better future.

A further factor was the quest for progress of an enlightened and enterprising generation of Asturians committed to the creation of apple orchards and the industrialisation of area as a driving force for the region’s economy. And their efforts certainly paid off: the cider-drinking tradition made its way across the Atlantic together with those emigrants on their venture to ‘conquer’ the Americas.

In the 19th century El Gaitero would become the unbreakable connection that would preserve the ties between Asturian immigrants in America and the customs and memories of their native land.

And between them – those that emigrated in pursuit of their dreams and those that stayed behind in Spain working for progress and development – they created the ideal conditions for the creation of El Gaitero.

Social change also played its part, as country areas gradually acquired more urban customs, filling the inns and chigres (typical Asturian bars where cider is drunk) that had remained empty until 1850.

An enterprising spirit

Champagne cider

Budding trade with the Americas forced the industry in Asturias to come up with a way of preserving the cider in optimum conditions during its voyage across the ocean. The answer came in a discovery whose origins were rooted in medicinal waters and the pharmaceutical industry: a machine to make champagne cider. This ingenious device, which generates carbonated cider bubbles and keeps it fit for consumption, would enable Asturian emigrants to savour the flavours of their homeland.

It was in 1888 when the brothers Alberto and Eladio del Valle, financed by Bernardo de la Ballina and Ángel Fernández, acquired the machinery that would enable them to begin production of ‘champagne cider’ in the borough of Villaviciosa.

One year later, on 24th May 1890, the Valle, Ballina y Fernández company was founded, marking the start of a long and successful venture: El Gaitero cider, which enjoyed resounding early success both in America and in the Iberian Peninsula.  

Industry visionaries

Major investment and expansion for El Gaitero

In 1895, Eladio del Valle and Ángel Fernández left the company, transferring their rights to Obdulio Fernández Pando (1858-1927), who was born in the parish of Cazanes in the borough of Villaviciosa. Thanks to his skill and long-standing business know-how acquired in Acapulco, the company would undergo the first of its major transformations.

After his first year at the company, Obdulio Fernández opted for a change of direction and decided to purchase the site at La Espuncia. This would provide the company with a strategic location on the shores of the tidal estuary, ideal for shipping the finished products and connecting with the ports of Gijón, Santander and Pasajes.

In the late 19th century, and following the arrival of Obdulio Fernández, the company would experience the first of its golden ages: securing the strategic site at La Espuncia and converting El Gaitero cider into a household name around the world.

In 1900 the partners Valle, Ballina and Fernández made further investments aimed at centralising production of El Gaitero – which until then had been spread around warehouses and mills throughout Villaviciosa – on a single site, La Espuncia. A strategy that would be reinforced years later, with the construction in 1915 of the company’s own bottle factory as a solution for the difficulties experienced in securing a steady supply of glass. This factory would eventually close, although the original chimney still stands today, as a landmark representing the company’s growth and development.  

During this time, El Gaitero contributed to the promotion of cider outside Asturias, due to Obdulio Fernández’s visionary investment in publicity and advertising. Posters at points of sale, film and even some of the earliest radio commercials to be made in Spain were just some of the advertising materials that bore the ‘El Gaitero’ brand.   

Capacity for recovery

New markets

A second golden age would come in the 1950s, under the leadership of José Cardín Fernández (1905-1992), a doctor and Obdulio’s nephew. He is considered to be the driving force behind the relaunch of the company following a period of post-war hardship experienced by the company, the sector and trade in general. José Cardín modernised the facilities and the machinery. He carried out a capital increase that enabled the company to set up a new mill equipped with metal vats, tripling its production capacity.  

In the 1950s, and under the management of José Cardín, the company experienced a period of unprecedented growth thanks to the extension work carried out on the mill and the diversification of the El Gaitero brand.  

This commitment to progress is also present in its export drives, providing the company with a global field of action and a major presence on markets around the world.  

In order to preserve and promote the company’s historic heritage and legacy, the year 2000 saw the creation of the José Cardín Fernández Foundation, responsible for promoting and disseminating the world of apples and cider, with a particular focus on the Principality of Asturias. 

In the 21st century, El Gaitero cider continues to be a hallmark of Asturias, earning the company a number of major accolades, such as the Asturias Silver Medal (2010).

 

The heart of Asturias

A hundred years of business tradition for the new century

Today, Valle, Ballina y Fernández is modern, forward-thinking company boasting a hundred-year history that conserves the value of its heritage and traditional production methods, whilst constantly looking ahead to innovation and development based on the use of cutting-edge technologies.

Its facilities, which have been declared an Industrial Heritage site, now extend over more than 40,000 square metres and its cider production stands at 27 million litres a year. The company is committed to developing products based on innovation and tradition, such as its modern and refined ciders de nueva expresión, holders of a Designation of Origin.

This commitment to progress is also present in its export drives, providing the company with a global field of action and a major presence on markets around the world.

In order to preserve and promote the company’s historic heritage and legacy, the year 2000 saw the creation of the José Cardín Fernández Foundation, responsible for promoting and disseminating the world of apples and cider, with a particular focus on the Principality of Asturias. 

In the 21st century, El Gaitero cider continues to be a hallmark of Asturias, earning the company a number of major accolades, such as the Asturias Silver Medal (2010).