The great cider divide

03 August, 2018

At this year’s International Cider Challenge, the same number of trophies were won by the flavoured category as by the West Country style, so even at the top end fruit and flavoured ciders are being highly acclaimed.

The Taunton Cider Company in Somerset was one of the trophy winners with its medium expression and Georgia Simpson, apprentice cidermaker, believes that governing bodies for cider such, as the National Association of Cider Makers, need to enforce stricter rules in order to regulate the British cider category. Simpson told DI she believes it is unfair to have such varying products under the same name and that perhaps more categories need to be introduced in order for different styles of cider to emerge, based on the levels of apple juice they contain.

Not only do traditional cider companies want more defined categories, they want exceptions from tax bills. At the end of 2017, a tax legislation was brought into the UK by chancellor Philip Hammond. This legislation was aimed at still ciders with abvs ranging from 6.9%-7.5% to limit the sales of cheap, high-volume cider.

However, in a story reported by the Guardian newspaper, Arfur Daley, of Gwatkin Cider, in Herefordshire, said: “It won’t affect the larger cidermakers. But the more artisanal cidermakers it will affect. I’d like to see an exception if you’re using whole fruit. Larger cidermakers use concentrate, but everything we make is from the apples.”


Former British prime minister Winston Churchill once said: “Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.” It seems as though traditional cidermakers are being unfairly treated in a time when they’re most vulnerable and those traditional producers are turning their noses up to innovative fruit ciders, essentially waiting for it to blow over – but what if it doesn’t?

One innovative producer believes one way to escape the overwhelming success of fruit ciders could be to reposition the category completely.

Find & Fosters’ Hilton wants cider to be positioned with wine instead of beer. On-trade menus across the UK often have a ‘beers and cider’ section, but Hilton believes cider should be considered closer to wine instead.

She argues that cider and wine are both made from fruit, have one harvest a year and are fermented in the same way. Hilton’s brand uses apples from protected orchards and markets itself in the premium sector, discussing the different flavours produced by the same tree each harvest depending on weather – essentially terroir in cider.

On the flip side, cider could begin crossing over with beer. Amy Burns, marketing manager at Distell, owner of Savanna cider brand, says: “With the launch of Savanna Cross we’ve blended the flavour of hops with our South African cider to provide a bridge between beer and cider.

“Beer brands have been using apples as a flavour for a while now – apple ales for example – so why not do it the other way and use hops to provide a more complex and richly flavoured cider?”

Looking further ahead, Heineken and other fruit cider brands appear to be ahead of the game in terms of consumer trends.

Old Mout, Heineken’s New Zealand cider brand, has recently released an alcohol-free expression in line with younger consumers demanding more low-abv options.

Shedden from Heineken says: “Launching in a Berries & Cherries variant, Old Mout Alcohol Free is made using real cider and complies with the full regulations for alcoholic cider in terms of juice content in fermentation and in final product. It contains the same ingredients as the 4.0% abv version and is blended and packaged in exactly the same way.

“With growing demand and the summer sales opportunity approaching, consumers are looking for fresh ways to socialise with zero limits. Commanding a higher RSP than soft drinks, Old Mout Alcohol Free is the perfect product to unlock additional category value.”

The arrival of fruit ciders has split the category in two, with traditionalists waiting for everything to return to the ‘good old days’ – which it may still do – and smaller, artisanal brands trying to evolve the category.

If traditional cidermakers can disassociate themselves from fruit ciders, there’s a case for sticking to their roots, but if that doesn’t happen they will need to start thinking outside the box.

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