Comment - Cider - Education the Key to Global Success

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Cider is having a bit of a moment in the sun.


In the US, the category - which is called 'hard cider' - is continuing to see surging growth (albeit from a tiny base), while the same story is being repeated in Australia. Even in Asia, countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore are being turned on to the drink. And in the mature market of the UK, where the majority of the world's cider is still drunk, flavoured variants are driving growth

But, it's not all rosy in the apple orchard. Cider producers - particularly smaller, premium ones - still have a long way to go in educating consumers and regulators about the breadth of the category.

The US is a strong example. At a briefing I attended this week, hosted by UK cidermaker Westons, the company's commerical director, Roger Jackson, claimed there is still a significant knowledge gap among US consumers around the category. “There's a huge amount of education to be done, as they (consumers) don't know all the styles and variants,” he said.

Jackson admitted that Westons has only “dabbled” in the US to date, because of this reason. "It would be very easy to get seduced by the potential size of the prize," he said.

However, all that could be about to change. With Anheuser-Busch InBev launching a major new hard cider brand in the US next month  -  Johnny Appleseed – and its rival MillerCoors unveiling a similar launch this month with Smith & Forge, consumers could get further seduced by the category. 

“We're very interested to see what they (the big producers) do in the US and that might help us make the decision about what we do in the future,” said Jackson. 

Meanwhile, in Australia a problem exists over products that have been called “fake alco-pop style cider”. Trade body Cider Australia is asking Australia's Government to strengthen the labelling laws around the category. Cider Australia’s president, Sam Reid, said: “At the moment, it is not possible to tell what is in a beverage labelled cider - a lot of popular 'ciders' contain nothing but artificial flavours and sweeteners, allowing them to be sold quite cheaply.”

Cider also has an issue in China. Duty levels on the category are “absurdly high”, according to Jackson. He claims that the drink is not understood, because it is either seen as an apple beer or apple wine. The attitude, Jackson suggests, is 'we don't understand it, so we'll give it the biggest duty rate'.

Globally, then, these are exciting times for cider producers. Opportunities are emerging in three different continents. But, with a signifcant education job on its plate, the industry still has a way to go to realise its worldwide potential.

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