By: Chris Brook-Carter - 23 December 2003 14:08
Towards the end of November, I attended a special tasting of UK cider producers at the House of Commons at Westminster. Perhaps surprisingly, this was my first comprehensive cider tasting in six years in drinks journalism and I was surprised by the diversity of product on offer. Strongbow, White Lightning and Blackthorne’s were notable by their absence. This was a day for the more up-market and specialist brews.
The message was clear, cider, like its counterpart beer, has a range of products to suit all tastes, and is, at its best, a premium product crafted by people passionate for the sector. The problem, of course, is that this couldn’t be further from the image widely held by the drinks buying public.
The producers showing their wares talked about growing the specialist and premium end of the category - rather as beer has been doing - to increase interest. However, cider has considerably more work to do.
It was given an unexpected fillip, though, last month, when it became apparent that the drink is the beverage of choice of Prince William. The supermarket chain Waitrose has apparently seen a 22.8% jump in sales in the past four weeks while traditional English brews from small producers leapt by as much as 35%.
Spokesman Christian Cull added: "Prince William has given cider a new young and sophisticated image. Until recently cider was seen by many to be an old traditionalist's drink, forever associated with the West Country."
Importantly, cider producers have not been slow to try to capitalise on this association and as a 21st birthday present, William had a cider apple named after him.
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