We were lucky enough to attend the first ever UK CraftCon cidermaking development day at Pershore College, organised by the Three Counties Cider and Perry Association. James Forbes, Chair of the association, hoped that CraftCon would, in bringing together producers to share knowledge and learn from each other, prove to be an important milestone in bringing on a renaissance in cider and perry.
This kind of event has been a long time coming! Craft cider makers here in the UK produce fantastic ciders but have rarely had the opportunity to come together as a collective force to discuss, help shape, and promote this very niche industry.
Craft beer dominates the UK “craft” market and with good reasons – America’s heavy thirst for it; enthusiastic brewers on this side of the pond wanting to break the ‘traditional’ mould; a gap in the (millennial?) market; and some inspirational marketing.
Sure, the craft cider market has hurdles [consumers’ preconceptions of what real cider is; global cider brands deliberately marketing their products as farm-scale; and many craft ciders being subject to new higher alcohol duty meant to target those high strength ‘white ciders’ associated with problem drinking], but there is no reason why these fantastic ciders shouldn’t see a similar boom in consumer demand. How can we get there? More UK based events like CraftCon are essential. Here are a few suggestions …
- Characterisation: Cider is not a generic, nor a default drink. Real ciders, like fine wines and craft beers, have complex characteristics which need to be experienced. Differentiation is also relevant here — whether wild, single variety or hopped — it will create more interest.
- A quality mark: James Mcilwraith and likeminded cidermakers are campaigning for a “craft” type quality mark so that consumers can recognise craft/real cider from cider from concentrate.
- Discovery: Consumers need to “discover” for themselves! Providing them well thought out opportunities to discover craft cider is key. If it’s unique and they love it, they’ll share it (as with craft beer) and want to experience more.
- Ambassadors: We need more, definitely — like Tom Oliver, Gabe Cook and Susanna Forbes to fly the flag
- It is a craft: In our experience, cidermakers are naturally modest, which is lovely. The real cider industry has a depth of cidermaking expertise, cultural heritage and stories at its fingertips, but consumers aren’t always aware of this — another opportunity. Which brings us to the next point …
- Marketing, marketing & marketing: Strong brands needed here! Sometimes it only takes a few ‘champion’ brands to find a way of engaging with consumers and they (the consumers) will do the rest. If you don’t know how to develop your brand, you’re not alone — most strong brands buy in help. Done well, it’s an investment.
Our belief that there are strong opportunities for future growth and that’s why we were happy to sponsor CraftCon19.
The event was really well organised and attended by delegates from across the UK and Europe. The speakers were generous with both their knowledge and cider samples! We attended seminars lead by Tom Oliver, Gabe Cook and James Marsden — all experts in and advocates of the industry. Gabe’s fault identification seminar was fascinating — tasting spiked versions of cider to help identify how a fault presents, what it’s causes might be, in order to avoid it in the future. Martin Berkeley’s talk on the dark arts of keeving was another highlight.
Although we were attending to represent our equipment offering, we left having genuinely benefitted from a deeper understanding of the product and having met some of the passionate individuals at the very forefront of quality cider making.
We’re excited that it looks like cider’s time is coming again and look forward to helping equip passionate producers with the right equipment to play their part in it! If you’d like to discuss cider or perry making equipment with us please call us on UK 01404 892100.
From all at Vigo Ltd