Apple Cider Market Goes Skyward

They say there’s a recession going on . . . but someone forgot to mention that to New Zealand’s cider drinkers.

Research company AC Neilsen says total cider drinking is up 12.4 percent on last year, and Gisborne’s Bulmer Harvest – New Zealand’s No 1 brand – is doing even better, up 21.3 percent.

That’s hardly surprising as Bulmer Harvest holds the top three slots in the nation’s cider stable, with 85 percent market share.

For good reason too – the company just won gold for its Scrumpy at the New Zealand Fruit Wine and Cidermakers 2008 National Competition. The trophy and medal join a cabinet bulging with similar awards.

The Scrumpy medal was the only gold handed out at the event, awarded by a panel of wine judges in a blind-tasting of 69 ciders.

Company founder Brian Shanks says the stats and the award back up what he knows his team does.

“We have a consistency of flavour profile for each brand, batch after batch, year after year. It is a critical factor in the success of our product,” he says.

Cider maker Judy Smith has only been with the company since November, making this her first medal.

While the product is made with modern wine-making skills, Bulmer Harvest borrows from some very traditional beer-making techniques to maintain that all-important consistency.

“Our customers can pick up a bottle of Scrumpy on any day of any year and know it will taste exactly the same every time.”

Harvest Scrumpy has been No 1 in New Zealand for the past two years.

“Probably because it represents exceptionally good value for money with a brilliant taste. It’s all about quality.”

Scrumpy sales are up 17.8 percent on last year, Harvest is up 17.6 percent and Bulmers Original has jumped 55.5 percent.

In total, the sales growth equates to $655,000 of value growth for retailers.

“It’s as though there is a rediscovery of cider going on,” says Mr Shanks, who with wife Irene created the company in 1990.

“Cider is literally flying out the door.”

Bulmer Harvest has a small team producing in excess of 1.8 million litres a year.

They could be based anywhere but the Shanks are fiercely parochial and love their life by the sea, with offices that overlook Captain James Cook’s landing spots.

It’s fitting because there was plenty of cider back then, and likely more than a litre or two to be found on the HMS Endeavour. Cook was one of the pioneers in discovering that cider and beer could help prevent scurvy.

The history goes on, as Symonds Cider Company from the United Kingdom – part of Bulmers – has been making scrumpy since 1727, the year before Cook was born.

“So it stands to reason then that any cider Cook did have on board could well have been Bulmers.”

Story by: Diana Dobson

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