Is cider on the forefront of innovation and shift in consumer preference?

Is Australia heading towards an identity crisis?

We Aussies pride ourselves with our “work hard — play hard” mentality and alcohol has long played an integral part in social interaction. In a country where the size of “eskies” and BBQs matches that of some European cars the news that we are moving away from alcohol is almost unbelievable. Yet it is fact. We are drinking less overall and we choose more carefully when we do. In this industry update we bring a few trend drivers to your attention.

Cider category worldwide

Our palates are evolving and the more exposure we get to different cider varieties the more we appreciate the abundance of flavours and styles. Similarly to wine; most of us get into cider through the big brands which are often big on sugar and small in complexity. The good news is that, if we stick with it, we are likely sooner or later to reach out and explore the world of cider beyond the counters of the big retailers pushing market leading brands with hefty advertising budgets. This is when the magic happens!

In New York , the second largest apple growing region in the US, the demand for more diverse, locally produced cider offerings is shaping the agricultural landscape. Grub Street reports that the NY governor’s office has confirmed an investment of $56,874 towards the research and development of cider apple varieties in March this year. The research, which aims to increase both the yield and quality of hard-cider apples, indicates a longer term commitment to growing the cider category and is a testament to the promising performance of the category worldwide.

Cider category Australia

The same trend drives the strong performance of cider in Australia, with small scale craft producers on its forefront. The IBISWorld report “Cider Production in Australia”, from February 2016, attributes this to the growing number of small cider making businesses which leverage the favourable fruit growing conditions and bring authenticity and freshly produced beverages to their local consumers. IBISWorld points out that the cider category has built up strong momentum and is expected to grow from over $309.7 million in revenue this year to a whopping $404.4 million by 2021, the equivalent of 30% growth. However, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the past 5 years have seen double digit decline in the overall alcohol consumption. This suggest cider’s popularity is driven by the new demographic and consumer trends reshaping the Australian alcohol landscape and this is excellent news for more than 100 small scale cider makers Down Under. IBISWorld predicts that to unlock the growth potential cider makers will have to bet on innovation to keep consumers engaged.

Cider innovation

For those bold cider makers ready to innovate there is no shortage of inspiration, be it local or international. While many suggest that Australian craft cider should follow the example of craft beer to succeed, the fact of the matter is that cider innovation has anything but stalled. According to Mintel, in the last year alone there were 247 new product launches. However, it is not the number but rather the origin of these launches that truly impresses. While the UK is still on the forefront of innovation as the most mature cider market in the world, the runner ups are rather surprising. In the top ten fall unlikely states such as Norway, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania. Why is this significant? Each of these European nations in one way or another pride themselves with the historical production of and expertise in some type of alcoholic tipple, with a higher alcohol per volume the further east you go. Yet, throughout the centuries cider has never made a lasting impression very far from its birthplace in Northwestern Europe. So therefore, the rising interest in cider in non-traditional markets indicates a change in consumer demand that is beyond borders and which is driven by generational changes and growing awareness amongst consumerist societies.

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