Cider Corner: Why the Cider Industry Should Emphasize Sustainability

Cider is often squeezed into a corner of a liquor store, overwhelmed by countless beer and wine options, with every brand competing for consumers’ attention.

So how can we better stand out as a craft cider industry, breaking through the noise with something that resonates with potential customers and draws them into the hidden cider corner?

We believe that an answer for craft cideries like ours is to emphasize sustainability. To survive in a competitive market, a business needs to have a unique value proposition — something that the business can offer that competitors can’t. In the case of craft beverages, cider has the potential to tell a story of sustainability that, for the most part, beer and wine would be hard pressed to compete with.

We’ve built our brand around sustainability, and so far it seems to be working. Trees, after all, are a fundamental symbol of sustainability, and when you trace it back to its roots, cider comes from trees. We source all of our apples from trees within 50 miles of our production facility, providing supplementary income for 18 small, family farms while keeping our carbon footprint limited. We proudly showcase that we use “ugly apples” that didn’t need to be intensively sprayed since they were destined for the cider mill. We talk up the heritage and history of apples and cider on small, family farms in America, and we have a small farm of our own where we strive to implement sustainable practices. When we look for other ingredients to add to our ciders, we focus on those that we can source locally from farms we feel good about, and the food menu in our tasting room highlights locally grown ingredients from sustainable farms in every dish. We write as many checks as possible directly to the farmers who grew our ingredients and whom we know to manage their land responsibly.

A brewery or winery might be able to pull off some of what we do related to sustainability, but we believe that our sustainability story for cider is simpler, more straight forward, and more compelling. Not every customer cares, but for those who do, we’re providing a direct conduit between them and local, sustainable farms that they can feel good about supporting when they buy our products.

The best part about the sustainability emphasis for our cider business is that it is what we want to do. It’s not a marketing gimmick; it’s a large part of what drove us to do this in the first place. It’s integrity, and that’s something we can be proud of.

Matt Raboin is the co-owner of Brix Cider LLC in Mt Horeb, Wisconsin. They are growing more than 100 cider apple varieties at their orchard and carefully keeping track of which trees are performing best. Read more here.

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