Cider Corner: Creating and Growing Untapped Markets

As cideries continue to grow and prosper in various places across the United States, finding new markets and developing current ones are key ways to achieve more consumers. But it takes work and many cideries are finding untapped markets to develop, either in new territories or in finding new consumers. Just being a different kind of cider can open up a marketspace.

Ben Wenk of Ploughman Cider does see an untapped market. He feels like his cidery has a lot of folks in the area who haven’t tried a cider that’s “orchard based” or heritage cider like the ciders Ploughman makes.

“I think for a portion of the population, discovering those kinds of ciders can be a real eye-opener,” Wenk said. “In that way, it can feel at times like the early stages of the rise of craft beer.

“However, the worry I have is that as awareness in cider increases, I feel like there’s an increased likelihood that someone new to cider could have a bad experience and be turned off by the whole category. Commonly, these are folks who might purchase a cider that’s advertised as dry, be turned off by a level of sweetness that they were intentionally trying to avoid. Often, these folks are led to an assumption that if “dry ciders” are too sweet for my taste, then no cider is likely to satisfy me.”

There are certainly a bunch of very well-funded national brands that had the horses to really ride the wave of the cider renaissance which started happening in Texas in about 2010, pointed out John Staples of Fairweather Cider.

“A lot of people jumped into the game and were (and still are) making wine coolers that were branded and sold as hard cider to simplify production and capitalize on a promising new market,” he said. “So at this point there is somewhat of a paradox where you have a bunch of producers selling very sweet ciders that are relying heavily on buzzwords to keep up with trends.”

He added that on the other end there are traditionalists that often times are making really cool stuff, “but sometimes [it] can be unapproachable to a potential end-consumer by being large format and somewhat expensive or otherwise jargony and nerdy and using verbiage that is only relevant to a very small sector of the market,” he added.

It’s the emerging ‘modern cider’ category that Fairweather is a part of that Staples believes is becoming more relevant every day.

“These are producers that don’t necessarily rely on heirloom varietals but also don’t want to make cider from concentrate,” Staples said. “Modern producers usually rely on post fermentation infusions like dry-hopping or using herbs/vegetables to contribute to aromatic complexity but still communicating something simple to customers.”

Fairweather is looking at the opportunity in Texas in between the two categories that have caused the market (and consumers) to become somewhat polarized.

“A lot of people we initially encounter have a bizarre expectation for what cider is due to products that some national brands have been flooding the market with,” Staples said. “There isn’t really a right or wrong here, but there is a hole in the market where we feel we fit nicely into.

“So far the consumers in Texas largely don’t know about us but we are expanding production pretty heavily and are about to start working with some monster accounts that we simply did not have to bandwidth to approach sooner.”

Connecticut does not currently allow cider sales at local farmers markets and also at grocery stores, explained Ron Sansone of Spoke and Spy Ciderworks. So changing laws and permits to allow this could add a lot of potential sales. That’s where Sansone sees growth potential for his cidery.

“We have been working with local politicians to get a few house bills proposed and hopefully these changes will happen soon,” he said. “Currently we only sell kegs direct to bars and restaurants and direct to consumer in our tasting room.

“More opportunities to see people and share our cider would definitely help bring new customers to the cider world.”

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