Cider Corner: Why Fall Flavors Still Sell for Portland Cider

Pumpkin Spice still sells. For Jeff Parish at Portland Cider, they learned that sort of the hard way.

During the cidery’s 2018 ABP (Annual Brand Planning) meetings with distributors, Parish told Brewer he got mostly negative feedback on the future of seasonal pumpkin beers and ciders.

“So for 2019 we decided to skip [making Pumpkin Spice] … big mistake​,” Parish, the cidery’s co-owner, said.​ “Pumpkin beers may have been showing signs of fatigue, but our fans certainly had not tired of our Pumpkin Spice cider.

​”​There was a lot of disappointed feedback through social media, so much so we did a small batch and put it on tap at our two retail locations.​”

​Having learned from that experience​, Portland Cider​ brought ​the brand back​ and moved into a 19.2oz​/​proper pint ​format​.

Those cans have been ‘flying off the shelves​,’ Parish noted.​

In 2017, when Pumpkin Spice was originally released in a 22-ounce bottle, it took the gold medal in both the U.S. Open Cider Championships and annual Cidercraft Awards in the spiced cider category.

​​The decision to switch from the bombers to proper pint cans was influenced by direct chain retailer comments and Nielsen data.

​”​The overall tracking data has been pretty clear that customers prefer to drink out of a can, and two major retail partners told us they were no longer going to be putting bombers in their schematic, so the decision was easy​,” Parish said.​ “Interesting enough we seemed to be one of the only cideries to really commit to the package size.

​”​There’s a number of cider producers doing one or two SKUs, but we put out ​[our] entire lineup into that package. No question it was the right thing to do.​”​

​Also helpful that a year ago, Portland Cider placed a focus on the grocery sales channel.

​”​Those efforts put us into a kind of ​’​right place, right time​’​ situation when COVID hit​,” Parish said.​ “When the only alcohol available was in the grocery stores, we were there. Our off-premise sales are up 70% this year as a result.

​”​Our move to almost exclusively cans is a permanent one and we are excited for it.​”​

​When it came time to determine a production figure for the now seasonal brand, Parish said depletion data drives ​Portland’s production​.

“We just keep a close eye on what our distributors are selling and plan our production accordingly​,” he said. ​

Pumpkin Spice is the fourth cider released in Portland Cider Co.’s Small Batch Series, which the company introduced in late 2019. The series allows the cidermakers to experiment with flavors and styles that complement its core lineup.

Portland Cider Co. has released a new cider in the series every quarter, including Crangerine, Blueberry Bourbon Basil, and most recently, Ciderade​.​

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