Cider Corner: Modifying the Game Plan for Sales

2 Towns Ciderhouse has had to adjust quickly to new market conditions. With closures of on-premise accounts during social distancing measures, that channel of sales is essentially closed.

“There are a few growler fill stations that are offering to-go fills, but by and large on-prem is off the table,” explained the Corvallis, Oregon cidery spokeswoman, Madison Shirley. “At the same time, we’ve seen a spike in off-prem sales as consumers are changing their purchasing habits.”

While immediate sales in grocery are making up for losses in bars and restaurants, Shirley says the cidery fears that this is likely a temporary situation as many people are buying in bulk in preparation for sustained shelter in place restrictions and sales will likely decline accordingly.

So 2 Towns has launched a direct to consumer home delivery program in preparation of these losses in hopes to continue to have an avenue of sales despite other detractors.

It also means the facility is packaging in bottles and cans and distributing based on depletion rates.

“Our inventory on-hand in keg formats are being returned to the tank so we can repack the cider in off-prem friendly formats,” Shirley said. “We’ve adjusted our production schedule to a more strict 21-day ordering window where we are producing solely to committed distributor orders.

“Ordinarily we have a more flexible process that takes into account standing orders and traditional seasonality to forecast expected sales, but current conditions are making our regular processes more complicated. Knowing the potential volatility of the market, we want to limit our exposure in finished inventory costs.”

Seattle Cider is continuing to package out of its tanks as well, but Maura Hardman, the cidery’s PR & Marketing Manager said they are no longer packaging in kegs beyond what is needed in the tasting room for growler sales.

Additionally, the company is in the process of launching its newest product line, Seattle Cider Sparkling.

“We have been busy canning both the new Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange flavors to fill distributor orders,” Hardman said. “With the addition of this new product, the small amount of slowing down made for more reasonable timelines for production and packaging, where we would have normally had to work at breakneck speeds to get all of it out.”

While the timing for releasing a brand new item is not necessarily ideal — it’s tough to compete with the daily COVID-19 news cycle for visibility — the liquid and packaging has been in R&D for over a year now and Hardman said they were eager to get it out to the public.

Seattle Cider also worked quickly to get signed up with VinoShipper and it is offering direct to customer shipments in most states for Seattle Cider.

Regarding staff, Hardman said Seattle Cider has been incredibly lucky to be able to continue to employ all its staff.

“We recently had a few folks depart on their own to seek a new industry and have been able to offer many of those hours for bartending staff,” Hardman noted. “With reduced tasting room hours, went offer shifts to bartenders on the canning line, in the cellar, and working on projects to get our tasting room, The Woods, in tip-top shape before we fully open back up to the public once the Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate in Washington is lifted.

“It was of paramount importance for us to figure out a plan quickly to continue to employ all of our staff.”

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