Cider Corner: Tracking Freshness for Your Packaged Product

The change over to date-coded beer and “Enjoy By” dates sometimes can be confusing to consumers when it comes to a cider product since the shelf life can be massively different.

Educating consumers is a key to making sure they understand how long a cider can hold, but drinking as fresh as possible is still a great notion.

Bryant’s Cider conditions its ciders on live yeast for both canned and kegged products.

“Our process allows our ciders to age like a wine so generally they will improve some with age,” said Bryant’s owner Jerry Thornton. “It’s been difficult to educate consumers who perceive “old” dates as bad.

“Our retail format of 16-ounce cans is not typically aged so it’s been hard to communicate the cider can age. We have found retailers and consumers perceive aging as a negative with our cider even though it ages very well.”

Stem Ciders track​s​ best-by dates on outbound shipments to distributors and ​its field sales team monitors distributor inventories to ensure distributors are not holding unexplained inventories in excess of 60 days-on-hand​, explained CCO Dave Duffy​.

​”​From there, we always check dates in the field in accounts​,” he said​. ​”​Our cider very rarely goes past its shelf life​ (a year)​, but if it did we ensure that products come off the shelf and get destroyed at distributor expense.​”​

READ MORE: Cider Corner: The Move to Self Distribution

High Limb Cider​ ​sales manager, John Croteau​ said they track all sales data by collecting weekly sales/distribution and inventory reports from distributor partners.

Wild State pasteurize​s cans for about ​one ​year ​of ​shelf life, ​while ​kegs are ​best ​6-8 months ​and ​kept cold.

​”​We put on an internal date code but not for customers to read​,” said Wild State’s Adam Ruland.​

The educational aspect of how ​your cidery’s product changes over time is key​ pointed out Ben Nielsen of Lassen Cider​.

​”​It does improve in the bottle over the course of the first year​,” he said​. ​”​At the same time, there isn’t a huge reason to let it age for much longer than that.​”

Nielsen said he has lot​s​ of people tell ​him they are saving ​the Lassen bottles for a special occasion​.

“I say, just go ahead and drink it and buy another one later​,” he said. ​”​Cider is meant to be drank.

​”​It’s not quite like wine where it’s going to continue to improve after several years.​”​

Nielsen​ stressed that​ shelf life of ​his brand’s cider is years so ​he ​doesn’t generally worry about expiration dates.

​”​I typically start to sell my cider before it has fully matured (​five​ months after bottling), and I sell out long before it expires​,” he said​. ​”​I don’t backsweeten so the product is in a fully fermented state. It changes substantially in the bottle over the course of the first year, and I age it at room temperature.

​”​It does not need to be stored at refrigerated temperatures. This would just serve to slow down the aging process.​”​

​Duffy pointed out that ​forecast-based production is the best way to ensure freshness throughout the value chain.

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