Cider summit meets to plan assault on US drinks market
Cider makers from the Westcountry are heading across the Atlantic in an audacious bid to quench the thirst of the lucrative American market.
The first ever summit of big hitters from the sector was staged yesterday to look at how to introduce the region's most iconic tipple to a new audience.
With 60% of all ciders made and drunk in the UK, the idea of going stateside won a raft of backers.
Paul Bartlett, chairman of the National Association of Cider Makers, said new orchards were being planted with sights firmly set on winning American fans.
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"Ten years ago people were raking up orchards but now we are talking about an increase of 20% in the total acreage," he said.
"The big three have all agreed to plant an extra 2,000 hectares and that's partly down to anticipated export growth.
"Cider sales in the US have grown by 104% over the last 12 months alone and although it's still a tiny share of the market, it's growing fast.
"There's been no slowdown at home and now cider makers are looking to export to America, Australia and other parts of the world."
C&C is the world's largest cider producer and managing director Paolo Mortarotti said he was convinced the product was on the verge of taking off in the States.
"The American market is incredibly small in terms of overall consumption but it has good long-term potential because it is the biggest consumer market in the world. When the United States craft cider market starts importing, there will be an opening for English cider. Consumers will demand more choice and they will discover Westcountry cider brands with heritage and credibility.
"Whether it happens next year or in five years I don't know, but it's inevitable.
"We now have craft cider in Australia which would have not been thought possible five years ago and we expect cider growth to pick up worldwide."
The Cider Trends Summit at Bristol attracted more than 300 people from the industry.
One of the chief targets was how make it more attractive to women, who are seen as the main target of new fruit infused versions of the drink.
Martin Thatcher, managing director of the famous family firm based in Somerset, said: "There is no doubt that over the last five years tastes have changed and we have to make sure that we keep pace with those changes."
Ten years ago, the cider industry used 110,000 tonnes of apples grown in the UK. Today, it is 250,000 tonnes.
Britain’s producers now harvest apples from more than 17,000 acres of orchards – that’s over 30,000 football pitches.
There are some 1,500 people employed directly in the industry and a further 7,500 jobs supported in the rural community.
The cider market in the UK is now worth
£3 billion and cider
and perry contribute
9 per cent of all the alcohol consumed in the UK.