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COVID-19 accelerates off-premise craft cider sales

Australian Cider Awards 2019

Australian craft cider producers are experiencing a surge in off-premise sales as Dan Murphy’s reports the category has grown at the same rate as craft beer across their network over the last 12 months.

The impact of COVID-19 on hospitality businesses, people drinking less but better quality alcohol and growing consumer awareness of supporting local businesses are all being credited as the reasons for the rise.

The Yarra Valley’s Napoleone Cider, Bundaberg’s Cheeky Tiki Cider and Tasmania’s Willie Smith’s have all said they have recouped a lot of their lost on-premise sales with wider off-premise distribution as consumers become more aware of the bespoke and authentic nature of their products.

Napoleone’s national sales manager Cameron Gordon said when the pandemic forced the closure of the cellar door they share with Punt Road Wines, and the restaurants and bars they supply, they were grateful for the role direct to consumer retail sales played in helping to navigate the period.

“It’s a great time to be in craft cider, there’s a shift happening,” he said. “People who might not have tried cider since their youth are realising there’s a whole world of cider makers out there creating really clever, nuanced products – nothing like the sweet strawberry and lime things they had 10-15 years ago.”

Josh and Zoe Young, who own the Ohana Winery & Cheeky Tiki Cider in Bundaberg, have experienced a boom in sales of their craft ciders throughout the period COVID-19 has impacted Australia.

Zoe said the increase in domestic awareness had been “insane” and was a key driver, along with their retail distribution, of their success.

“People now realise there is a major difference between craft and commercial cider. Craft cider uses fresh Australian grown apples, as opposed to many mainstream brands that use fake flavours and concentrates,” she said.

Up until this time last year the majority of Willie Smith’s sales were on-premise, so it’s little wonder co-founder Sam Reid recalled COVID-19’s initial impact as “devastating at first”.

“However, thankfully, customers quickly showed their support by shopping our ciders in stores. Our craft cider sales have been booming in the last 12 months,” he said.

Cider Australia’s Jane Anderson said COVID-19 had accelerated the growth of craft cider.

“Authenticity is growing in importance to consumers. Drinkers are looking for real, honest drinks with clarity about their ingredients and the people that have made them,” she said.

“We believe the premium, craft segment of the cider category will continue to grow strongly over the next five years, as the trends to ‘buy local’ and ‘drink less but better’ continue.”

Dan Murphy’s craft beer and cider category manager Billy Ryan said: “We have almost 100 Aussie craft ciders in our range… The rise of craft cider is part of a wider trend of customers wanting to support independent, locally-made and grown products. We also see customers drinking less, but better.”

Cider Australia launch video campaign

In a follow up to The Australian Cider Guide publication, Cider Australia has released a series of educational videos to push Australian craft cider in overseas markets.

Featuring drinks writer Max Allen and sommelier Sebastian Crowther the videos aim to educate by differentiating between what industrial cider is compared to Australian craft cider and highlighting the apples and food matches that complement the craft category.

The video vignettes are currently available on Cider Australia’s YouTube channel and will become part of a wider campaign in the lead up to Australian Cider Day on March 13.

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