Blog Gourmet > Cider’s rise - Truly scrumpy?

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The Economist. Cider’s rise - Truly scrumpy?
Cider has boomed, but its success may be too sweet to sustain
Oct 6th 2012 | From the print edition

IN LEAN times for alcohol, one drink has flourished. Consumption of alcoholic cider increased by 46% between 2002 and 2011 (see chart). The tipple is in a demographic sweet spot. A decade ago 35- to 44-year-olds were the biggest cider consumers; now 18- to 24-year-olds are. A generation reared on alcopops has taken easily to fermented apple juice.

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One brand has driven much of the growth. Magners, owned by the C&C Group, has gained the second largest market share (7.5%) from virtually nothing in 2005. The sweltering summer of 2006, a savvy advertising campaign and the dubious innovation of cider on ice tipped drinkers’ elbows. Kopparberg, a Swedish brand, has popularised summer fruit varieties. This has unsettled traditionalists like Gillian Williams of the Campaign for Real Ale, who thinks such quaffable inventions are degrading a venerable drink. Real cider is made with apples, she says, while “pear cider” is not that at all: perry is its proper name. She is fighting a rising tide.

Companies have followed drinkers in moving from beer to cider. Stella Artois’s “Cidre” has grabbed 3.2% of the market since its launch in 2011; Carlsberg introduced its own cider to Britain this year. British producers are eyeing up foreign shores too. Aspall’s, a Suffolk-based cider, has boosted its exports by half over the past year, with particular success in Japan. Paul Bartlett, head of the National Association of Cider Makers, points to the huge potential of the American market, where just 0.2% of beer swillers currently drink cider. Off-trade sales grew by 50% last year and C&C recently bought Hornsby’s, America’s second-biggest “hard cider” brand.

There is a limit to cider’s effervescence. Orchards and drinkers are both affected by bad weather: 2012’s late frost and heavy rain have been damaging. The government’s proposals for minimum unit pricing for alcohol would affect cider disproportionately because of its low excise duty—just half that of beer. It is likely that only premium brands will benefit from the export boom.

And the domestic market may be close to saturation. Just as many people will drink cider as will drink beer, but they are less likely to stick with it all night. This is, ironically, a result of the sweetness of the popular ciders. By 10pm on a Friday night, the atmosphere in the Cider Tap, a dedicated bar outside Euston station in London that had been full earlier in the evening, is moribund. Across the road, its beer-pumping sister, the Euston Tap, is packed.

From the print edition: Britain

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1. Oct 7th 2012, 16:50 > apple biodiversity is limited to only a few varieties in the "New World". I couldn't find this online, but about ten years ago Smithsonian (before it became a magazine full of ads instead of articles) had a great piece on North American apples and the history of apple cultivation in the New World. If I remember correctly, originally, American applejack was of high quality, due to crossing European stocks with bitter American crabapples. It was so popular in fact that Puritan ministers who normally spoke of the evils of alcohol saw nothing wrong whatsoever in downing flagons of applejack (which like hard cider, needs bitter apples). I forget why the article said that apple cider stopped, but I want to say that Prohibition was the etiology of the near annihilation of the American side of cider production; I don't know what happened in Canada. A bright spot though is that hard cider and heirloom apples are making a strong comeback. After having tried several heirloom cultivars, I don't think I can ever consume a Red Delicious and be content again. Sadly, I think it will take some time before we get high-quality, Normandy like cider over here instead of the Hornsbys that hipsters adore.

2. Attitude towards alcohol like this is the reason what keeps the drug at the height in UK that it currently is. After all alcohol has long been known to be just as toxic and dangerous drug as heroin and the like and is killing and destroying lives of way more people than all other drugs combined. Yet for some reason it is widely publicly accepted in UK (some reason being amount of money in the industry, of course) and the brainwashing that regards its usage is simply incredible in Great Britain. The lobbying by the industry that sells this terrifying drug is so strong and its being used by so many that a lot of things seem to be widely publicly accepted even between the so called intelligence (if there is such a thing as "intelligence" in the 21st century Western Europe, because "intelligence" in Britain seems to be just a smarter end of a partly zombified consumerist population). So why on Earth would anyone in his right mind make an article about how different types of the same drug are doing in the markets? Its the same bloody drug. Why do you need to put brands on it? Why do you need to spread this false and incredibly ill-doing marketing among your readers including the younger generation? Are you also this specific when writing about heroin usage and market? Would you make an article about how black heroin is overpowering white heroin and tar heroin? Or is it just that the editors of the magazine are using the drug themselves and hence hold a more appealing opinion towards it than they do towards heroin?

3. Irish and British ciders enjoy a distinct advantage over their North American counterparts- apple biodiversity is limited to only a few varieties in the "New World" and I suspect cider manufacturers have difficulty balancing the acidity/ tannin levels to achieve the perfect product. Cider apples of the bitter variety are not grown here in Canada and to my taste, our products are uniformly too sweet. The result produces, in my experience, head-aches, which are another reason I prefer not to switch from cider to beer in an evening. Hopefully we will start to see North American orchards growing greater varieties of cider apples in future, but until then, I'll stick to my imported Magners!

4. You have obviously not used this particular drug yourself. Even a small amount of experimentation would demonstrate that there is a world of difference between (and within) beer, wine and spirits. And why do you think that so many thousands of types of wine are produced in the world? The drinks industry would dearly love to reduce wine to a few standard types, but the variety of wine is one of its biggest attractions to connoisseurs. The fact is that people are not buying pure alcohol - alcoholic drinks are more than a drug and are not in any way comparable to heroin.