Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Flavoured Ciders - Is this the way forward?

If you have been living under a rock for the past couple years, you wouldn't have noticed that Australia is in a cider boom - both in production and consumption. It's thought the Australian cider industry is currently worth around the $300 million mark, which is a big achievement! The ABS reported that cider sales jumped up 30% in 2011-12, and this is really quite exciting for a cider lover like myself. Right now, stereotypical barriers regarding cider are being broken down. Where cider was only a woman's drink, is now vastly becoming the drink of choice by a large percent of Aussie blokes. If you look at it closely, cider is a session drink (yes this would upset the binge drinking advocates) by being clean, fresh, served with ice and not getting too heavy after a few pints. Also, with the Aussie consumer being 'spoilt for choice' with some fantastic ciders being produced, it's no wonder its popularity has increased significantly. But what I personally am seeing in Australia now is not a cider boom as such, but what i like to call 'The Aussie Rekorderling Boom'.

This boom is the direct result of everyday Australian's being bombarded with a Swedish cider producer named Rekorderling. They have single handily given cider a new face lift via means of fruit flavoured cider. For example, Rekorderling's Wild Berry, Strawberry and Lime, Apple and Blackcurrant and Apple Cinnamon and Vanilla cider's have all hit our shelves and have spawned a new phase in the Aussie cider market. Magners from Ireland too have jumped on the flavoured cider band wagon releasing flavours like Apple with Orange and Honey, Apple with Berry and Peach and Apple Ginger. Kopparberg (also from Sweden) too is a culprit - the list can go on. The traditional apple or pear cider is being pressured and pushed aside by these flavoured drinks which are mostly directed/marketed towards women. They have bright, fancy labels designed to pop out at you, and give an immediate sense of fun and excitement. Australian producers have now seen this popularity increase and already are capitalising on these fruit flavoured ciders. The question I want to know is it all for a buck, or for the passion?

I noticed recently a South Australian producer who ran a constant Twitter post asking followers to guess their new cider. Instead of seeing a new exciting addition like a barrel fermented/aged cider for example, I was not surprised to see it was a new Wild Berry flavour (to go with their Peach flavour). I even saw a very notable producer from Victoria also asking its loyal fans for suggestions on a new fruit flavoured cider, via Facebook. I am not just singling out these two respectable producers, as more and more Australian (and even NZ) producers are being tempted into to this new cider phenomenon. Their flavoured ciders are now dangerously sitting in the alcopop or RDT (ready to drink) category, and as we are all aware alcopop's equal alcopop tax. The Australian Government has already jumped all over this, and hopefully won't send traditional cider down the same path. Why the heck would you want your hand crafted cider considered the same as a Bourbon and Cola?

The idea of flavoured ciders sprouting up at a rapid rate is a worrying factor, as we haven't as yet really established ourselves as an industry. Let's be honest, it's almost the case of too big, too fast and it needs to be toned back. The basic principles of the apple and pear need to be worked out before anything. To make things worse, there really are loose laws when it comes to cider making in Australia, and maybe this all needs to change. I have read recently about several new producers having to go over to places like the UK and learn how to make cider properly. That's great because they can bring their knowledge back to Australia. But if the basics can't be done right first, why introduce new products/fruit flavours into the mix. How about focusing on new recipes, new varieties or new styles of cider/perry? There are so many stock standard Australian ciders out there, how about pushing the envelope? The question shouldn't be, "do I use strawberry or peach?" It needs to be "how can I pay justice to the fantastic apples and pears i am going to use?" Paying justice to the fruit definitely doesn't mean slap it full of concentrated flavourings, pop a cute little label on it and watch it fly out the door with a "Cha Ching" sound to follow. To fall into this trap would be a disaster for the industry, and its image. We are not Sweden, nor Ireland, we are Australia so let's do things our way and not follow trendy fads! I am only just getting over the radler phase of beers and thank god that's died down!!

Yes this may seem a little one sided, but I would hate to think what will happen to the industry if these fruit flavoured imposter's gain even more momentum. You could argue that consumer's palates dictate change and hence influence new products. But you know what? Cider has been around for over a thousand years, and it's never needed fake intruding fruit flavours to sustain itself. Through thick and thin, cider has always been apple or pear. So let's pay homage to the amazing produce we get from the Adelaide Hills, Yarra Valley, Batlow etc. and really show case them for the world to see. There is a place for these 'so called' ciders for sure, but not every fruit, rhizome, spice or plant under the sun needs to be represented. It's called cider for a reason.........


*Pictures taken from foodsogoodmall.com and rekorderling.com

1 comment:

  1. Face-aching lollywater.

    I once bought a Kopparberg by accident, thinking it was something else.

    I won't be making that mistake again.