I’ve read numerous articles on the topic of what is a real cider. I look at it somewhat differently. The cider category isn’t like an 80’s one hit wonder pop artist. Today, cider is a maturing business category and just like the wine category you have your expensive wines, Italian wines, reds, Australian wines, whites, box wines, etc. Here’s my perspective on real cider.
Traditional – For some they make their ciders based on tradition and the lines drawn are hard. Specific apples, specific fermentation process, barrel aged and in the end they don’t deviate. Their volumes are smaller. They likely hand label their bottles and it’s unlikely you’ll ever pour their ciders from a can. It is also unlikely that you will ever find these ciders in Target or Costco. They make real cider.
Legacy – For some their real cider is about a legacy and tradition. They don’t have to worry about concentrated juice because their apples are grown in their own orchards or they are loyal to an orchard and they press the apples themselves. They live for more than just the production of cider and they support a legacy. They sell apples in crates or by the truckload. They make jams made from their apples or other fruit they grow and no doubt are listed on a cider tour guide. Ciders are part of what they sell but they aren’t 100% reliant upon it. The next generation managers of these providers of cider have more than just the cider they produce to consider because their expenses go beyond the product of cider. They make real cider.
Innovative Business Jr. – These cideries mix their creativity with business and they have big plans. They bring to the table the artisan flare and start to use words like raw materials yet may not have an inventory management system in place. Although they buy in large quantities they still won’t compromise quality which is why they don’t have a problem sourcing their apples from the state next door. These guys sit around a table and say, “what about jalapeño and smoked wood?” And the next thing you know they are in a tap takeover at the local brewery with that new cider. It’s also possible that the new cider may never hit the shelves in a bottle or can. They may have the occasional gap in their production because they aren’t quite 100% dialed in on the business side. You’ll find them in local and regional grocery stores and at the local farmers market and brewfests. They make real cider.
Investories (I just made up that word) – these makers of real cider are taking their expendable income and reinvesting because the business of cider is good and they have always wanted to “make” something beyond money. They are prepared to buy a prospero bottling line because they can but may have no understanding of how to penetrate sales in a state like Michigan where loyalty to local is stronger than titanium. They may pay to play and can withstand a couple of years in the red without losing sleep. They make real cider.
Dialed In – These makers of real cider are on the mark and balance business with their passion for cider making. They may still be privately owned but have made the transition over to cider as a business but are still responsive enough to get a new cider to market within 3-6 months. They know where they are and where they are going and their vocabulary includes words like strategy and planning. They have made huge investments in their facilities and have relationships with all major distributors and retailers nationwide and/or abroad. They have an actual sales and marketing budget and they may have a 1:1 ratio of number of sales reps to number of marketing ambassadors who know how to social media the hell out of a product. They make real cider.
Nothing but business – These guys use words like product life-cycle and there’s an analyst nowhere near the production facility reviewing profit and loss statements. They look for cost cutting opportunities while planning for a new plant in Europe or Asia. They have already planned the next 3-5 years of production with their apple / juice suppliers. They have a longer product life-cycle to bring a new cider to the market simply because they have internal processes to follow and it just takes longer. They make tons of cider (literally) and they have paved the way for the cider business category. They are just as necessary to the market as the traditional makers. They make real cider.
So, from my perspective it’s not about what is “real” or “not real” because each of these types of makers of cider all have one thing in common…they produce and sell cider that comes from fermented apple juice. Cider has been around longer than the states of America have been united and goes well beyond the borders of the United States of America. The business of cider is here to grow while the art and craft of cider will mature because there are more consumers today than there were last year. Consumers will buy it and try it and regardless of the artistry, or lack of, if they like it they will buy it again and again.
Today, when a consumer looks to purchase an electric car, they have more options than they had 5 years ago. Chevy makes an electric car. Tesla makes a damn sexy electric car. Class sets them apart. Quality sets them apart. Cost sets them apart. Innovation sets them apart. Engineering sets them apart. Regardless of what sets them apart, they are both automobiles powered by electricity and a consumer wanting an electric car could test drive or buy either of them. They are both real cars.
What’s real cider? It’s all real cider.