VEGA News Item

The Future’s Not So Rosy for Cider - 07/05/2010

Opportunities Remain for Apple Juice and Cider Vinegar

1.  Sales of Cider have been increasing over the last 4 years, taking a gulp out of the market for lagers and becoming the fastest-growing drinks category (The Grocer, 24/04/10). A government intention to impose a 10% tax increase on cider comes at a time when production costs could be about to rise. The Government has relented and said that it would not implement the tax before the General Election, so the industry is in the throes of uncertainty. The Labour Government has been taking a strong view of the outputs and consumption of products of drinks and brewing industries and the social and health problems associated with consumption and drunkenness, especially in young adults. These problems beset authorities in North America likewise. Taxes common to beers and ciders are threats perceived by the commercial cider industry, which is mounting a defence of its hitherto advantageous position.

2.  Many of the costs of cider production on a commercial scale, are like those for beer: packaging, processing, transportation, and marketing costs. The raw ingredient differentiates them, cider being produced from apples and pears rather than grain. The costs are higher for cider and this is one reason to differentiate them by rates of duty. Unlike grains apple crops take a while to establish and can’t be rapidly turned around. “Making a commitment to the cider industry takes a great deal of faith in its future; this may have been dented by the Labour Government’s pronouncement,” states the Grocer (24/04/10|).

3.  The big increase in production of cider over the last few years has led to an increase in the volume of apples consumed by the industry. Cider production is estimated to have used 45% of last year’s apple crop and supplies of concentrated juice from the rest of the world when needed. Many of the main producers have their own orchards and can count on them as fixed suppliers. However, the requirements in volume exceed the home-grown supplies and imports are needed. The UK’s apple production supplies only 20% of the total retail and processing apple market. China continues to be the driving force behind changes in the world apple juice market. It accounts for more than half of global supplies of apple juice and more than 80% of global apple juice exports.

4.  China’s production of concentrated apple juice is expected to fall by 17% in 2009/2010, owing to a lack of demand and continuing high levels of stock. In the EU production of the concentrate is expected to decline by 15%, owing to a reduced area of cultivation in Poland and problems in Spain with pollination. Prices of apple juice have continued to be influenced by large stocks of concentrated apple juice on the market. “There has been reduced demand from the processing industry and ample fruit supply has put strong downward producer and market prices; however, if supplies tighten up and costs have to rise, a potential tax rise could not come at a worse time,” says the Grocer.

5.  The major supermarkets in the UK frustrate efforts at curtailing sales and special offers on alcoholic drinks. Restrictions by licensing and fiscal measures lose their effect when costs rise to levels where smuggling is possible. However, the supermarkets could cease their trade in alcoholic drinks and liquors, leaving the trade to off-licenses and smaller retailers, where sales could be reduced to a lower level with closer control. Sales of cigarets might be controlled likewise with benefits to health. A “green” solution to disturbances and unsocial behaviour due to drunkenness might be tackled by punishments measured in kWh generated by miscreants trudging on treadmills, the power and energy so derived being collected for delivery into the National Grid;” or skipping ropes with electronic counters might be used. The punishments could be worked off on equipment in registered premises such as police stations.

Vintage Cider

6.  For further information on traditional British cider (and cider vinegar) a visit to Herefordshire is illuminating. Half the apples used to make British Cider and apple juice are grown within the borders of the county. Output averages about 1 million gallons a week. A vicar’s son named Percy Bulmer commercialized Herefordshire cider and is celebrated in the Cider Museum at 21 Ryelands Street in Hereford, which occupies his first cider mill. The guide for tourists gives this information: 01432 354207; open 10.00am to 17.00pm Tuesday to Saturday; £3.50.

7.  The museum explains some jargon: “hairs” are the sacks in which apples are pulverized. A stack of hairs – ready for squeezing – constitutes a cheese”. In the 18th-century hundreds of people died after drinking cider: they were poisoned by lead in the pipes and presses.  Similar disasters have occurred in the wine industry. Substances such as beetroot (for coloring) and rabbit skins (for nutrition) may be added for “enhancement,” and some others may find their way into the brews adventitiously. Food campaigners might ask questions about the ferments, finings, and other processing aids and the information printed on the labels.

8.  Percy Bulmer introduced the méthode champonaise by which flat cider could be made sparkling. The racks in which the bottles were rotated by 45 degrees each day remain in the museum, which also contains examples of Mexican and Finnish cider. The Herefordshire Cider Route (www.ciderroute.co.uk) provides details of cycling routes, as well as of producers, retailers, and events. The trail includes 17 cider producers.

9.  Many years ago VEGA commissioned tests for vitamin B12 content in many fermented products – beers, ciders, wines, and vinegars and breads with little evidence of content – any more than might be left in dead rodents, insects, droppings and hairs and stray microorganisms.

10.  If the taxes on ciders are sharply increased an allowance might be made to reduce the blow for small “farmyard” producers. Gordon Brown, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced exemptions for small-scale (“local”) brewers of “real” beers.


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