Bulmers is set to launch a new cider range, the Orchard Pioneers, in February 2017, beginning with Kier's Cloudy Apple Cider and Sarah's Red Apple Cider.
Bulmers works with 180 different orchardists, primarily in Herefordshire, to gather in over 100,000 tonnes of bittersweet cider apples. In a break from the norm, the world’s largest cidermakers worked with two of its key suppliers on the recipes for the new range.
Bulmers' research with consumers in both the on- and the off-trade showed a desire for a stronger connection with the source of their ciders, dubbing this sort of cider 'artisanal apple'. They sit apart in consumers' minds from those found in the 'mainstream' and 'flavoured' categories, each of which have their own 'premium' tier. According to its research, 'artisanal apple' ciders fell into three key segments: heritage for refreshment, super premium for sharing, and modern craft, which includes the new wave, canned ciders.
The first in the new range is named after Kier Rogers. Well known locally, Rogers supplies 2,000 tonnes to Bulmers and is a small-scale cidermaker himself, under the Colcombe House label.
Sarah's Red Apple cider is inspired by the Katy apple, an earlier ripening variety, for which Sarah Hawkins is among the main suppliers. 2016 is the first harvest where, thanks to a logistics rethink at Bulmers' Ledbury Cider Mill, the Katy apples were able to be handled separately from the vast majority of the harvest crop.
Sarah Hawkins comes from a family of apple growers. Sarah’s father was a previous winner of the Golden Apple, Bulmers' biennial award for the best orchardist among its family of suppliers.
Due to arrive in February 2017, the Orchard Pioneers range will initially be targeted in the on-trade into food-led outlets and is designed to be priced in the premium segment of the market. All being well, the range might grow further in future years.
In addition, Bulmers has installed a pilot plant into its Hereford Cider Mill. Designed to ferment batches of juice or concentrate a fraction of the size of those in its Ledbury Cider Mill, the kit is designed to offer the cidermaking team the flexibility to experiment and trial new ciders. Dubbed Percy after one of the company’s founding fathers, cider corporate affairs manager Nicola Heath hopes that ultimately Percy will enable Bulmers to offer trade customers the opportunity to create their own ciders.