Kent vineyard Biddenden has identified three steps that are crucial if a cider producer wants to recruit and retain UK cider drinkers.
'We have seen an increase in demand for quality products, with a focus on cider made from real apples, with a good story of who it has been produced by,' marketing manager, Victoria Rose, told Imbibe.
'Our cider sales go further than just taste and customers want to know our story, the family run aspect of the business, how long we have been producing for, the fact you can visit us to see where it is all made, bottled and packaged, etc.'
Biddenden has just announced the launch of its first range of carbonated bottles – traditional recipe meets the modern demand for carbonated ciders, according to Rose.
'We use culinary and desert apples (usually Cox + Bramleys) for our cider so it tends to be sweeter and more wine-like in style than ciders made from bittersweets,’ she added.
That’s quality and real apples covered, so how about the brand story?
'Biddies 5 and Biddies 8 have been made following the family recipe, which has been used to make cider at Biddenden for more than 40 years,' Rose said. 'All fruit is sourced from Kent and not from concentrate. A huge part of our products is the story that goes with it and being able to tell people that we have been making cider for over 40 years, that it is the same family, now in the third generation and the fact that we only use local fruit from within 20 miles of the vineyard.'
It’s not resting on its history credentials though, Rose said. Biddenden recently invested £250,000 into the cider and juice-making side of the business with the installation of a double belt press – said to be the only one of its kind in the country – and a crossflow filter. 'It demonstrates our commitments and the demand for UK-produced real cider.'
Customers who are expanding their horizons are starting to look towards ciders which are produced from apples, not from concentrates, Victoria Rose
The backstory is a strength as well as a necessity when it comes to the on-trade for the vineyard. ‘Pubs and restaurants, especially in the South East, are under increasing pressure from their customers to provide high-end products with provenance.
'We have seen a large increase in gastro pubs focusing on serving fresh, homemade, quality foods and customers expect drinks to go with this. From our point of view, the wine style qualities of our ciders provide the on-trade with perfect food pairing cider. In addition, staff are expected to have knowledge of the products they are serving and as above customers want to know the story behind the cider.'
Biddies 8 has been created for people who are passionate about cider, rather than as a stepping stone into the category, Rose said. '[It’s designed for people] who want a premium product they can really enjoy in moderation, like you would with a quality glass of wine.'
When it comes to flavoured variants, Rose said she’s noticed a change in taste. 'People aren’t necessarily turning away from flavoured ciders, but as the fruity ciders industry has grown it has certainly attracted new customers and demographics (young, female) and it is those customers who are expanding their horizons and starting to look towards ciders which are produced from apples, not from concentrates and are made within the UK.'
Biddenden is launching its first range of carbonated 500ml bottles on 3 April.
Rose’s tasting notes:
Biddies 8 is an 8% medium dry cider with a gentle sparkle and an intense, long lasting, crisp apple flavour.
Biddies 5 is a 5% medium dry cider with a gentle sparkle, leading on to juicy, crisp apple flavours with a beautifully long finish.