Real Cider – is an Assurance scheme the answer?

ajoReal Cider – is an Assurance scheme the answer?

There’s always chatter on social media about the difference between main stream industrially produced cider made from concentrate and the traditionally crafted creations made from 100% juice. There’s also the quandary of ‘made from 100% juice’ and ‘made of 100% juice’. The fact is for the general public one of each could be sat next to each other on a supermarket shelf and they probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference unless they picked each up and read it. Even then they would struggle because where traditionally made cider would likely be quite open about its ingredients, the main stream industrially made one wouldn’t. So without a complete and transparent picture on both, you can’t make an informed decision.
So, what’s the solution? Well, I’ve talked about transparency before and how in Europe a lot of ciders have ingredient lists but we don’t over here. There are also a lot of suggestions that Excise Notice 162 needs upping considerably from its current 35% juice minimum. But let’s be realistic for a second…85% of UK cider volume is produced by the 11 members of the National Association of Cider Makers, which includes Heineken and Molson Coors. They’re going to require some serious persuasion to put ingredients on their labels given the concentrate and added sugar/sweeteners. They didn’t even reply to my call for transparency before. So a law change is probably the only route, which is what would also be needed to change Excise Notice 162.
A further law change would be needed to resolve the issue of cider tax and the unfair burden in creates to innovation and expansion, especially when you compare it to the relief provided for small brewers. Above 7,000 litres cider producers pay a flat rate of tax per litre, regardless of how much they produce, whereas small brewers pay 50% duty on the first 500,000 litres they produce. This is stifling the cider industry and whilst I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to get those changes that require law amendments; they’re more strategic, longer term solutions.
What about the here and now?
Well we’ve talked on Crafty Nectar about a Classification System, but what about an Assurance Scheme? Something like Red Tractor.
What I mean by that is, Red Tractor has various standards relating to farm practices and procedures that they provide assurance of to consumers. A cider assurance scheme could recognises cider producers who are sticking to natural ingredients and traditional processes. The assurance part is for the customers would see the logo of the scheme (like the Red Tractor logo) and be assured that the cider meets the criteria and is of a superior quality. There would also be some earned recognition for the producer, whose products which meet the criteria will be rewarded, perhaps through a sticker on the bottle to help them stand out on the supermarket shelf and to recognise the time, effort and tradition that has gone into the bottle.
The scheme could be as simple or as complicated as it needs to be. However, as a consumer I can tell you I would favour simple. It could have one or two standards, such as: ‘has to be made from at least 85% whole juice’, and/or ‘no added concentrate’ with a simple logo such as a ‘Green Apple’.
Perhaps something like:
The benefits of doing it that way means that you have an independent verification of the quality and a sticker/stamp that shows it, which doesn’t require any label modifications from the cider producer.
Alternatively, you could have a slightly more complex scheme which is tiered with different colours or stars but this would be confusing for the consumer and would rely on more detailed knowledge of the scheme to make an informed choice.
The biggest benefits of implementing a scheme like this would be:
  1. Firstly it can be led by the industry or a group of industry representatives, or an independent body, and it won’t require any legislative change. It would be a private initiative that producers could either sign up to or not.

  2. It could be universal, I know some companies and counties have been looking at definitions of “real cider” and labels. For example the Small Independent Cidermakers Association, meeting this month to discuss a definition of artisan cider. A national scheme could create consistency for producers and consumers alike.

  3. It should be a relatively inexpensive scheme to set up, save costs for materials (stickers, digital graphics) and implementing and maintaining the scheme. The more sign up the lower the cost, in theory.

  4. Most of all it would create an easily recognisable logo that would ensure that products meeting the criteria stand out to discerning consumers looking for “real” cider, helping them to make an informed choice about the quality of the product they want to buy.
James Finch |  
Since this post, James Finch (aka the Cider Critic) and Crafty Nectar seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet with the majority of small cider producers.
Let's start with an assurance scheme and then move onto 'Cider X' (still sounds cool!)

1) A group of Producers in a popular Facebook group, 'The Promotion of Real Cider' have come together and produced a cider assurance badge and seal of approval. 


2) This is the cider definition agreed at Cider 'X' by the Small Independent Cidermakers Association. There are still mixed feelings about using the name 'Craft Cider' with some preferring something else. However, the below document was the general consensus: 





Here's a search of the group showing the posts (may only show if a member): Here's a link to the sign up
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1 comment

  • Great idea and much needed. The simplicity is a big plus.
    Who would adjudicate to ensure that it was a true statement?
    The sticker should really stand out and look a quality item?


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