ENGLISH cricket fans who need to cheer themselves up during the forthcoming Ashes series will be able to turn to some crisp-tasting, all-natural Australian cider for solace.
The Hills Cider Company, South Australia’s largest producer of artisan ciders, has sent its first shipment of apple, pear and apple and ginger cider to the United Kingdom in time for the northern summer – prime cider drinking season.
Steve Dorman, co-founder of the Adelaide-based operation, says the company is already exporting its ciders to Hong Kong, Singapore and Papua New Guinea but is now targeting Britain as a major new market.
“At this stage we’re still testing the waters,” he says. “But we’re feeling really positive about potential sales in the UK – the reaction so far has been very enthusiastic.”
Dorman admits that sending Aussie cider to Britain – a country which has been making cider since Roman times – may sound like coals to Newcastle, but is confident they can capture a slice of the lucrative UK cider market – worth £3.05 billion [A$5.95 billion] a year.
“What we’re offering is quite different to the usual British cider styles,” he says. “Out ciders are really clean-tasting, fresh and fruit driven. They are also very food friendly and we’re promoting them as an alternative to drinking wine with your meal.”
The South Australian cider brand has already caught the attention of some of Europe’s top cider judges, winning trophies at both the Dublin Beer Cup and International Cider Championship in south-west England.
“There’s a big difference in flavour between our ciders and European ciders,” says Dorman, a former winemaker. “We don’t use concentrate, added flavours or sugars – just 100 per cent per cent fresh fruit from the Adelaide Hills.”
The Hills Cider collection.
The Hills Cider Company, founded by Steve Dorman and Tobias Kline in 2010, is hoping that its fresh-tasting ciders will enjoy the same kind of success now enjoyed by Australian wine in Britain.
“There are parallels with what was happening 30 years ago when Australia wine producers first broke into the UK,” says Dorman. “It’s a classic case of New World versus Old World styles and techniques.”
Although the first shipment of South Australian artisan cider to Britain is fairly modest (just 65 cartons) the company is firmly focused on export sales – having targeted the United States, New Zealand, China and Canada for future growth.
“Our real focus as a company over the next 24 months will be on exports,” says Dorman.
This is no doubt welcome news to many family-owned apple and pear orchards in the Adelaide Hills – the company already buys 15 per cent of the region’s annual apple crop.
But winning over British cider drinkers will not be a walk in the park. Not only is the UK one of the most crowded cider markets in the world, consumption of cider (which has been surging for the past decade) is beginning to plateau.
“Cider sales in the UK have been phenomenal over the past few years – as they have in Australia,” says Dorman. “Today, cider is the only beverage category not in decline. We’re very excited about the opportunity in UK for our ciders.”