The Cider industry in the UK is the largest in the world. In the world’s consumption of cider 45% is consumed in the UK. The next leading consumer after that is the rest of Europe with 21%.
The British climate is ideal for growing apples and this has resulted in the country’s farmers producing cider for centuries. Just a drive along the A303 through Somerset and cider is advertised in many locations and this is just individual farms making their own cider, and selling it on to through traffic and local people. This type of cider is known as scrumpy and can be as strong as 6% proof which means that is much stronger than the usual draught beers, lagers and even ciders on sale in pubs. People when purchasing their scrumpy can have the chance of testing their cider to choose the dryness.
The farmer will take a supply from the dry vat and mix it with the sweet vat. The buyer will then taste, and this will continue until the buyer is happy with the taste. The farmer will then mix up a flagon choosing the required balance for the customer.
In pubs there is a choice of cider either from bottles or on draught. The most popular brew of cider is Strongbow. It has been produced by H.P. Bulmer since 1962 and currently produces 29% of all UK cider and 15% of all of the world’s cider. Strongbow was bought out by Heineken in 2008 and the new owners have attempted to broaden the market by introducing new fruit. In 2012 they introduced pear cider and in 2013 dark fruit cider which included blackberry and black current juice, was introduced.
One of Strongbow’s strongest rivals is Thatchers Gold who are based in Stanford in North Somerset. They have been producing cider since 1904. Some of the vats that are used today are over 100 years old and gives the cider the Thatchers traditional taste. The farm owns 500 acres of orchards and needs to bring in apples from outside the farm as the demand for the cider is so high. The vats at the farm can press up to 500 tons of apples a day.
There are many cases of smaller cider farms being run successfully and having a rich history. Just outside of Taunton in Somerset, is Sheppy’s Cider. They do not produce the same quantities of cider as the big producers yet have their own established markets. The farm has been producing cider for over 200 years that has spanned 6 generations of the Sheppy family. It is no surprise that they are one of the oldest cider companies in the United Kingdom. The farm is still owned and run by the Sheppy family.
This independent company supplies cider to Waitrose supermarkets and exports its cider overseas. As well as the farm producing cider it still has a traditional farming business with a magnificent herd of Old English Longhorn cattle. Visitors to the farm can visiting the cider factory, the farm shop, the museum and the restaurant. The presence of this relatively small cider producer in a market that is dominated by the larger companies is reassuring.
In 1969 just over a million hectolitres of cider were produce in the UK and by 2015 this had risen to just over 8 million hectolitres. Cider sales can fluctuate quite markedly with hot summers setting off big demand, while the opposite is true in terms of wet, cool summers. Cider production, however, has come a long way in the last 40 years and its place in pub and alcohol trade is now firmly established. With new global markets being opened every year the cider industry looks to have a bright future.