Let’s be fair, cider has an image problem. Too many people still associate cider with getting drunk as a teenager ‘down the rec’, or with some tasteless, odourless sugary fizz backed by questionable adverts.
But that is all going to change, because cider is about to have a ‘craft’ moment. What has happened with beer, and is happening with gin, is now going to happen to cider. Craft cider gives the consumer a fantastic experience and a choice they are not used to, and changes the way people feel about the drink.
The issue for craft cider producers is not their drink, though – it is getting their drink out there in front of the consumer. I co-founded Crafty Nectar to solve that problem, to unlock routes to trade and help suppliers sell directly to the consumer on a subscription-model basis.
Why? Craft cider producers have always struggled to get into pubs and restaurants. The minimum orders set by old-school wholesalers are too high, which has meant pubs and restaurants are put off introducing new products due to the risk that no one will drink them. Traditional wholesalers, therefore, stock small ranges of craft ciders and, in some cases, none at all.
Finally, craft cider makers struggle to compete with big brands due to their limited distribution and marketing reach.
Responding to a need
This year, my co-founder James Waddington and I launched the wholesale side of our business: Crafty Nectar Trade. We are responding to a need. While running the direct-to-consumer side of our business, we started to receive numerous requests from pubs, bars and restaurants asking if we could provide them with small-batch ciders.
Our ethos on the wholesale side is just the same – we just want more people to discover craft cider. So, we are probably the only wholesaler out there with a no-minimum-order policy – because that is exactly what customers want.
To make the no-minimum-order work, we keep overheads such as warehouses and logistics down to a minimum, through applying drop-shipping methods to wholesale. We have also invested in software to automate the process as much as possible.
Through Crafty Nectar Trade, we want to see more quality craft cider filling up the fridges of pubs, bars and restaurants nationwide. That is what the end consumer wants. I believe the way wholesalers operate will need to change to keep up. We might be among the first to work like this, but we will not be the last.
There is huge potential for craft cider and traditional cider makers to increase their margins. We are finding, more than ever, consumers are interested in what goes into their drink and how it is made.
Globally, the cider industry is currently worth £2.7bn, with craft cider representing about 10% of the market. You only have to look to the US, where craft cider – or ‘hard cider’, as they prefer – experienced a 30% growth in sales in 2017. There is a thirst for it.
I think we will start to see some of the more successful craft brands come over to the UK, from the US and Europe, like Ramborn from Luxembourg (yes, from Luxembourg – it is fantastic).
What is happening with craft cannot help but shape the way wholesalers operate. The future is only going to get craftier – it is time we as wholesalers got that bit craftier, too.
Ed Calvert is the founder of Crafty Nectar Trade