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Irish Cider Sector Celebrates Success

July saw the launch of the Irish Cider Association Market Report, with a cheese and cider pairing, hosted in the Vaults at Urban Brewing in Dublin’s IFSC.

15 cider producers gathered to relaunch the Irish Cider Association with the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (in association with IBEC), promote and discuss their brands, and give people a chance to try a variety of their products paired with locally produced cheese.

The findings from the report, which is the first of its kind since 2012, indicate that cider consumption rose by 0.43% in 2018. The report also showed that 64m litres of cider were consumed in Ireland last year, which contributed €61m to the exchequer. Cider has been quite a strong performer, taking a 7.5% share of the market share in 2018, making it the third most popular alcoholic beverage in Ireland. This is a marginal 0.2% decrease on the previous year.

The average per adult alcohol consumption has fallen by 23.2% according to a report by the CSO and Revenue Commissioners, showing that consumers now are drinking less but demanding higher quality beverages, which can be seen in the growth of premium and craft categories – this also now includes cider.  This was reflected at the report launch, with many of the cider producers displaying a variety of premium products for each brand, as well as once-off releases, casked ciders and single apple variety ciders.

The report also found that the majority of cider consumed in Ireland is Irish, with roughly 75% of cider drank in Ireland produced here – a 2% increase for local purchases year-on-year. An estimated 50,000 tonnes of Irish apples are grown each year for cider production which greatly benefits Irish apple growers.

The 15 cider producers featured at the event were all members of the Irish Cider Association, including Legacy Cider, Longueville, Longways Cider, Falling Apple & Craigies Cider (Carlow Brewing Company), and Dan Kelly’s Cider. Larger companies such as Diageo and Barry & Fitzwilliam have also signed on.

Chairman of the Irish Cider Association, Seamus O’Hara, Managing Director of Carlow Brewing Company, said: “The Irish Cider Association is being re-established to help our 15 member companies, many of whom are recent entrants to the business, to adapt to new realities.  Consumers are demanding quality products and thus as an industry we’ve had to change our products to cater for that. Ireland’s cider industry makes a valuable contribution to our economy and cultural life, making it one of the most exciting industries to be in at the moment.  As a result, cider drinkers in Ireland have unprecedented choice of cider products in our restaurants, pubs and retail outlets.”

There are, however, some challenges facing the cider sector in the future, as Britain leaves the European Union on October 31st. The Head of the Irish Cider Association, Jonathan McDade, explained: “Today, about 85% of cider exports go to the UK. The likelihood of a no-deal Brexit, with potential tariffs on both inputs and finished product, has increased uncertainty for producers and could impact investment within the sector.  It is vital that the Government does all it can to mitigate these external negatives for the industry.

“At the moment, Irish cider consumers pay the third highest rate of excise on cider in the European Union, taking up nearly 30% of every pint. We believe the Government should reverse its recession era emergency excise measures with an excise rate reduction in Budget 2020 to support the sector.”

It’s apparent that cider has undergone a massive revival in the last few years, moving into a high-quality realm more recently seen in craft beer. Perhaps, this long awaited shift in quality and choice, along with consumer demand for the product, will allow it to rebrand itself as a premium choice as its popularity grows.

Whatever challenges the cider industry faces, one thing is clear – Irish cider is most certainly a strong product that has been considerably overlooked in the past – and perhaps this renewal will expand the cider market in the future with a more positive association regarding its consumption and demographics.

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