The Ontario Craft Cider Association (OCCA) has deemed this June our first-ever Cider Month, a time to celebrate and highlight the quality and diversity of Ontario ciders.
The soaring sector is certainly worth celebrating — Ontario craft cider has gained significant popularity over the past few years, with over $11.5 million in sales at the LCBO in 2017-2018, an increase of a whopping 42% from the previous year.
Behind it all are local cideries, like Pommies Cider Co. in Peel Region, excited and working hard to meet this growing demand for local.
“We started Pommies in 2010 and were the second craft cider on the shelves of the LCBO after County Cider Company,” shares Nick Sutcliffe, owner of Pommies, “ so we’ve seen first hand the increase in demand for locally made, independent ciders. The reality is, when we tell people we are made from 100% Ontario apples, it’s not just a marketing hook, it’s actually a competitive advantage. We have the best apples in the world for making cider and Ontario Ciders are unique in their crisp and refreshing finishes.”
Of course, that growing demand for that local crisp taste has given an exciting boost to some Ontario growers.
“At Pommies we don’t grow our own apples so the relationship we have with the growers is paramount,” Nick explains. “When we first started buying apples there were very few options for farmers to sell their juicing apples. We’ve seen the market grow exponentially. At Pommies alone we will purchase apple juice made from over 2,000,000 pounds of Ontario apples this year.”
Those mighty numbers mean great news for the local economy too. Ontario’s craft cider industry is contributing $12.7 million to the provincial GDP.
More than 200 apple growers across the province produce a variety of apples, including those used in the production of cider. And with an abundance of fresh apples grown right here at home, why wouldn’t you quench that cider craving with a local can?
“We are excited to see people’s palates moving away from the sickly sweet imported ciders and towards drier, more sophisticated locally made ciders like our Farmhouse,” Nick adds. “It’s also exciting to see so many great innovations coming from Ontario Craft Cideries. We love the fact our Red Sangria, a fusion of cider, VQA wine, berries and citrus, is being so well received.”
The Governments of Canada and Ontario kicked off Craft Cider month with an announcement that they are investing in Ontario’s craft cider production. Through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, they will provide support for technology solutions that will help cideries expand markets and increase their productivity. Learn more here.
The OCCA also received funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to launch a multi-faceted marketing campaign to help Ontario consumers have a better understanding of local craft cider and its unique qualities.
“A lot of people don’t know what craft cider means, so our biggest objective is to let them realize what makes Ontario craft cider so unique,” said OCCA chair Richard Liu. “We use 100 per cent Ontario apples and all of our ingredients and inputs are from the province. We’re proud of that and the role we play in agriculture in Ontario – and that’s what we want to highlight to get more people interested in Ontario craft cider.”
Nick shares with us, “the mission of the Ontario Craft Cider Association is to make Ontario a centre of cider excellence on the global stage and I’m happy to see the dream coming to fruition.”