Apples and pears were on the agenda in Westminster last night, at the All Party Parliamentary Cider Group (APPCG) and The National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) autumn reception. With over 150 guests from across the political spectrum and the drinks trade, the event was a great success and a chance to hear more about this historic British industry.
As well as talking about the issues in hand, attendees were able to experience some of the premium brands from across the country, from producers large and small. The cider makers were on hand to explain the details behind the diverse range of products which result from the dedication and innovation that have been consistently growing the quality and range of ciders sold in Britain and indeed the world.
However, a warning note was sounded by Helen Thomas, Managing Director of Westons Cider and Chair of the NACM, in her keynote speech, about how long these dynamic and proud communities can survive. Helen explained that “excise duty has increased by over 20% since 2010 and we are now 25% smaller than we were 7 years ago. Cider makers are facing difficult times and are now making tough decisions, which may have a lasting impact on rural areas”.
“In the last 2 years, we have faced more disruption as an industry than I can ever remember. Smaller cider makers have faced the threat to the small cider maker excise relief, the announcement of a review into the alcohol structures for cider in the spring budget could have significant ramifications and our ability to compete both in the UK and abroad remains unclear in a post Brexit marketplace”.
But despite the uncertainty, the pride in a great British product remains. Helen said “We are a group that is proud to market great ciders, but we always reflect on the need to do this responsibly. We celebrate the overall decline in alcohol consumption, and are pleased when we hear that that the majority of people drink within recommended levels. Our commitment to monitor our marketplace demands that our members are fully committed to responsible drinking best practice, support their local communities and sign up to our code of practice – these are all important in ensuring that the cider industry has the right ingredients to sustain for the long term”.
Helen highlighted how British cider makers are regarded as experts from across the globe. “Last week many of us were in Frankfurt for the launch of the Global Cider Forum. Interest in British Cider has never been stronger and the UK market represents around 46% of all cider sold across the world. The NACM is proud to support more than 240 cider makers who represent the very best of Britain and we need to ensure that we remain a global success story for decades (or hopefully centuries) to come”.
To endorse this, the Lords and MP’s present were asked to sign up as “Cider Champions” to pledge their support for an industry that is so important to the UK economy (especially rural communities) where many are employed, trained and developed by the cider makers.
Helen closed with heart felt words about the industry that has delivered so much for so long but is now under pressure for its future: “It is about supporting the diversity of British cider and the passion and enthusiasm of the British cider maker. It is about supporting an industry that has been here for centuries and we hope will be here for centuries to come”.