January is a time for celebration in the cider orchards of Great Britain, and this week, that celebration moved to Westminster.  The All Party Parliamentary Cider Group (APPCG) and The National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) reception was well attended with over 150 guests from across all the political parties and the drinks trade, gathering together to witness the range and diversity of this ancient British product.

The guests were shown brands from cider makers large and small, from across the country. Many use different apple varieties, different blends and have a very different taste, but its more than just apples they all have in common – it is pride.  All of the people (and counties) involved in making cider for generations have a desire to share this wonderful tradition with others, with many orchard tours now available for tourists.

As NACM chair, Helen Thomas (Managing Director of Westons Cider) points out:
“The simplicity of the word cider belies the depth and breadth of this tremendous category.  Look around and you will see that cider requires a vast number of adjectives to help to describe the wide range and styles of drinks presented here this evening.”

This versatility is reflected in the recipes and food matching ideas that are being generated, to help consumers learn about the nuances of the different styles and appreciate the tradition of cider making that has been carried out in Britain for centuries.

However, all is not completely rosy in the cider maker’s world.  Challenges exist, with the introduction of a new duty band, risks for smaller cider makers tax thresholds, and consolidation of cider makers.  As Helen explains:

“The cider makers here tonight need your support to return this important category to growth and whilst we are all grateful for the excise duty freeze in the last Budget, it is not enough to turn a market that has been declining since 2009.  A 2p per pint duty reduction is needed this year.”

But as the industry looks to the year ahead and ancient Wassail ceremonies are held in orchards across the country to bless the trees and their crops, the message here is very much one of that we should all raise a toast to secure the future of our Great British ciders.