While the rise in popularity of craft cider in Ontario has been something to behold, the speed at which they wrangled their way into grocery stores has been nothing short of miraculous.
With bottles of delicious cider hitting grocery store shelves last Friday, with 60 stores currently selling beer eligible to add cider to the their shelves, it has been a fast and very successful ride from obscurity to a major force on the beverage scene.
“This is a huge day for Ontario craft cider producers as we join our craft beer brothers on the shelves of Loblaw stores across the province offering local craft products to the people of Ontario,” said Thomas Wilson, chair of the Ontario Craft Cider Association (OCCA), last Friday. “With Loblaw’s commitment to Ontario craft cider products they are supporting not only the Ontario craft cider makers, but the Ontario farmers who grow the apples we use.”
While stores selling beer are mandated to provide 20% of their retail space to Ontario craft cider, Loblaws has gone one giant step further and has committed at least 50% of their cider shelf space to Ontario products made with 100% Ontario apples.
That’s a major coup for the Ontario Craft Cider Association and its members, and a bold statement from Loblaw that Ontario-crafted ciders are important to their own success. I don’t think this would be happening if both sides didn’t think this was win-win.
“Starting today, Ontario residents have more convenient access to quality, local products with the introduction of cider in 19 of our stores,” said Greg Ramier, senior VP of Loblaw. “Loblaw has once again committed to providing equal shelf space for Ontario’s craft producers. We’ve been thrilled to work closely with the Ontario Craft Cider Association and their members to ensure our customers can find some of their favourite ciders at our stores.”
In talking privately to cider makers, I know they are excited with the prospect of finally being able to get their products to consumers, who, until now, have been forced to travel great distances just to buy the products.
The LCBO has been woefully inefficient in providing shelf space for local cider makers, instead opting for a plethora of mass-produced (artificial) apple swill crowding shelf space. When craft cider makers approach the LCBO, high demands on pricing and packaging make it a completely unattractive way to do business.
Loblaw, and presumably other grocers, have a much different approach: “Let’s see what you’ve got and if people will buy it.” And that’s all you can ask. Make good local cider and see if consumers can put aside the foreign imports and big-beer apple swill imitations to migrate to hand-crafted products made from Ontario-grown apples (and pears).
Oh, it’s the golden age for cider producers and a tip of the hat has to go to the Ontario cider association that has pushed the right buttons at both Queen’s Park and at grocery store head offices. They have broken through the red tape and made a huge leap forward where so many have failed and are still trying to make a dent in the armour of a bureaucracy gone wild.
It’s now up to you, dear consumer.
Members participating in grocery store sales include:
• Coffin Ridge
• County Cider Company
• Ironwood Cider
• KW Craft Cider
• Pommies Cider Co.
• Puddicombe Cider
• Shiny Apple Cider
• Spirit Tree Estate Cider
• Thornbury Village Cidery
About the Ontario Craft Cider Association (OCCA):
The Ontario Craft Cider Association is an association of over 20 cider producers in Ontario. The OCCA’s mission is to ensure that Ontario is recognized as a centre for cider excellence and innovation. Ontario craft cider producers use only 100 percent juice from Ontario apples and bring many benefits to all of rural Ontario, from Windsor to Ottawa, Collingwood to Prince Edward County and everywhere in between. Ontario is the ideal place to grow apples.