By Bruce Pokarney, Oregon Department of Agriculture – June 2016
Welcome to a week of celebration so special it actually lasts 10 days and reaches across the Pacific Ocean. The fifth annual Oregon Cider Week, June 16-26, focuses on one of the state’s fastest growing food and agricultural sectors, and is now being celebrated in Japan, Oregon’s top ag export market. Both home and abroad, there will be plenty of Oregon cider being consumed and promoted as part of numerous activities and events.
“Cider may be a new trend, but it’s an old and rich tradition,” says Theresa Yoshioka, an international trade manager with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “It was one of the first craft beverages to arrive in the US. It declined during Prohibition but is now making a big comeback. We’ve really embraced it in the Pacific Northwest.”
Among those taking notice is Oregon Governor Kate Brown, who has issued an Oregon Cider Week proclamation. The proclamation notes:
· Cider is one of the fastest growing segments of the US beverage industry and is experiencing a boom in the Northwest with unprecedented growth in Oregon
· Cider pairs beautifully with food, is rich in antioxidants, and is naturally gluten free
· Oregon cider makers are racking up international acclaim, including the first concurring Oregon Cider Week in Japan this year
· Oregon cider maker members of the Northwest Cider Association continue to cultivate and grow their craft, thus showcasing Oregon agriculture and locally grown apples and pears
Statistics clearly demonstrate the meteoric rise of cider, which appears to be following the path of the wine industry and craft beers. In 2014, the US cider market grew 70 percent and another 40 percent last year. About 1 of every 4 cider makers in the country is located in the Northwest. Quite simply, more people are drinking cider and more growers are looking at apples specifically for the cider market.
“We are in the hub of all this,” says Emily Ritchie, executive director of the Northwest Cider Association. “Portland actually has the most cider drinkers per capita in the country. We also have a lot of apple growers looking to join the industry because of the huge demand and very short supply.”
Growers most often are too busy to be cider makers. It appears to be a full time job for both. But a third of the association’s cider maker members also grow apples. Many of them from Oregon are growing heirloom varieties that end up being the perfect source for cider.
“Washington grows tons of apples for the fresh market, Oregon’s apples tend to be more of the heirloom varieties that cider makers are looking for,” says Ritchie.
All of this industry growth and consumer interest sets the stage for an exciting week of celebration. It won’t be just cider makers showcasing the beverage, restaurants and bars will make a special effort to put cider on the menu and on tap. A cider summit is taking place in Portland. There is even a cider bike tour around the City of Roses. A full list of events is available at <http:nwcider.com>.
The celebration in Japan has a slightly different tone.
“In Oregon, when you say craft cider, we know that’s an alcoholic beverage,” says ODA’s Yoshioka. “In Japan, we are still at the level of making sure they know it’s not fruit juice. Our goal for the week of celebration is to build some awareness of what craft cider is.”
What better way than having the Japanese sample some of Oregon’s great brands of cider. As many as 100 retailers from Tokyo to Sapporo are showcasing Oregon cider. Pubs and restaurants will be offering at least one Oregon brand. Simple math suggests promoting Oregon cider is well worth the effort.
“In Oregon, there are 4 million people who can potentially enjoy our cider, in Japan, it’s 120 million,” says Yoshioka, who has traveled to Japan to participate in some of the promotional activities. “The Japanese appreciate the craftsmanship, care, and uniqueness that go into Oregon products. In fact, they look to Oregon for those types of products. Japan is also excited to see a new craft beverage trend. They love craft beer, both what they produce and what comes over from the Northwest. Cider is not going to diminish beer, but it will add to the demand for craft beverages.”
Japan has launched some domestic ciders, but Yoshioka sees that development as a good indicator that the country is ready for imports– particularly those from Oregon.
“Right now, we are in a good position. Japan is just becoming aware of craft cider. They are interested in this new beverage and trend. This is our chance to establish Oregon as as source for quality craft cider.”
An Oregon Cider Week kick-off event at Navarre Restaurant in Tokyo has already put a spotlight on what the state has to offer. In Osaka next month, a seminar and dinner featuring US foods and craft cider will supplement the cider week celebration. Two Oregon craft cider makers will make an upcoming appearance at Hanshin Department Store’s “Cider for Adults” Week event. Each event raises awareness of craft cider and Oregon’s ability to provide it.
Currently, four brands of Oregon craft cider are available to consumers in Japan. More are expected over the next year.
“We will come back to Oregon with some good feedback on how our cider products are received in Japan,” says Yoshioka. “In the meantime, Oregonians should give craft cider a taste this special week, too. There’s a type of cider for every occasion.”
Oregon has established a reputation for growing wonderful pinots and producing quality wines. It has quickly become a mecca for craft beer. Oregon craft cider is the next wave beverage lovers are ready to ride.
For more information, contact Erick Garman, (503) 872-6602 or Emily Ritchie, Emily@nwcider.com