Friday feature

The Hills CEO: Shipping cider to England is like selling sand to Saudi

By Mark Chipperfield

- Last updated on GMT

Steve Dorman samples his local brew
Steve Dorman samples his local brew

Related tags Papua new guinea

The Australian cricket team will not be the only Australian icon on British shores this northern summer. The Hills Cider Company, South Australia’s largest producer of artisan ciders, has sent its first shipment of cider there in time for its nation’s cricketers—among the biggest rivals in world sport—to do battle for the Ashes.

Steve Dorman, co-founder of the Adelaide-based cider operation, says the company is already exporting its ciders to Hong Kong, Singapore and Papua New Guinea, but is now targeting Britain as a major new market.

At this stage we’re still testing the waters​,” he says. “But we’re feeling really positive about potential sales in the UK. The reaction so far has been very enthusiastic​.”

Dorman admits that sending Australian cider to Britain—a country that has made cider since Roman times—might sound like selling sand to Saudi, but he is confident his brews can capture a slice of the lucrative UK cider market, which worth A$5.95bn (US$4.71bn) a year.

What we’re offering is quite different to the usual British cider styles​,” he says. “Our ciders are really clean-tasting, fresh and fruit driven. They are also very food friendly and we’re promoting them as an alternative to drinking wine with your meal​.”

But winning over British cider drinkers will not be a walk in the park. Not only is the UK one of the most crowded cider markets in the world, consumption of cider (which has been surging for the past decade) is beginning to plateau.

Cider sales in the UK have been phenomenal over the past few years, as they have in Australia​,” says Dorman. “Today, cider is the only beverage category not in decline. We’re very excited about the opportunity in UK for our ciders​.”

The cider brand has already caught the attention of some of Europe’s top cider judges, winning trophies at both the Dublin Beer Cup and International Cider Championship in England.

There’s a big difference in flavour between our ciders and European ciders​,” says Dorman, a former winemaker. “We don’t use concentrate, added flavours or sugars – just 100% per cent fresh fruit from the Adelaide Hills​.”

The Hills Cider Company, founded by Dorman and Tobias Kline in 2010, is hoping that its ciders will enjoy the same kind of success now enjoyed by Australian wine in Britain.

There are parallels with what was happening 30 years ago when Australian wine producers first broke into the UK​,” says Dorman. “It’s a classic case of New World versus Old World styles and techniques​.”

Although, at just 65 cartons, Dorman’s the first shipment of cider to Britain is fairly modest, he is focused on export sales, having also targeted the United States, New Zealand, China and Canada for future growth.

Our real focus as a company over the next 24 months will be on exports​,” he says.

This is no doubt welcome news to many local family-owned apple and pear orchards where Hills already buys 15% of the area’s annual apple crop.

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