Zeffer Cider is one of the best-known cider brands in New Zealand with 11 years in the market, with presence across all the prominent bottle stores and major supermarkets from Countdown to Foodstuffs. It also has significant presence in major Australian bottle stores such as Dan Murphy’s and BWS.
The firm started off specialising in traditional apple cider, but according to CEO Josh Townsend, it has since realised high potential for innovation in the space, from introducing unique flavours to other cider-based beverages.
“We saw that there was a lot of innovation that could be done with cider itself – the most straightforward was to work on new, interesting flavours which we have done by inventing flavours such as Apple Crumble Infused Cider and Guava & Lime Infused Cider,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“But since then, we’ve also found that there is a lot of potential in using cider to branch into other beverage types which are currently really trending – for example, we’ve created a 0% Crisp Apple Cider to meet the growing non-alcoholic drink trend, which has only been in the market one year but is already one of our top sellers; as well as a cider-based seltzer range to meet the seltzer craze and demand for a fresher taste.”
Zeffer Cider’s non-alcoholic option is made by removing the alcohol post-fermentation, using a gentle process called spinning for dealcoholisation without subjecting the drink to high temperatures or pressures, whereupon fresh apple juice is added back in.
The seltzer range is alcoholic (4.6% ABV) and contains between 94 and 99 calories per can depending on the flavour, also made to appeal to consumers seeking low-calorie drink options.
“We do know that the seltzers appeal to a slightly younger audience that is more calorie-conscious, generally looking for an introductory drink into cider or stronger hard seltzers,” said Townsend.
“The traditional ciders appeal most to the 30-plus age group, especially those who are already used to drinking wine and other alcoholic beverages and have a focus on trying new flavours, as these have a slightly higher price point. Whereas for the 0%, the appeal is currently very, very broad as it suits all consumers looking for an alternative drink alcohol that will fit specific health or lifestyle needs e.g. pregnancy or religion.
“So with all of these, I’d say we’re covering a good-sized broad audience across various preferences [and this has helped us grow] by some 50% in the past year, even though COVID-19 had forced us to put some plans on hold especially in the foodservice sector – we do predict further strong growth this year as things open up though.”
Zeffer Cider is based in Hawke’s Bay, where 70% of New Zealand’s apples are produced.
Following the trends
According to Townsend, New Zealand’s cider market is currently being driven by three major trends which are premiumisation, health and wellness, and sustainability.
“Premiumisation is pretty straightforward where people are looking for better quality drinks made with better ingredients and are willing to pay more for this,” he said.
“As for health and wellness, this is obvious in the rise of people looking for low-calorie options and also tend to ask for these to be lower-sugar, gluten-free and vegan – cider can fortunately meet all of these trends.
“And as for sustainability, Zeffer Cider takes pride in being the first and only certified carbon neutral cidery in New Zealand, a certification we worked to achieve by reducing water usage, recycling water and removing plastics from our packaging.”
In terms of expanding overseas, he told us that the focus for the firm will remain in Australasia at the moment due to COVID-19 restrictions, but that Zeffer already has some presence in markets such as South East Asia, Japan, Hong Kong and more, though still at a reduced scale, again due to COVID-19.
“But once things open up and opportunities rise, we will definitely be looking closely at expanding in these markets again,” he said.