Miriam Dunn talks to MARTIN THATCHER, fourth generation cider maker, Thatchers Cider, to find out what’s brewing down at Myrtle Farm
What do you think are the drivers behind cider’s rise in popularity in recent years, given the fierce competition from other subsectors in the drinks market?
The alcoholic drinks industry is indeed competitive, but cider has a long-lasting appeal and the quality of cider, particularly here in Somerset, is amazing. Shoppers want to be excited by the ciders they purchase; they want to be assured of taste and quality. And with such interest in heritage and provenance, knowing that your local cider maker has four generations of expertise, and is making cider on the very same farm that they did back in 1904, is a reason for the popularity of this enduring drink.
Diversification has been a key component of Thatchers growth story, with popular varieties ranging from Gold and Rosé to Haze and Rascal introduced into the market. How do you decide what will go down well with consumers and is there anything new in the pipeline?
Knowing what is popular with drinkers is a vital part of our business. Planning ahead ensures we are meeting that consumer demand. The launch of Cloudy Lemon in 2020 meant we had a fruit-flavoured cider that introduced a new style citrus flavour to the market, and it’s been incredibly popular. There are many drinkers up and down the country who love fruit ciders, so it’s important for us to offer fresh, innovative ciders for this audience, alongside our traditional apple ciders, which we know have a very loyal following. Last year we introduced an alcohol-free cider, Zero; and our ciders have always been vegan and vegetarian friendly, and are gluten free. This year, as we do every year, we’ll be unveiling new ciders in our Cider Barn range – specialist short-run ciders that are available in our cider shop at Myrtle Farm and online. We also ran a poll asking people to choose which of their favourite Cider Barn ciders of previous years should make a return this year, and the winning choice was Redstreak. We can’t wait to have it back on the shelves later this autumn.
Thatchers orchards are known to be a haven for wildlife. How do you protect biodiversity there? And how do you balance the growing demand for your cider with meeting your sustainability and green goals?
This is a great question and one that we have very high on our agenda. Central to our ethos is to make world class cider sustainably – and we do that by continually looking at ways to innovate within our cider-making processes, from cutting carbon and water, and reducing plastic in our packaging. Our orchards are of course incredibly important to us.
Our dedicated orchardists care for our apple trees throughout the year, in turn providing a valuable habitat for wildlife, including honeybees and bumblebees.
Throughout September, October and into November, apples are a familiar sight being delivered from throughout the West Country to our mill at Myrtle Farm for the annual harvest.
It’s such an important time of year to shine a spotlight on the dedication to quality and hard work that that all our apple growers proudly demonstrate, day in, day out through the hard work and pride they put into growing the very best quality apples.
We have apple growers throughout the West Country, family businesses like ourselves, some of whom have worked with us for many years, others are much newer, but they all have one thing in common, and that’s their commitment to playing their part in creating innovative, great tasting ciders.
How do you see the cider market – and Thatchers contribution to it – evolving in the near future?
Thatchers has been a family-run, Somerset company since 1904, and with our fifth generation of cider makers now working in the business, we’re all looking forward to many more years of cider making ahead. The market will continue to change, as consumer tastes evolve, but what we know will be a constant is demand for cider that is good quality, full of taste and brings excitement to consumer choice.