Celtic Marches – How low can you go?
As the free from movement seems to have firmly embedded itself into the mainstream drinks industry, Dry Drinker finds out about the producer of Holly GoLightly 0.5% Low Alcohol Cider. You might be forgiven for not immediately recognising the brand name as it would seem that Celtic Marches had been one of Herefordshire’s best kept secrets. Nestled in a quiet corner of Herefordshire, a county renowned for its cider production, this single-estate apple cider producer has been milling away peacefully for over 100 years. Wyer Croft is home to Celtic Marches. With 200 acres of cider apple orchards, developed over seven generations, they are a self-sustaining craft cider firm producing up to 3 million litres a year. The luscious lined orchards are filled with eight cider tree varieties. Each chosen for their growth and taste profiles. These are blended to create their international award-winning ciders. This rare position is a result of over 100 years and numerous generations that have dedicated themselves to the orchards and hop fields. This allows for full control over cider production from tree to glass. Production miles are low, with both the growth and production based on the family farm. Celtic Marches’ sister company, Marches Bottling and Packaging is less than 5 miles away, maintaining their aim to reduce the production impact on the environment. The bold, strong female branding stands out from the norm and is reflective of the women behind this slick operation. With large scale production abilities, the female majority team has been selected by Director, Susan Vaughan for their skills, passion for quality and consistent drive for a premium craft cider. Shaking off the traditional approach to cider branding, each of the core range has a woman’s name, all with a different character and taste. The female strength of the company and it’s branding is a far cry from what the cider industry has been used to. Offering a mix of packaging, from bottles to BIBs, kegs to cans; the strong range of ciders caters for a diverse market. Their ability to follow market trends is not compromising and maintaining traditional values and respect for our provenance will always be core. So why the release of a low alcohol cider? The craft cider market and the growth of low and no alcohol options looks set to continue. Figures from Dry January participation show a clear trend that the UK population drinking habits are changing. With around 4000 participants in 2013, the increase to over 4 million in 2018 was incredible. Our consumer habits have changed swiftly over the last decade. Younger generations are more educated in nutrition and a healthier lifestyle. The percentage of 16-24 year old non drinkers has increased, binge drinking figures have fallen and those choosing to live an alcohol-free life have risen. All of these trends indicate a long term social change. Consumers are seeking high quality alternative drink options. Support for local produce is rising and local economies are boosted as we are more willing to pay a higher price for a premium product, often in smaller volumes and lower ABVs. We are more knowledgeable on the creation of the product from the initial ingredients, the processing, right down to the brand’s ethos. We look beyond the impulse purchase and appreciate the provenance of produce. Enlightened by the knowledge, we are opting away from the cheap concentrate white ciders and reaching for a natural, authentic option. Craft does not exclude no and low alcohol options. When time, care and skill are combined, the result can be equal to the higher ABV products. Bigger brands have already tapped into the craft market, many buying up smaller producers to front a craft campaign. They are no longer resting on their laurels of their commercial presence. Consumers are demanding more natural products, less processed drinks and better qualities, often achieved by smaller batch production. With the low and no alcohol growth set to continue steadily, there will be a corresponding increase in offerings from big alcohol brands to try and fill the market. Celtic Marches are one of the UK’s largest independent craft cider producers. Having launched Holly GoLightly successfully this year, they have extended the range to include a 330ml can. It is a 0.5% ABV cider, made using cider apples from their Herefordshire Farm. Their cider ticks all the current market trends and consumer desires; low alcohol, sustainable, traceability, gluten free, vegan whilst still retaining quality. As a self-sustaining single estate cider producer with 200 acres of cider apple orchards, they have the ability to move effortlessly with the changing market trends. The latest addition of a low alcohol cider in a can will only firm their standing in the low and no alcohol market. Celtic Marches full range is gluten free and suitable for vegans.