Hard Ciders Transform Okanagan Apple Industry

The Dobernigg family has been growing apples in Vernon since 1948, but when the third generation took over the family business, they took a fresh look at how they were creating value on the farm.

In 2009, traditional hard ciders were making a comeback in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, but the trend had not reached B.C.’s Okanagan. Melissa went south to study cider-making.

“I found a lot of American orchardists were making ciders with common BC varieties, not just specific cider varieties,” Melissa explains.

Once they knew they could make quality cider with the apples they had, the Doberniggs set about doing research to make sure there was a local market to sustain it. In 2011, they completed market research that found strong interest from local consumers.

“In apple growing regions such as Washington, Oregon, Nova Scotia, or Quebec the rapid growth of hard cider is providing a valuable income stream and spurring agri-tourism throughout the region, similar to how the wine industry in the south Okanagan has done,” says Melissa.

“All of these regions have a developing cider culture because a handful of small operations started up and demonstrated what an excellent opportunity with strong market demand cider and innovative cider blends provide.”

In 2013, The BX Press Inc. started producing craft-made, natural ciders using the full juice from local apples and blends using other BC-sourced products like hops, cherries and berries. The four ciders offered in their first season included a traditional “English Style” dry cider, a “New World” style cider made with dessert apples, a dessert-apple based cider steeped with BC hops, and a dessert-apple based cider with juice from BC cherries added at bottling. Their first run of 12,000 bottles sold out in weeks.

With funding from the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, the Doberniggs have continued their research, testing consumer preferences between their cider blends and traditional dry apples ciders, and quantifying the business opportunities for Okanagan apple growers. It is information that has been put to good use as hard ciders hit B.C.’s consumer mainstream in 2015.

FUNDING: $46,451 from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the BC Ministry of Agriculture through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INN080)