New York State is the second highest producer of apples in the nation, with the Hudson Valley as its agricultural epicenter or “apple belt.” Even so, growers in the region have faced high costs of production and intense development pressures that threaten their orchards. In response to these challenges, a growing number of apple entrepreneurs are diversifying their businesses by producing hard cider, one of the fastest growing beverage categories in the country.
The Cider Project was launched in 2010 with the Apple Exchange, an exchange between French and American producers of hard apple cider that took place in Le Perche, France, and the Hudson Valley. The Cider Project has evolved since then to encompass various projects aimed at creating opportunities for the region’s apple growers and supporting the production of orchard-based hard cider. The Cider Project has been successful in driving market demand for regional craft cider and, as a result, the apple and cider producers that we partner with have enjoyed increased sales and profitability.
We launched Cider Week in 2011 – now an annual promotional initiative that showcases regional craft cider in restaurants, bars and retail shops throughout New York City and the Hudson Valley – in an effort to build appreciation and demand for regional ciders. A critical component leading up to Cider Week is a trade tasting, during which all participating cider and spirit makers pour their products for members of New York’s food and beverage trade and secure sales contracts for the coming year. This initiative exemplifies the power of connecting supply and demand in ways that directly impact the success of agriculture in our region.
In addition to producing Cider Week, we have helped to create the Hudson Valley Cider Alliance, a group of regional craft cider companies that are working together to establish hard cider as a signature beverage of this region. We also helped to found the New York Cider Association, the first-ever state trade association of cider producers, with the goal of fostering sustainable growth for this fledgling industry.