In the Okanagan’s alcohol market, craft breweries and wineries get a vast amount of attention, and for good reason.
The valley’s wine industry is a major economic generator, with sales of B.C.-produced VQA wine exceeding $220-million in 2014, up from only $6-million in 1992. Wineries contribute $2-billion to the provincial economy, employ some 10,000 people, and draw 800,000 visitors every year.
Craft breweries and brew pubs are an up-and-coming force, undermining the market share of large brand breweries as their sales balloon.
Now cider is squeezing into the North American market, with sales growing in leaps and bounds in recent years.
Locally, it might be the most natural economic development, given the one-time dominance of the apple industry.
Although there were already a couple of smaller cider producers, last year SunRype tapped into the larger profit margins of the alcohol industry and launched its Rider Cider, in conjunction with Big Surf Brewery. The two flavours in their portfolio have thus far been Valencia Orange and Apple Lime twist.
But on Thursday they released their first dry Apple Cider.
“We are happy with it,” said David Mcanerney. President and CEO at Sun-Rype Products Ltd.
“Apple was the trickiest one for us to formulate. We worked over year making lots of iterations and blends, and the goal was to make sure to come out with the best apple cider in the market.”
If that sounds familiar, it might be because BC Tree Fruit said the same thing when they unveiled their apple cider, Broken Ladder, last month.
The two will be in competition, but Mcanerney doesn’t foresee a problem.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “Two iconic Okanagan companies are getting in this new exciting business. I’ve tried theirs. They’ve done a great job. It’s just a bit different.”
Regardless of whose cider is more popular, two “iconic Okanagan companies” taking on a new challenge does speak to a demand in the marketplace.
“It’s an exciting trend,” said Mcanerney. “People are realizing that dry ciders are what they’re looking for. It’s a refreshing alternative to beer and dry ciders have less sugars.”
For SunRype it also signals a reinvestment in the brand.
“We’re a large apple processor, but lots of people were asking us for apple juice for their own ciders,” he said.
“We realized there’s a trend in that direction, and we’re recognizing we’re really good at flavour development.”
The partnership with Big Surf Beer also reinvigorates the brand as they’re now marketing to the active lifestyle set, who want to sit back after a strenuous activity and have a drink.
Even the name, which Mcanerney’s friend Dave Anderson came up with, aligns with the sporting community.
“It started as a cycling brand, then Dave came up with the name and we jumped on it right away,” he said.
The cider is now available in stores.
Ride for Autism
In addition to the cider, SunRype is also getting geared up for its second annual Ride for Autism.
The Amazing Race style cycling event will start at Bottega in the last week of August, and take participants through selected wineries and Kelowna locations.
“It’s a timed event and at each stop participants complete a challenge, and get bonuses for buying bottles of wine,” said Mcanerney.
It’s a really fun event, Mcanerney added, but more importantly it raised funds for a charity close to his heart.
One in 40 boys are diagnosed with autism, he said, and there are few supports out there for those who are dealing with the disorder, which he’s learned from the struggles his nephew has faced.
With that in mind, the charity will aim to raise $100,000 for the Pacific Family Autism Family Foundation.
Go to facebook.com/ridercider for more information on how to register for the event.