The Apple to Glass project is a collaborative effort of Extension and research centers in four states – Washington, Vermont, Michigan and Wisconsin. Our goal is to support the performance of regionally-based craft cider markets as profitable outlets for orchardists. Through participant observation, surveys, focus groups, interviews and networking, we are seeking input from the craft cider supply chain, made up of apple growers, cider makers, distributors, retailers and consumers to assess opportunities and obstacles for products that have distinctive quality that can carry a regional or farm brand.
Our first project was a survey of apple growers from four states, providing firsthand accounts of the farmers’ perspectives on growing and marketing cider apples. Each state differs in the structure of its market for craft cider, the type and quantity of production, and the resources available for growing their businesses. We asked about their current practices, future plans, motivations, challenges, and resource needs.
Growers are interested in expanding cider varietal apple production, but this expansion may be constrained by production and marketing information. Apple growers are uncertain about how different varieties will perform, given disease pressure, and the going market price for apples with unique flavor profiles. Managing disease, especially fire blight, is important research need. Small growers are most concerned about low consumer awareness while large apple growers cite all the other market barriers, but not consumer awareness. Growers want to understand the demand for cider apple varieties on the part of cideries and consumers, and the prospects for regional collaboration and a “terroir” approach.
Collaboration is key. Participatory action research that brings growers, industry, and other agricultural professionals together will quicken the learning process necessary for a regional effort necessary for place-based or regional marketing efforts.
In 2022 we are completing distributor interviews and plan to attend cider festivals to tap into consumer perspectives. The project is scheduled to be complete in 2023.