Grade A Cider Trustmark: independence, quality and traceability guaranteed

Grade A Cider TrustmarkStrict wine laws exist to protect producers and consumers, to regulate the industry and combat fraudulent fruit juice or noxious substance adulteration. People enjoying wine expect to taste an artisan’s skill with fresh pressed grapes. Shoppers choose between fresh fruit-juice or concentrate, and the alcoholic drinks market is the same — bottles listing ‘grape concentrate’ concern wine devotees.

Since everybody values choice, accurate product labelling is essential. However, drink classification standards, which cover wine, exclude other artisanal products, such as cider.

Catering to drinkers seeking a beer or wine alternative, cider consumption is skyrocketing. A refreshing sweetness or complex dryness appeals to twentysomethings, it is natural and gluten free, and its ancient heritage makes it unique — cider ranks among the world’s fastest growing drinks categories.

Despite cider’s popularity, deficient labelling misleads drinkers, and inadequate regulations, definitions and protections challenge discerning cidermakers around the world. Without a credible institution, or regional governing bodies, to oversee and regulate the industry, retailers and outlets group all ciders together, overlooking important differences, which is both unfair and confusing.

While low-quality homogenous cider is inexpensive to mass-produce because it uses cheap ingredients and industrial methods, artisanal cider is a premium product: authentic, traditional, often handmade and always produced from fresh pressed apples. Real cider boasts a minimum juice content, whereas industrial cider contains up to 85 percent water.

Loose terminology allows major brands and large producers to gain dominance with undetermined production methods and spurious claims. The lack of transparency squeezes artisanal cidermakers out from the market.

Drinkers want to know the water, apple juice or concentrate quantity, and if sweeteners are used, so, as a minimum, cider labelling must clarify ingredients, explain production methods and state country of origin.

Meet the Grade A Cider Trustmark

The cider industry lacks full international regulation, so the Grade A Cider Trustmark validates quality and assures drinkers: this cider is authentic, and cidermakers use real apple juice and recognised production methods.

The Grade A Cider Trustmark guarantees information transparency. It is a benchmark for sustainable, meaningful industry growth: a central policy, concern, technical, progress and action platform. Its most important role, however, is educating consumers and undoing misinformation — improving production and labelling standards and regulations.

Packaging and marketing material displaying a prominent Grade A Cider Trustmark:

  • Confirms honesty and quality.
  • Harnesses social media’s power to promote cider’s reputation and increase growth potential.
  • Publicises authentic cider availability in bars, restaurants and pubs.

The Grade A Cider Trustmark recognises three classifications:

Single Strength Ciders

  • Associated with an identifiable region.
  • Produced with all-natural ingredients and 100 percent fresh apple juice, pressed onsite.
  • No added water, sugar, or concentrate at the fermentation stage.
  • Back sweetener and adjuncts permitted as per recipe.

High Alcohol Ciders (Cocktails)

  • Sugar/fructose may be added.
  • Offsite pressing is permitted.
  • Fermented to around 10-12 percent ABV, then diluted with water to 5 percent.
  • Back sweetener and adjuncts permitted as per recipe.

Industrial Ciders (Alcopops / Fermented Beverages)

  • Anything is possible: any ingredient or method.
  • No pressed apple juice required.
  • Concentrate is used, mixed with water and sugar or fructose.
  • Back sweetener and adjuncts permitted as per recipe.

The Grade A Cider Trustmark’s three core pillars are traceability, authenticity and integrity. Cider integrity belongs partly to a known apple terroir, an orchard region, which producers display on their honest labelling. All cider is 100 percent fresh pressed apple juice, fermented using wine-like methods; and cidermakers demonstrate direct operational involvement.

Independent cidermakers meeting the Grade A Cider Trustmark standards enter into a licensing agreement, guaranteeing full traceability and end-to-end onsite process quality control — including pressing, production and packaging.

Canada’s Bulwark Craft Ciders, which leads the Grade A Cider Trustmark from its Nova Scotia home, provides further information to cidermakers and drinkers.

[Original article written for Grade A Cider Trustmark, February 2020]