The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced in the budget a new tax on ‘white cider’ over 7%, to create a new duty band for cider between 7 and 7.5%. So what exactly is white cider, and what does this mean for traditional cider?
Well “white cider” is a meaningless term, there is no such thing in legal terms, and certainly no industry expert could claim that they recognised the term. What he seems to be referring to though is strong cider (7% +) in PET bottles that is sold very cheaply in supermarkets and typically contains little more than 35% apple juice (if that). This is the kind of cider that is drunk by young people and people with a drink problem (expert opinion, not mine) and is available in supermarkets for very little money. No wonder we have a drink problem in this country. Aston Manor is one of the largest producers of such products.
So Phil’s idea is that by imposing higher duty on this “white cider” that everybody will stop drinking it and the drink problem will magically go away. Well done Phil, saviour of the modern world drinking problem!
The reality of this new tax is somewhat very different and the impact far reaching, with the potential to significantly impact our cider heritage. It is bad enough that in less than a generation the public have been misguided as to what cider actually is, and now it would seem our national heritage is on the verge of extinction.
Phil says this new tax won’t impact traditional cider makers, but without a distinction between traditional cider and “white cider” how can this be? Most traditional ciders will naturally ferment out to 6.5% to 7.5% without the addition of any sugar. This is the way it has been for centuries. Traditional cider is also typically made from 80%+ apple juice as well. This is one of the purest forms of alcohol that has been enjoyed for millennia, this is not a new phenomena. Also, having a very high percentage of juice, it is a premium product and therefore not the first choice of folk with a drink problem.
This new tax however, will have a massive impact on traditional cider makers, many of which, like me, feel that the government are just playing a game to make it look like they are addressing a drink problem, when actually they are just creating another tax to make it look like they are. In reality they are most likely to put more traditional cider makers out of business.
So what is the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) doing about this? We should probably start by saying that most of the producers of this “white cider” are members of the NACM, and most traditional cider makers are not allowed to join! We should also mention that the government do not consult with traditional cider makers when reviewing policy, they only consult with the NACM which is made up of the largest ‘cider’ makers in the country… and I use the term ‘cider’ here in its very loosest sense.
It should also come as no surprise that the NACM are the reason why cider doesn’t need to contain more than 35% apple juice in order for it to be legally recognised as cider. Or, for that matter, to legitimately contain a whole host of additives that no traditional cider maker would ever consider adding to their traditional drink. NACM are all about making more cider from less apples and providing an inferior product to the consumer yet masquerading as traditional cider.
So to summarise. Traditional cider that has been enjoyed for centuries is typically made from 80% + apple juice, and that’s it. It is typically up to 7.5% alcohol naturally without adding any additional sugars. Commercial cider, as made by the majority of NACM members, typically is made from no more than 35% apple juice (from concentrate) and a whole host of chemicals and additives. The chancellor wants to create a new tax on cider that will penalise traditional cider makers and put some out of business. Phil argues that we can simply ‘water down’ our cider to less than 7%.
We, the traditional cider makers, don’t think we should compromise a traditional product by watering it down just to appease the chancellor. We think this is an insult on a heritage spanning hundreds of years. We are not the greedy, industrialised producers of so-called cider that make up the NACM. we are trying to preserve our heritage and provide a quality product to consumers.
It is not easy to put the anger and fury into words in an eloquent manner, but I think you get the gist.
I need a drink!