Locally-produced alcohol sales increased in the last fiscal year strongly, Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. data reveals.
Ready-to-drink beverage sales, which are mostly ciders, were up 80.9 per cent to $7.8 million compared to the previous year, according to NSLC year-end results for period ended March 31.
Local craft beer sales also were up 27.3 per cent to $16.7 million. Nova Scotia spirit sales grew by 28.5 per cent to $7.8 million this year. However, Nova Scotia wine sales, using locally grown grapes, were up only by 2.5 per cent to $11.7 million.
“More people are looking for a lower alcohol option compared to wine, and cider fills that,” said Sean Myles, the co-founder of Annapolis Cider Co. in Wolfville.
“Cider is a great summer beverage,” he said. “A lot of people are looking for gluten free alternatives to beer, and cider fills that category as well.”
While locally-produced craft beer and wine make up about 10 per cent of all the beer and wine sold at NSLC, local cider is capturing about 40 per cent, Myles said.
Local ready-to-drink beverage sales growth is driven by the growth of canned vodka-soda beverages which increased by around 3,300 per cent in the last year, Myles said.
“Before, the ready-to-drink stuff wasn’t produced in Nova Scotia. Now, there are a few producers, and they’re totally dominating the category.”
Nova Scotian cider sales have grown 21 per cent during the last year.
“A major producer came on board in 2018 and really picked up a lot of the market share and managed to displace some of the imports,” Myles said. “That product called No Boats on Sunday, and it’s made by Andrew Peller Ltd. out of Truro.” In May, company sales represented more than 50 per cent of locally-produced cider sales in the province, Myles said
Local cider sales increased because a combination of factors. “The growth in the local craft beverage industries in general … also, we have an abundance of apples available for making cider,” Myles said.
Nova Scotia has “arguably a better diversity of apples varieties than most other places in North America,” he said. “We can make great premium cider with the apples that are grown her in our province.”
“In Washington (State), for example, their apples are red delicious apples, which are not good for making cider.”
Nova Scotian apples are well-suited to making cider. “You want a collection of apples that give you good tannin and good acid,” Myles said. “Our favourite apple for making cider here at the cidery is Gravenstein, an early-season apple.”
Tannin is an important chemical compound because it gives the dry sensation to the drink. It’s like what “you get when you drink red wine, kind of grips on your gums,” Myles said.
“Tannin provides structure to your beverage.”
Myles runs Annapolis Cider with his wife. “We make cider from local apples and sell most of our product directly from our door.”
The business is on Main Street in Wolfville and was opened three years ago. Myles wants to make his business Canada’s leading cider brand. “We are not producing large volumes, but we produce an ultra-premium product, and we offer a great experience in our tasting bar.”
“We are not contributing tremendously to the growth at NSLC,” he said with a laugh.
NSLC sales were up 5.8 per cent to $662.1 million, with $628.9 million in beverage alcohol sales and $33.2 million in recreational cannabis sales.
There were 866,800 cannabis transactions. The average dollar value of each beverage alcohol transaction grew by 0.9 per cent to $30.67, according to the liquor corporation.
“We make a very wine-like product and we package it in 750-millilitre format, and we focus a lot on the unique variety of apples that are available here in the Annapolis Valley,” Myles said.
“We also have some fun,” he said. “We make some ciders that have blueberry juice in them. And we make ciders that are sort of hybrid between wine and cider, using local grapes.”
The business has 10 full-time equivalent employees on a yearly basis. It benefits from the growth of the local wine industry in Wolfville as people go and explore the wine scene there, so they try the cider as well, he said.