Cider on the rise

Cider on the rise

Cider has evolved from its humble beginnings to become one of the fastest-growing markets in the drinks industry. While the road is still long, the possibility of cider firmly establishing itself in the Middle East is undeniable, as Soha Frem, founder of WATA cider, points out.

Cider in the Middle East
Although cider consumption in the Middle East has traditionally been rather low, there has been a surge in demand in recent years. According to the Middle East & Africa Cider Market Research Report by Actual Market Research, the market is set to be worth USD 800 million by 2028. This growth can be attributed to several factors, including a young population with a penchant for experimentation, an increasing number of international brands entering the market, a shift in consumer preferences toward lighter and fruit-based alcoholic beverages, greater demand for healthier and gluten-free options, and the increasing potential of cider and food pairing. However, the main consumers of cider in the Middle East are tourists. The UAE continues to stand out as the biggest market for imported ciders, given its cosmopolitan population and thriving hospitality sector. Although the UAE does not have its own local cider production, it does serve as a hub for international cider brands entering the market.
In Lebanon, as local cider production grows, so too does cider culture. In the past five years alone, three local cider brands have been launched due to various factors, including the need to find a solution to the apple crisis and lack of competitive export markets, an increased focus on local production as a result of the Lebanese economic crisis, well-established local wine and spirits production, and the entrepreneurial flair of the Lebanese people and a drive to catch up with international trends.
While Lebanese ciders have proved popular on the international cider scene, with exports to various high-end European markets, the local market requires a push in terms of education, raising awareness and building a culture around cider.

Selecting the best cider
Cider is very versatile. The approach to tasting cider is broadly the same as wine due to the shared sensorial properties between the two drinks. Like wine, the fruit is of utmost importance and will entirely determine the quality of the cider achieved. This is why, before dwelling on the qualities of the cider it is important to understand whether the cider has been produced from concentrate or from freshly pressed apples.
Selecting a cider revolves around the following qualities and should match the expectations of your consumers:

  • Color and clarity: cider ranges from pale yellow to dark red. While consumers in general like it clear, thus filtered, cider can also be hazy, which can help lift its structure.
  • Aroma: while some ciders can taste great if their aromas are off, it is challenging to go past their scent.
  • Flavor and mouthfeel: the key to great cider is the balance between its acidity, sweetness, phenolics and fruitiness. These properties are primarily born from the apple varieties selected.
  • The terroir: the cider’s terroir, the environment in which the cidery sits and the agriculture practices adopted in the orchard.

Cider pairing
A good cider-food pairing elevates consumers’ culinary experience. Thus, it is essential to take into consideration the four Cs:

  • Complement: pairing sweet with sweet, tart with tart, etc. Complementary flavors can also extend into the textural realms, like light and fresh or nutty and rich.
  • Contrast: this entails pairing dense vegetables with a bubbly cider or giving some structure to an extra cheesy dish with tannic cider.
  • Cut: one of the best characteristics of cider is its ability to cut through rich, fatty foods. Dry, crisp ciders will refresh the palate and help lift flavors. Hence, cider goes brilliantly with cheeses and charcuterie, as well as comfort foods like burgers and pizzas.
  • Complete: the choice of cider should complete the dish and accentuate its experience.

The MENA region’s markets have managed to attract a significant level of investments from international cider manufacturers and beverage companies aiming to capitalize on the market’s growth potential and introduce new products tailored to the region’s tastes and preferences. The cider market continues to hold real growth potential with the rising demand for lower alcohol options, healthier offerings and popularity of flavored and craft ciders. However, to achieve a substantial breakthrough in the market, local and international cider brands should invest more in raising awareness among local communities and not solely among the expat community, thereby creating experiences that can become an integral part of local cultures. In short, cider can win back share by focusing on tradition, encouraging exploration and championing sustainability.

Soha Frem,
founder of WATA cide
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