UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The eastern European country of Ukraine — ranked 12th in global apple production — is positioned to take a slice of the blossoming global hard cider market, valued at $4.4 billion and projected to reach $5.4 billion by 2025, per statistics from Grand View Research.
Providing the country’s apple farmers and cider producers with information on cider production technologies and marketing, global trends and developments, and consumer preferences was at the core of three yearly seminars in Kiev, Ukraine, led by Penn State Extension.
“Consumer demand for hard cider, especially canned, fruit-flavored options, is seeing incredible growth compared to other alcoholic drinks in many regions of the world,” said Carla Snyder, extension program area leader for marketing and market development. “Ukraine is the eighth-fastest-growing cider market in Europe with an estimated annual production of 176,000 hectoliters, or more than 4.6 million gallons, of hard cider.”
She added that Penn State Extension’s efforts to support Ukraine’s burgeoning cider industry have been impactful — attendees of the first two sessions have reported a total of $3.9 million in sales growth.
The seminars, the first of which took place in September 2018, were supported by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, the Woskob New Century Fund endowment administered by the college’s Office of International Programs, and the Kiev-based Business, Research, Innovation, Development, Growth, Education and Success (BRIDGES) Center.
The presentations were an outreach of Penn State Extension’s hard cider educational program, which formally began in 2014 with a hard cider marketing and production educational immersion experience that connected Pennsylvania orchardists with hard cider producers and cider variety growers in Virginia.
In 2015, a hard cider production workshop was held at the Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center in Adams County, a region referred to as the “fruit belt of Pennsylvania.” The commonwealth is the fourth-largest producer of apples in the U.S., according to Snyder.
“We have growers who are looking for a high return on investment with a value-added product, and hard cider fits that niche for many,” Snyder said. “It’s a product that can help agricultural enterprises diversify their businesses, generate more revenue and stay modern.”
In 2017 and 2018, extension educators organized international immersion experiences for U.S. and Canadian cider producers to network with producers in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, countries renowned for their cider.
Consumer trends was one of several topics covered during the 2020 event in Ukraine, which took place virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. The more than 40 attendees, representing cider producers, academics, and the hotel, restaurant and catering sector, also watched prerecorded videos made by Pennsylvania producers, who discussed their experiences and answered questions that the attendees submitted prior to the workshop.
In his video, Scott Topel, head cider maker at Wyndridge Farm, a Dallastown-based hard cider and craft brewery, covered the chemical and physical aspects of stabilizing cider. He also talked about halting fermentation for stable packaging of cider.
“The makers in Ukraine are interested in making sweet hard ciders, so I explained the pitfalls of releasing potential bottle bombs to the public,” Topel said. “It’s always great connecting with makers from all over the world. If I can help keep others from making some of the mistakes I have made in production, it may help them to avoid obstacles to growing their business.”
The insight was appreciated by Volodymyr Glus, who owns Green Farm, an apple production and export business located in central Ukraine, near Vinnytsia City. He also owns Premium Ciders International Co., a newly founded cidery that uses Green Farm’s apples to produce hard cider.
“Despite the pandemic, the 2020 workshop was another successful event with more people attending than the previous year,” Glus said. “The motivation was high because we shared topics of potential interest with the organizers in advance so that they could be covered in the workshop.”
He added that because the Ukrainian cider market is relatively young, and evolving, there is room for new and more sophisticated products. He said Snyder’s presentation on industry trends, the opportunity to network with U.S. producers and the chance to learn technical aspects are aiding him in developing products.
“Having attended the three workshops, I observe positive dynamics in terms of information, practicality and attendance,” Glus said. “Carla is a very knowledgeable, charismatic and enthusiastic speaker. This workshop is a must for anyone who has an interest in hard cider in Ukraine.”
Deanna Behring, assistant dean and director of international programs in the college, expressed her appreciation for Snyder’s outreach to Ukrainian producers. “The cider program is part of our college’s larger effort to support the development of small- and medium-sized agricultural enterprises in Ukraine,” she said. “As Ukraine adopts new land reform legislation, we hope to support a vibrant, entrepreneurial economy.”