Apple cider is a drink mostly associated with Europe and the United States. While it is growing in popularity all over the world, mostly as a naturally gluten free and refreshing alcoholic drink, South America still remains as a mostly unknown market for apple cider.
Scott Jones is a Peru-based English cider maker, one of the first cider makers in the continent and currently the Peruvian cider market leader. In this interview, Scott approached how he started his cider journey, the pros and cons of exploring a virgin market and the challenges for the future.
Hi Scott. Thank you very much for your time for this interview. So, you are the current market leader in the Peruvian cider scene. How did it all start?
Hello, thank you very much for the invite. Well, having taught English in South America for 4 years since 2010, I decided to stay in Peru for longer. The easiest way I could do this was to obtain a business visa, and so I started to think about which type of business I would like to start here. The market for craft beer was in its infancy but growing steadily, but being a cider drinker from the south of England, I didn’t really appreciate the craft beer scene and had been missing cider from home; conversations over beers with expats had often covered what would make a good business, and making cider always seemed to come up time and time again. So the seed had been sown a couple years before I was in a position to consider it as a viable business.
Having decided to start the first cider company in Peru (and probably most South American countries) I took out a bank loan from the UK and wired over to Peru. I immediately discovered how running a business in Peru was going to be, and that was difficult, frustrating and illogical. So the first hurdle was that I couldn’t open a bank account without a visa, but I couldn’t start the visa process without depositing money in a Peruvian account (to show you have funds to open a business) – this would be one of many hurdles I had to overcome to open and run a business as a foreigner in Peru.
Well, we can see that was not an easy start.
Not at all. Once I received my business visa the next problem was to source machinery to produce the cider. The most important machine was a mill to pulp the apple and this had to made from scratch. I paid well above the average for this which was what is known as ‘gringo’ price, I’d soon get used to negociating hard on most prices. I was very lucky to hear about a stainless steel fabricator that made in bottle carbonating machines. The machine was a design rip off of machines that could be found for around the same price in Europe or the US, importing anything into Peru is problematic and high import taxes, so I was happy to pay what would be the same price as Europe or US and not have the headache and stress of importing.
Using my previous Engineering experience I designed and built a sturdy rack and press, and having found a small place to rent I was ready to start production. My first attempt was 300kg of dessert apples, I managed to squeeze 230 litres, and using ‘craft cider making’ book by Andrew Lea I produced my first batch of cider without too many problems.
Who were your first costumers? Was it easy to convince them to consume a Peruvian cider?
My main market to begin with was the expat community and expat owned bars and restaurant, sales were slow as the price point was quite high, so the Peruvian market wasn’t willing to pay the high price and risk the possibility of not liking it. In the first year or two it was mainly expats and tourists consuming my cider.
What about now? How was the market growth?
Having grown my business steadily over 4 years, the demand is now high, there are now other small cider producers in the marketplace but total sales are still low compared to the craft beer scene, which is now saturated with the opening of more and more breweries.
When looking at other countries, like the US or Europe, once the craft beer scene explodes and then becomes saturated, cider then has a boom, I’m guessing 2019 will be the year of cider in Peru.
We hope 2019 is indeed the year of cider in Peru.
Hope so, I believe chances are quite high.
What about your ciders? What is their profile?At the moment I have 5 different types, a dry, medium and sweet, and also a strawberry and passion fruit flavoured ciders, all made with freshly pressed apples and real fruits the artisan way (this means by hand as I still can’t afford expensive equipment !). The dry, medium and passion fruit are the best sellers. All of them are branded as Oltree Cider.
Brilliant. What would you say are the main challenges for the future?
The challenges for the future are big money investors opening more commercial style cideries, my plan is to keep at a medium sized production (less than 50,000 litres a year) and keep the artisan spirit of trying different styles and flavours.
We hope it all goes for the best, and also that your experience might inspire new cider makers all over the world to start their businesses. We know it is certainly not easy.
It is definitely not, but it is worth it. My advice is not giving up, adversities will come but in the end it pays off.
Thank you for your time for this interview with CFER, cheers!
Thank you too, cheers!