Cider attracting investment

New businesses | Cider makers in Sask. say government restrictions are hindering growth

The popularity of hard cider is growing.

Canadian hard cider sales were 28.4 million litres last year, up 34 percent by volume over the past five years, according to Statistics Canada.

By comparison, wine sales rose 13.6 percent and beer sales dropped by two percent.

Big alcohol companies such as Molson and Alexander Keith’s have picked up on this trend, but small craft cideries are also popping up, including a few on the Prairies.

Six manufacturers are licensed by the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority to produce cider, which is made by fermenting apples.

Of the six, Slow Pub in Regina is the only one currently making cider.

Living Sky Winery near Perdue has stopped cider making, while Bin Brewing in Swift Current is in the development stages.

Crossmount Village, a development near Saskatoon that plans to mix a retirement living community with agro-tourism, will include perhaps the largest cidery in Saskatchewan.

Alberta has one manufacturer and Manitoba has none.

Saskatchewan may hold the most promise, but some in the industry say bureaucracy is standing in the way of growth.

Manufacturers in the province need a permit and must follow the SLGA’s cottage winery policy, which includes regulations that dictate how much of the product is derived from fruit and where it can be sold.

The policy also limits the SLGA’s preferential 35 cents per litre markup that is available to small cottage wineries to 45,000 litres a year. A manufacture can exceed the 45,000 litre limit but then faces the full SLGA markup.

Sue Echlin of Living Sky Winery said that policy forced her company to stop making cider.

She said Living Sky was making wine as well as cider, and both count toward the 45,000 litre limit. As a result, it didn’t work financially to keep making cider.

“No one could make a profit making cider under the current legislation. You just couldn’t do it making 45,000 litres,” Echlin said.

“Our math was you’d have to make a minimum 150,000 litres to make cider profitable, if that was all you are doing.”

Echlin said the company has been discussing the issue with the SGLA for two years.

“SLGA is very willing to be in discussion,” she said.

“It’s certainly not a dire thing. It’s just with anything involving … policies, it takes a long time to create change.”

SLGA spokesperson David Morris confirmed the discussions, but said no changes are planned

Duncan McKercher, developer of Crossmount Village, said he would like to be able to produce more than 45,000 litres per year.

“I think it’s disappointing from our perspective that we had to downsize what we wanted to do to meet that 45,000 litres,” he said.

“I think that goes against my entrepreneurialism creativity, so to speak.”

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