Recently a largish U.S. hard cider producer sold-out to a huge beer company which wanted in on cider's impressive numbers and booming charts. I've heard several voices from within the cider community expressing displeasure, yet for me, I don't think the news is even relevant for us "farm cider" producers. That product the beer company inherited is just one of many unappealing artificially-carbonated, sugar-sweetened, and sterile-filtered concoctions that have long since given "hard cider" its reputation. We, on the other hand, are "farm cider", and as farmers our preference is to keep things simple and real. We are not prone to conceptual speculation and we are not driven by the need for money, acclaim, or trend participation. Hard cider is a distant third because it thrives in our folksy world, and few other places. I suspect that that big beer company is going to take a bath on their miscalculation.
In the end, taste-driven and moral-oriented customers (it's them driving cider back into the spotlight, not savvy farmers!) want face-to-face contact and accountability. More importantly, they want location. They do not want some company in a warehouse using billions apples from everywhere mixed like beef in a McDonalds hamburger. They want a single, real farm. Predictably, the big producers will play-up the farm image like Cracker Barrel, and of course, they will do what Sam Adams does and sell us an imaginary character, the artisan toiling away at his hand-crafted product, but 21st century consumers are not that easily fooled. They have taste. Just as with wine, the high-end consumers will seek-out farms, while the big companies will be left the dregs in the cheap market.