Bulk wine has long been a part of the wine industry but the same isn’t true for cider, perhaps because the category as a whole is simply too new. Realistically, though, not every cider company has access to an orchard where it can select and process apples of its choosing. Instead, many source starting material from bulk juice companies. Not from concentrate (NFC) bulk juice can offer a significant cost savings by eliminating the need for expensive processing equipment—not to mention the time and expense associated with owning or managing an orchard. Bulk juice can also be obtained year-round from processors that have access to cold storage apples.
Bulk juice suppliers exist in most states where a significant apple crop can be found, and especially in the apple-growing powerhouse Pacific Northwest, where processors such as FruitSmart, Inc. in Prosser, Wash., have made a point of marketing to the fast-growing cider industry with cold-pressed, NFC dessert apple juices. Customers can order year round, specifying sugar and acid content, for direct bulk shipment in refrigerated tankers or trucks.
The downside of using bulk dessert apples is they lack of the complexity that can be found in cider-specific fruit. Until recently, Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, N.H., was the only source of bulk cider apple juice, though it’s now been joined by Harmony Orchards in Yakima, Wash. The newest entry into this space is CiderAuction in Connell, Wash., which launched in February 2017.
In a unique business model, CiderAuction sources cider-specific fruit from participating growers, juices each variety separately, then offers the bulk juice for auction on its website. Juice left unsold after the auction is frozen and offered for sale at a set price. Each pressing is analyzed for not just sugar and acidity, but tannin content as well.
This is a new concept in the cider world, and it will be interesting to see whether or not it catches on.