As we all know cider is made from apples. The best ciders are made from locally grown apples and nothing else. These are known as the real, craft, or proper Ciders. This market segment has enjoyed strong growth over the last few years.
Then you have mass market drinks that call themselves cider. These have a simple recipe. Just grab a little imported concentrated apple juice a bag of sugar and ferment that.
Sinking further down the scale are “ciders” made from high strength alcohol cut with colours, flavours, and sugar topped off with some fizzy water. It pretends to be an apple cider.
Then the other day I was in the supermarket and I saw a can of Cocobella Coconut Cider with strawberry and lemon flavour. Um, what? This product made from coconut water strawberry and lemon juice and some apple cider vinegar. Using this logic a chinese takeaway with a dash of rice wine vineagr is now a Saké, and fish and chips with a splash of malt vinegar is a beer.
This is not a cider in my opinion and I was pretty sure it would not comply with the Australian food standards code either.
I reached out to Made Group, the parent company of Cocobella, as well as Cider Australia.
Cider Australia’s Response on Cocobella
What are the rules
- Cider is a fruit wine containing fermented or partially fermented apple and/or pear juice, and more than 1.15% alcohol by volume. The specific definition is set out in Standard 2.7.3 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standard Code.
- Under the Code, “a food that is sold as a ‘cider’, ‘mead’, ‘perry’, a fruit wine or a vegetable wine must be cider, mead, perry, a fruit wine or a vegetable wine, as appropriate” (clause 2.7.3-3(2) of Standard 2.7.3).
- Producers are also obliged to label products with a name or a description sufficient to indicate the true nature of the food (Standard 1.2.2 of the Code).
- The cocobella product in question contains vinegar, coconut water and other flavours, and is non-alcoholic. It is, therefore, not a cider and should not be called a cider. We believe this is a breach of the food standards.
Our view on incorrect labelling:
- Incorrect labelling of products as ‘cider’ is potentially damaging to the cider industry. Consumers rely on product descriptions to guide purchasing decisions and if they buy a cider and it is not what they expect, they may be less willing to buy a cider next time.
- The minimum standards that apply to cider at the moment are actually very weak, and Cider Australia are calling on the Government to tighten the rules as a priority. The key change we are proposing is a minimum juice content of 50% in cider (believe it or not there is currently no minimum level). This requirement would make the distinction between cider and pre-mix/RTD/non-alcoholic apple products clearer, and make it less likely that products such as cocobella are incorrectly called cider.
- Cider Australia’s new position statement on cider integrity (to be released 29 April 2019) and media release are attached.
Relationship to trust mark
- Cider Australia’s 100% AUSTRALIAN GROWN trust mark can only be used on products that Cider Australia considers to be cider, and as such products such as cocobella would not be eligible to use the trust mark. Over the long term roll out of the trust mark could have an impact on products such as this by drawing attention to the fact they do not display the mark.
- However, cocobella breach of the food standards is primarily an issue for food standards enforcement bodies to address.
“Cider producers must navigate a ridiculous situation whereby the Food Standards define cider as one thing and the Australian Tax Office defines cider using another definition and neither of these definitions include a minimum juice content, which every other country globally sees fit to include in their definitions”, said Mr Reid.
It is important to note Cocobella would not meet the ATO’s definition either.
“Cider Australia is doing all it can to drive integrity in the market and is exceptionally proud to have recently launched a trust mark that can be displayed on ciders made with 100% Australian grown fruit, but we need effective regulation to support these efforts”, said Mr Reid.
At the time of publication, Made Group did not respond to my questions. I will update this post if they do.
What do you think? Is Cocobella a cider? What should it be called? And what makes something a cider to you?