One of the Midwest’s largest craft cider producers, Vander Mill Cider & Winery, completed a 3500-square-foot, $600,000 expansion at its facility in Spring Lake, MI. This included additional fermentation equipment and a Cask Automated canning system.
We expect these cans to significantly increase production – with an expected volume growth of over 100% from last year,” says owner Paul Vander Heide. “We wanted to decrease the cost to the consumer by increasing automation and using a more cost-effective package.
They estimate their 2013 production will be over 100,000 gallons.
Their new Cask Automated canning system will allow them to produce upwards of 1800, 16-ounce cans per hour.
Vander Heide states that cans will enable them to be more accessible to the consumer – their cans will be available in more grocery and independent stores. More than 600 retail outlets and 200 bars/restaurants in Michigan and Chicago serve Vander Mill ciders.
Cider is a small player in the beverage industry (accounting for less than half a percent of the total in gallons), but last year posted the biggest gains: 31% compared with 11% for craft beer, according to Chicago-based Technomic Inc.
Craft cider is going through what craft beer went through in terms of differentiating itself from mass brands.
A lot of people don’t know what cider is to begin with, and if they are familiar, they’ve heard of the macro brands that are produced by watering back apple juice concentrate,” Vander Heide said. “The challenge for us is introducing people to something totally different.
And they are one of the most inventive. Vander Mill makes a hard apple cider and several variations, including apple cherry, apple blueberry and apple raspberry.