The Tempting Eleanor: Eden Cider’s Eleanor Leger Elected American Cider Association’s 2021 PresidentJun 16, 2021 12:03PM ● By Kristie L. Smith Nikitin
Eve tempted Adam with an apple, but Eleanor Leger tempts us all with Deep Cut dry, canned cider from Eden Specialty Ciders. According to Eleanor, owner of Eden and president of the American Cider Association, Deep Cut is “so flavorful and juicy with zero grams of sugar and zero carbs!” Cider is the original “tastes great, less filling” adult beverage, appearing on the scene long before hard seltzers and even light beers. The newly elected president was the obvious choice to lead the cider category because of her background, love of cider, and innovative history in the industry.
Eleanor did not come up in agriculture. Her original sin, as it were, was a career in finance and technology. Skills she learned along the way greatly enhance her ability to run a business, and for that matter, a national organization. Longing to try something different and a little less stressful, more, in her words, “grounded,” Eleanor decided cider was the way to go.
The Seed Is Planted
She tasted ice cider for the first time in Montreal and was convinced that the terroir in Vermont would be excellent for producing it. This trip planted a seed that began to germinate, and soon she was producing limited quantities in the basement of her farmhouse. As a result, Eleanor was one of the first to produce ice cider in the U.S.
Eleanor’s love affair with cider started when she was 16. She studied that summer in Tours, France, where she would hang out after school eating crepes, drinking Normandy cider, and learning French. She describes the local beverage as “low ABV, pretty high residual sweetness, and delicious.” It didn’t occur to her until many years later that she could produce and sell cider, but by 2007 Eden became a reality, and Eleanor was in business.
Under a Big Tent
According to Eleanor, the American Cider Association was founded in 2013 as the United States Association of Cider Makers, “When there were about 100 cideries in the country.” Now there are more than 1,000. Those early producers banded together, committing to be a “big tent” organization supporting cider-makers of all sizes. Initially, they focused on legislative and regulatory issues. In 2011, prior to the formalization of the group, they unveiled CiderCon, where attendees could learn, share, taste, and network. In 2020 the group changed its name to American Cider Association. “The Association now provides industry data, trade education programs, compliance and other resources, [hosts] the annual CiderCon, and continues to work to ease regulatory and tax burdens on producers, often in partnerships with other beverage sectors, such as beer and wine associations.” Eleanor was first elected to the board in 2015 as an at-large board member, and she was re-elected in 2019 as the Eastern Region Chair.
As board president, Eleanor works with the executive director to develop and execute the group’s strategic plan while lobbying to further improve the regulatory and tax policies for its members. The Association educates on the benefits of cider; supplies media, trade, and community communications; and gives members tools and programs for sustainable success. It builds the effectiveness of the organization as a leading voice in the industry.
Prior to joining the group, Eleanor, in her role at Eden, actually coined the term pommelier. The Certified Pommelier designation is a newly created second-level certification for individuals pursuing a career in cider production. The first level is Certified Cider Professional and is geared toward distributor sales professionals, servers, bartenders, and store buyers.
Is Eleanor’s relationship with the ACA divine intervention? Perhaps, but Eleanor says, “It’s the combination of my business background in larger companies and my experience in building a successful brand as a small cider producer that allows me to be effective.” She understands the challenges that present themselves. She uses the professional perspectives and financial acumen from her previous career and the knowledge she gained from cleaning tanks, hustling to sell bottles, and managing cash flow.