Woodchuck's Cider House Rules: Rules for Success are Consistency, Quality, and FeedbackSep 30, 2021 01:39PM ● By Kristie L. Smith Nikitin
How much wine could a woodchuck chug if a woodchuck could chug wine? The answer is 30 years' worth of CIDER! Born at a winery and nurtured over time, Woodchuck Hard Cider has made a name for itself and single-handedly created and perpetuated the cider industry in the United States. Through consistency, quality, and feedback, Woodchuck Hard Cider is at the top of its category, not just in Vermont but nationwide.
Too Much of an Apple Thing
Apples are the key ingredient in cider, and once upon a time, the Joseph Cerniglia Winery struggled with excess "Adam-tempters." Cerniglia's vintner, Greg Failing, began to experiment with the lost art of cider making to avoid wasting the fruit. One can only bake so many pies. Though hard cider had been popular in Europe, Greg never felt the international recipes would appeal to woodchucks or flatlanders, so he began messing with carbonation and fermentation.
One Small Step for Hard Cider, One Big Leap for WoodchuckThe result of Greg's 1991 tinkering was entered in the Great Albany Beer Festival in 1993. Woodchuck's Dark and Dry won the People's Choice Award, earning it a tap at Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, New York. This small step for hard cider was a big leap for Woodchuck. The win enabled Woodchuck to move production from a Proctorsville two-car garage to bigger digs. What started out in 10-ounce bottles, where the final two ounces had to be poured by hand, grew into nationwide nectar.
Woodchuck grew one fan at a time with tastings in parking lots, bars, the cidery, and hundreds of thirsty tourists purchasing souvenir six-packs. The demand for this beverage, named after a land beaver, increased. UPS even became an unwitting partner—delivering kegs of Woodchuck to points beyond New England's borders.
As Woodchuck's distribution grew, so did the company. Throughout its 30 years, Woodchuck has had several owners. Currently, Woodchuck belongs to Northeast Drinks Group, LLC. Bridget Blacklock, Chief Commercial Officer, says, "As with any industry when going through periods of massive growth or changes in trends, there are opportunities for businesses to change hands." And change hands it did. In 1996, according to the company's website, they "joined forces" with Stroh Brewing and began producing from a space in Springfield.
Several owners later, Woodchuck's Hard Cider Amber is still the original recipe. Bridget says, "The management team has always been consistent, and the production team has always been consistent." It's that commitment to stability that keeps Woodchuck at the top of its game.
Consistency within the beverage company means they stick to the core values crafted with that first award-winning formula. So even though Woodchuck has a parent company, "We still feel like we are a mom-and-pop. Those original values are still how we operate, despite the fact that we are sold nationwide,” says Bridget. "Our ethos as a business very much remained the same as it always was from the beginning."
Feedback Breeds Quality
Woodchuck Hard Cider is very much driven by quality. They continually study the food and beverage industry, minding trends and listening to their demographics and fans. They frequently experiment with new liquids at the cider house, and the national sales team often brings home ideas from the field. Cidermaker John Mateson develops multiple variations to be narrowed down through sampling and "feedback from internal employees, friends of the brand, and fans in the Cider House," says Bridget.
Woodchuck's anniversary represents the history of a brand and the history of an entire beverage category. How does one celebrate 30 years of consistency, quality, and feedback? Woodchuck will commemorate the milestone on social media showcasing brand highlights and launch a retail store on their website selling 30th-anniversary limited-edition apparel and glassware. For a short time, consumers can savor fan-fave varieties like Blueberry and Barrel Select. Also, artists and content creator-fans will be able to share their appreciation of the brand through their own work and broadcast it on Woodchuck's social media channels. Perhaps even a toast or two for another 30 years!