NWBCA Top 30 – Zeffer Cider Co.

Zeffer Cider Co.

Zeffer are a small, independent Hawke’s Bay cidery who craft world-class, imaginative apple ciders (and ginger beer) with a New Zealand twist.

“Our cider making journey began in 2008 with our founders Sam and Hannah throwing in their day jobs with the (some said crazy) idea to craft real New Zealand cider from freshly crushed apples in a small shed in Matakana,” said Josh Townsend, CEO at Zeffer.

“The first ever batch of Zeffer was sold at their local Farmer’s Market to rave reviews. It was so popular they began stocking a few local stores and soon people all over New Zealand wanted to get their hands on it.”

The team grew a little bigger, as well as their tanks, and eventually the business was moved to Hawke’s Bay, the home of sunshine and apples.

“We’re proud of our small team and the calibre of cider we’re producing. Real, all-natural cider, crafted by a few friends from the best ingredients.”

For the team at Zeffer, what makes their brand stand out from the rest is the quality of ingredients they choose to use in making its cider and flavour innovations.

“We don’t for example ferment apple juice concentrate, which the majority of ciders in New Zealand are made from,” said head cidermaker Jody Scott.

“We instead use freshly pressed Hawke’s Bay apples and we make sure any ingredients we use to create our flavour profiles are the best quality we can find. For example, we use beautiful rich red cherries from Central Otago in our Top 30 winner Rosé Cider with Berry Infusion and whole cinnamon quills and vanilla pods in our Highly Commended Apple Crumble Cider.  Our Apple Crumble Cider launched more than 4 years ago and remains one of our most popular and unique ciders – customers often comment that it tastes exactly like its dessert namesake. Our ciders tend to be drier in style too. Our Crisp Apple Cider has one of the lowest natural sugar contents on the market too.”

Naturally, winning awards and gaining ranging is a highlight for any brand, but for Zeffer it reaffirms that the team are making an outstanding product. A few months ago, Lion took over its distribution and having a large sales force on the ground advocating for its range of ciders across a number of channels has certainly been another highlight for the business’ journey.

“It reaffirmed that our commitment to producing small-batch, premium, sustainably-made craft cider from local apples and real fruit is worth it.”

During lockdown, the brand decided to close its cidery even though it was deemed an essential service.

“We wanted to protect our team and do our part in the fight against Covid-19. We were however able to produce and shift sufficient cider to an external Essential Service warehouse around the corner from our cidery so we could continue to supply supermarkets and fulfil our online store orders using contactless delivery. Unfortunately, under the trying circumstances we weren’t necessarily guaranteed our spot on the shelves – it was tough for everyone we think.

Like many others who supply to or are part of the hospitality industry we were hard hit. We tried to look for ways to support the industry as best we could and ran some small campaigns using the SOS Café platform for example. We were grateful to have our online store up and running and really pivoted in this space. We offered free delivery and were able to get a fair bit of cider to people’s doorsteps during lockdown so we’re really hoping that they’ll now continue to seek us out in supermarkets when they’re doing their weekly shop,” added Townsend.

Zeffer release regular limited seasonal releases. In June, Zeffer will be releasing a Winter Plum Crumble Cider. This cider is a variation on its very popular Apple Crumble Cider, a truly delicious cider for the colder winter months.

“We do have some other exciting NPD launches planned for this summer. We are very much focussed on working with retailers to produce SKUs which specifically meet their needs and those of their customers.”

Lower sugar, premiumisation and sustainability is something that brands are currently focussed on. Zeffer is proud to have been looking at these for more than 10 years with its core range of cider, going right back to its original Crisp Apple Cider which remains a top seller to this day.

“We are excited to continue to innovate and hone our range in the coming year! It’s what gets our cider making team excited to come to work each day. We look forward to sharing some new ideas very soon so watch this space.”