Seattle Cider Company: There’s No Time Like a Crisis to Create

May 13, 2021

Eric Willard, Director of Purchasing and Logistics can remember a time when he was working at an orchard and hardly any cider was made in Washington State. At the time, Eric was the Director of Operations of his city’s first cidery since Prohibition—Seattle Cider Company —he’s had a front-row seat to massive change.

Eric Willard - Director of Purchasing and Logistics
Eric Willard – Director of Purchasing and Logistics

“Washington was always known for apples, but the cider market hadn’t hit its stride when we started out. That obviously changed.”

Maura Hardman, Seattle Cider’s PR and Marketing Manager, muses about the advantage the cidery founders’ brewing background gave them. “They knew how to bridge the gap between beer and wine and create a ‘beer drinker’s cider’ that was less sweet and focused on the character of the apple.”

Maura Hardman - PR and Marketing Manager
Maura Hardman – PR and Marketing Manager

“Our cider used real ingredients and was less than half as sweet as the sweetest product on the market,” explains Eric. “That helped us to appeal to people with a palette for ‘craft’.”

Before long, the company was a major player in a breakout market. They became known for unique flavour pairings that never overpowered the apple’s inherent qualities.

Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) connected with Seattle Cider at the time when the cidery had seen double-digit growth for several years. “We were looking for a partner with that beautiful Venn diagram of fast fulfillment, high quality, and low cost. We got that in GLBC.”

When Maura first started with the company in 2017, they had “started trying out boxes. Our gorgeous cans had been on the forefront of Washington’s cider scene, we figured we should put the image of the can on the box.”

If showcasing the iconic 16 oz Seattle Cider can was important, so was trying new things.

“We updated all of our core line and seasonal Seattle Cider boxes in 2020, and the new packaging will begin showing up in the market in May. We flipped the colour band to make the boxes pop on the shelf,” says Maura. “And the packaging for both our new Sparkling seltzer products and Odyssey Imperial Cider features spot gloss to highlight the can.”

Blood Orange Sparkling Cider
Blood Orange Sparkling Cider

Of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic, a whole new set of packaging considerations rose to the forefront, as demand for kegs fell and packaged product rose. The market for cans, in fact, grew by 7 to 9 billion units, a staggering surge.

Like all other cideries, Seattle Cider experienced a mixture of “growth and disruption,” says Eric, and the need to contend with “forced innovations and streamlined processes.

“We had occasional swaps in our production schedule, but no line shut-downs. Of course, it really helped to have great supply partners—of which GLBC is one of our top three.”

“Something that’s a huge deal for us,” he says, “is that we kept all of our staff. We even brought in new packaging staff—safely.”

Packaging Team - Odyssey Cider
Packaging Team – Odyssey Cider

In addition to pivoting their operations to meet changing demands, Seattle Cider “spent the greater part of the year on internal innovations,” says Maura. “When we were working on Odyssey, I remember a staff meeting where we were kind of laughing, saying, ‘Everyone is experimenting with making sourdough and banana bread, but of course we’re making a new cider”.’”

Now, coming into 2021 with these innovations “feels nice and refreshing,” says Maura. New brand assets featuring more storytelling and innovative printing applications make the team feel their “time has been well spent during COVID.”

“One of the things we love about GLBC is that they get as excited as we do to see these wild design ideas translated into physical form. Seeing the final product is always phenomenal.”

Odyssey Cider
Odyssey Cider
Photo Credit: Alison Mim Mack

Look out for Seattle Cider’s new Sparkling and Odyssey Imperial products in your local liquor store, grocery stores, bottle shops, bars, and restaurants. Seattle Cider products are also available to purchase online, shipping direct to customer in 38 states.. We’re so proud of our work with a team that never takes a pause on creativity.

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