On a mission to introduce cider to new consumers, Laura Clacey co-founded UK-based South African cider brand Sxollie with Karol Ostaszewski. Sxollie is now stocked in Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and Morrisons.
Clacey talks to Rachel Badham about “revolutionising cider” and getting wine drinkers into the category
How did your cidermaking journey begin?
It’s never something I thought I would get into. My background is in sustainability, and I always wanted to start my own business. Being South African, I knew I wanted to help the South African economy and use what the country has to offer to create a product. I absolutely love wine, but I find the abv is sometimes a little high for me. I was never a big cider fan, so I thought, how can we shake up cider and make it something I would actually want to drink as a wine lover?
What’s special about the Sxollie cidermaking process?
In Cape Town, I met a lot of amazing winemakers and was fascinated by the process of winemaking. So I was thinking, why not make a cider like you would make a wine? One of our key differentiators was that we use eating apples rather than cider apples. The fresh, pressed apples go directly into a fermenter with all the pulp, which will settle at the bottom before being removed, leaving a clean and crisp cider.
What makes South Africa the ideal location for cidermaking?
Although it’s not usually thought of as a cider-producing nation, South Africa has a great climate that lets those apples ripen into the varieties that you’d want to eat. It’s the secondlargest producer of cider in the world, believe it or not. The UK is known for cider, but these UK-grown apples are often incredibly bitter and not very palatable to the average modern-day consumer without adding lots of sugar.
Sxollie recently achieved B Corp status – was this always your plan as a producer?
I had started the application process all the way back in 2018 – it’s taken a long time. But having our sustainability credentials at the forefront of the business is something that’s been really important to me. I also think that cider is the most sustainable alcoholic drink you can get. It’s the only one that is totally cyclical, in that the apples fall off the tree and the tree doesn’t get damaged. Plants and animals can still live in the tree, and no soil degradation happens.
As far as I know, we’re the first UK cider company to get this accreditation, and having this little stamp of approval means conscious consumers know that they can trust us without us having to put sustainability at the very top of our messaging.
What do you expect to see in the future of the cider industry?
I think removing concentrate from cider will be big. Apple concentrate has an awful environmental impact, but also it’s very opaque. We often have no idea where concentrate comes from. I also think that premiumisation is going to be a prominent theme in cider, especially with the cost of living crunch. People are looking to scale back, but they still want quality products.