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Cambodia: cider country

Cider, England’s ever-popular tipple, is set to make its mark in Cambodia when the first batch of the fruity brew enters a beer lovers’ market 

By Sophie Lane
What if you could bottle the clean flavour of a freshly-picked apple, the juicy taste of a ripe pear, or the subtle sweetness of a strawberry and deliver it on demand in an alcoholic beverage at a competitive price across Asia?
In 2011 this was the vision of two enthusiastic cider connoisseurs from England, Peter Gilks and Malcolm Pearce and the idea of becoming pioneers of cider-making in Asia has been brewing ever since.

Taste test: Peter Gilks hopes that Asia is ready to put down its collective beer and sample some cider. Photo by Sam Jam

In February 2013 Brian and Steve Brunt, two gold award-winning master cider makers, moved to Cambodia where the beverage, named Bruntys, is made using 100% imported ingredients from Europe at its boutique brewery in Phnom Penh.
Although cider is currently available across the region, it holds a meagre share of the alcohol market and is often an expensive option due to import costs.
“The location of our brewery is so important. Made in the heart of Southeast Asia and utilising state-of-the-art technology means Bruntys can provide a consistent supply of our premium cider for both our stockists and our customers at a highly competitive price,” said Peter Gilks, managing director of British-owned Asia Pacific Cider Company, which will begin distributing Bruntys throughout Cambodia and Thailand from April.
In a region of beer drinkers, the venture is a bold move. Vietnam ranks as one of the top 25 beer-drinking nations in the world and has the highest consumption of ale in Southeast Asia, with 2.6 billion litres of the drink consumed in 2011. Thailand, one of Bruntys’ entry
markets, was a distant second with the consumption of 1.8 billion litres that year.
Despite cider holding only about a 1% share of the global beer market, it is showing a healthy increase in popularity, while beer has experienced a steady decline amongst drinkers. If this trend can translate to Southeast Asia, the locally produced and distributed cider could prove to be a lucrative venture in a niche market.
In Malaysia and Singapore cider is already becoming a familiar alcoholic alternative, due to its sweeter and more refreshing taste, appealing particularly to younger drinkers. Elsewhere in the region it remains a relatively unfamiliar product among locals.
“We are now looking for partners across all Asian countries,” said Gilks. “This is a great opportunity for existing beverage suppliers who would like to introduce an innovative and new product to their Asia portfolio.”

Also view:
“Drinking with the big boys” – Thailand’s strict alcohol laws seem designed to render boutique breweries powerless
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