Cider Maker Crowdsources Apples from the Public
Members of the public are invited to send in their spare apples and pears in exchange for free cider.
Thistly Cross, United Kingdom
Every year Scottish cider maker Thistly Cross launches an unusual crowdsourcing exercise urging the public to give them any surplus apples they might have. The drink’s increasing popularity means that Thistly cannot make all the cider it wants without the public's help.
“We have a tradition of using apples grown across Scotland from a wide range of sources including professional apple growers, schools, large estate owners and the general public who grow apples in their gardens at home,” said Thistly head cider maker Peter Stuart.
"We even use apples donated from the grounds of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.”
Bucket for a Bottle
The "bucket for a bottle" scheme encourages donations from private gardens and orchards across the country. In exchange, the company offers free cider or apple juice to participants. The initiative is part of a drive to reduce waste, because tons of locally-grown apples are thrown away every year.
"Our unique system of using donated apples also eliminates the waste that is all too often associated with the food industry of modern times," added Stuart.
The company uses Scottish heritage varieties, of which there are more than 200. Members of the public can leave their apples at Belhaven Fruit Farm or at a drop-off point in the Highlands. Large fruit donations weighing more than one ton are collected by the cider maker.
The exchange rate is roughly one bucket of apples (around 7 kilograms) for one bottle of cider. Most varieties of apples are accepted, except for crab apples and they have to be ripe and rot-free. Pears can also be included in the mix.
What is Ripe?
To minimize the volume of unusable apples that it might be sent, Thistly defines 'ripe' for participants. Namely, an apple that should fall from a tree of its own accord. However, there is a slight problem with this definition. Strong winds are a regular occurrence in Scotland and so apples are falling all the time, ripe or not. Therefore, the cider maker's website provided a link to a useful guide about how to tell whether apples are ripe.
The 2015 crowdsourcing apple drive was a complete success, bringing in more than 50 tons of the fruit. According to Peter Stuart, this kind of help from the general public allows the company to continue innovating with new product ideas as well as meet the national and global demand for its cider.
“Good folk have come from all over Scotland to swap their apples for Thistly Cross Cider, bringing anything from a bucketful to a truckload of apples.”
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