Orchard tours and the cider making process are proving popular with American tourists visiting these shores.
Grand Circle Corporation’s Overseas Adventure Travel, Boston have signed up with County-Armagh-based Long Meadow Cider to tour the orchards, view the cider-making processes and of course taste the products as part of a new holiday package initiative.
“The tours got underway in early May with the help of local Armagh Banbridge Craigavon Borough Council and are scheduled to run through until November,” explained Long Meadow Cider managing director, Pat McKeever. “Lunches are provided by Portadown-based Yellow Door Deli and the whole experience has been going down a treat.
“Feedback has been excellent and some of the visitors have even expressed an interest in helping us to bring our products state-side.”
Local company Donna Fox Tours from Armagh have also signed up with the McKeever family for Orchard Tours and that is also proving very popular.
“The tourist aspect has added a new dimension to the marketing of our products and through working with organisations such as the Lough Neagh Partnership and Donna Fox Tours such initiatives are not only heightening the profile but actually working in terms of introducing new customers to our range of products,” said Catherine McKeever.
The McKeever family, who are behind the Long Meadow brand of locally produced ciders, apple juices and cider vinegar, have always been very proactive when it comes to promotion.
Back in May of last year Long Meadow Cider was crowned Northern Ireland’s ‘Best local food and drink product’ in a competition organised by George Best Belfast City Airport supported by Food NI.
“With £30,000 of marketing support as the prize that amount of exposure took our profile to a whole new level,” added Catherine.
“But it’s an ongoing process and something which has to be looked at on a daily basis. Promotion, like everything else, has to be fresh and we are always looking at new ways of achieving that.”
The month of May has been extremely busy for the McKeever’s with Long Meadow Medium, Blossom Burst and Rhubarb & Honey Ciders just launched into Sainsbury Stores N.I.
“As a result of achieving Salsa accreditation, a food safety standard granted to suppliers who can demonstrate to an auditor that they can supply safe and legal food, our ciders have been available in local Sainsbury’s stores since the 2nd May and we are absolutely delighted with that,” said Peter McKeever.
The McKeever family view the listing as a tremendous boost for the company but they are not prepared to rest on their laurels.
The spotlight is currently on the Bank of Ireland Open Farm weekend which takes place on Saturday, 16th and Sunday, 17th June.
Long Meadow Cider is taking part for the third time and this year the family plans to do things a little bit differently.
“We very much recognise that our products, both cider and apple juice, are increasingly being aligned with food offerings and this year we are teaming up with Mervyn Kennedy of Kennedy Bacon to offer Hog Roasts with cider basting during the Open Farm weekend,” said Pat.
“We will also have the usual tours of the orchard, a treasure hunt and face painting but there will also be a number of new things to look out for.
“In the past it has been great days out for all of the family and we aim to keep it that way.”