If you want to go on a safari, there is no need to look beyond the borders of Norway anymore because creativity blossomed in Hardanger during the pandemic, resulting in a cider safari on Sørfjorden. On the safari you can taste locally produced cider from farms lying between high mountains and deep fjord arms.
Hardanger Siderprodusentlag was founded in 2003 and only three cidermakers had production licences. In 2009, it gained a protected designation of origin, ‘Cider from Hardanger’, and today there are no fewer than 23 cidermakers in Hardanger with a licence to make cider on a commercial basis.
“This is a comprehensive initiative that includes nature, culture, food, and drink, which makes us attractive. The awarding of the Business Development Award for Agriculture for Vestland 2021 was great acknowledgement of the efforts we have made as a team, and a reward for those who are able and want to work together,” says Kjetil Widding, head of the cider cluster in Hardanger, adding:
“We are particularly grateful for the Business Development Award and are happy that the cluster partnership structure is bearing fruit.”
Collaboration results in more growth
The cider cluster has developed and commercialised the links between farm experiences, transport companies, and local hotels. The main attraction is a boat safari that visits farms to try local cider and food. A modern hybrid boat, Vision of The Fjords, is used for this, although the big goal is to put in place a dedicated cider vessel that runs on hydrogen. Efforts are being made to put this in place in two to three years.
This tourism product has become very popular, despite two peak seasons of Covid restrictions. A common goal and good collaboration platforms have proved to be key success factors.
“The idea has always been that working together will result in better development and greater value creation within cider than each player working alone would achieve. The initiative does not just consist of one major player, it involves no fewer than 23 cidermakers spread across the whole of Hardanger," says Widding.
Ripple effects for the region
“The cider cluster in Hardanger is producing big ripple effects for the cidermakers, tourism, and other players in the region," says Nina Broch Mathisen, regional director at Innovation Norway Vestland.
“Today, the cluster is an important skills and development environment, and cider production in Hardanger would not be where it is today without the constructive and fruitful partnership via the cluster,” she continues.
The cluster also helped to recruit people to fruit farms in Hardanger, which has resulted in great optimism in the fruit growing environment and local community in Hardanger.
The finances of the participating companies are good, and many took good measures and emerged from the pandemic stronger by initiating innovative partnership projects, such as the cider safari and farm visits.
“The cider cluster in Hardanger scores high with respect to innovation and collaboration across different industries. The cluster has contributed to expertise and optimism for the entire region in a demanding time during the Covid pandemic, and with a at times locked down society,” adds Broch Mathisen.
Goal of doubling turnover
The cluster participated in the Cider World Championships in Bergen in 2022 and wants to become part of the cluster network Arena. The cluster is optimistic about the future and had set itself the goal of doubling turnover in 2022, and its vision does not stop there.
“The goal is to ensure that when you hear the word ‘Hardanger’ the first thing that will come to mind is cider, not fjords and mountains,” says Olav Bleie at Alde Sider AS, one of the driving forces behind the cider cluster.