The Development of a Lexicon for Virginia Ciders through Descriptive Analysis
Hard cider or "cider" is a fermented, alcoholic beverage made from the juice of apples. The cider industry has experienced recent growth within the United States and Virginia. Virginia is one of the largest producers of apples in the United States, and apples are considered a top commodity in the state. Currently, there is inconsistent terminology to describe Virginia cider, and cider producers are using descriptors that are usually associated with beer and wine. Thus, this study aims to identify the distinct sensory profiles of Virginia ciders and to identify drivers of consumer liking. Understanding sensory profiles and drivers of consumer liking for Virginia ciders will aid consumers in understanding what kind of cider styles they prefer and could help producers identify acceptable cider products. A descriptive analysis (DA) was completed to determine a well-defined sensory profile for Virginia hard ciders. The DA consisted of 24 ciders that producers considered to be representative of Virginia and their brands from 16 of the 32 known cider producers in Virginia. In the DA, 6 panelists defined reference standards for 48 descriptors consisting of 20 aromas, 3 tastes, 13 flavors, and 12 mouthfeel attributes. Through M/ANOVA, 22 descriptors were identified as significant, and 6 groups of ciders were identified using Hierarchical Cluster Analysis (HCA). Then, an exploratory consumer study using 8 representative ciders from the DA was conducted with 67 subjects. Subjects were first asked a series of demographic questions, then presented with samples in randomized, sequential, monadic fashion and reported overall liking, purchasing intent, and willingness to pay. Internal and external preference mapping was accomplished with Partial Least Squares Regression (PLS) and Clustering Around Latent Variables (CLV). Three distinct clusters were identified with distinct product and sensory preferences. Finally, basic chemical analyses of all samples were performed. The DA demonstrated that Virginia ciders have distinct sensory characteristics and fall into distinct sensory groups. The 3 consumer clusters found through CLV may represent cider drinkers' preferences in both Virginia and the United States. While no unusual cider chemistry was found, we were able to observe expected connections between chemistry and sensory profiles.