As the market for drinkable vinegars continues to expand, Pittsfield, Mass.-based brand Fire Cider, an apple cider vinegar and honey tonic concentrate, showcased a balanced approach towards building in both the retail and food service channels at the Winter Fancy Food Show 2017 in San Francisco.
Dana St. Pierre, co-founder of Shire City Herbals, spoke with BevNET about the latest developments at Fire Cider, including the release of a new flavor, African Bronze, made with raw, certified organic honey from Zambia. St. Pierre explained that the brand’s three flavors will now be available in gallon and half-gallon sizes aimed at food service and bulk retail, but that the company was also trying to expand its conventional retail presence through a forthcoming ready-to-drink version in a travel-friendly 2 oz. bottle.
In this video interview, St. Pierre discusses the brand’s growth strategy for the foodservice and retail channels, its innovation pipeline and its plans for opening a new production facility in 2017.
In a separate interview with BevNET, St. Pierre also provided an update on the brand’s ongoing legal battle to protect its trademark. The brand, which trademarked the term “fire cider” in 2012, has been the target of a campaign called “Free Fire Cider,” based on that group’s belief that “fire cider” is a generic term for a type of apple cider-based tonic and that the company’s trademark should therefore be revoked. The organizers also called for a boycott of Shire City products and urged retailers not to stock Fire Cider.
Shire City subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against three organizers of the “Free Fire Cider” campaign for unauthorized use of its trademark. In April, a federal judge dismissed all charges related to three individuals’ rights to petition and free speech in seeking to cancel Shire City’s Fire Cider trademark and encouraging a boycott of their products. All charges related to libel and damages were also thrown out.
“None of this is particularly exciting,” said St. Pierre, adding that the trial over unauthorized use of trademark was still in the early stages. He noted that court-mediated discussions over a possible settlement in November 2016 were ultimately unsuccessful. “These people have their businesses and we have ours and we disagree about whether or not the name fire cider is generic. That’s the basic issue. All other spin and hype and opinions aside, that’s why we’re in court.”
With Shire City’s trademark rights to “fire cider” secured, St. Pierre said the company had no plans to change its position on the issue and would simply let the legal process run its course.
“If people want to try and invalidate our trademark, they are welcome to do that,” he said. “That’s a normal business process — you disagree about a trademark, take it up with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and then they decide. However it’s decided, we are going to go on with our business and we are going to go on selling Fire Cider.”