September 1, 2017

Sour is sweet for Barre company’s vinegar shots

Nick Smith, quality assurance specialist, and Allison Gagne, product developer, work in Vermont Village's food lab Tuesday in South Barre. Virtually all of the company's products contain apples or cider vinegar. STEFAN HARD / STAFF PHOTO

BARRE — Just because it’s good for you, doesn’t necessarily mean it tastes good.

Such was the case with Vermont Village and its organic apple cider vinegar. Since its debut more than two years ago, sales have grown. But Vermont Village was looking for a way to broaden its appeal to many consumers who perhaps had trouble adjusting to the bitter or sour taste.

Andrew Lawrence, the South Barre company’s vice president of marketing and sales, said customers appreciated the health benefits of taking apple cider vinegar, but even diluting it with water for some people wasn’t “palatable.”

So the company came up with a solution and is now introducing a line of flavored cider vinegar shots, that are sold in 1-ounce, throwaway plastic pouches.

“What we found was by making it a little bit more palatable with a little bit of sugar, which cuts the acidity, and then some of the other flavors,” Lawrence said, “it really helps customers and the public enjoy apple cider vinegar a lot more.”

He said the 25-calorie pouches can be carried anywhere, making them far more convenient than the regular apple cider vinegar, which is only sold in 16- and 32-ounce bottles.

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar Shots are sweetened with organic honey and come in four flavors: blueberries and honey, turmeric and honey, cranberries and honey, and ginger and honey. The company also makes a zero-calorie, single-serve, unflavored “double shot” made from raw and organic apple cider vinegar.

While apple cider vinegar was once relegated to health food stores, Lawrence said it has jumped to Main Street consumers.

He said apple cider vinegar helps balance blood sugar, curbs appetite and promotes healthy weight loss, aids in digestion and nutrient absorption, and neutralizes stomach acidity.

Lawrence said the apple cider vinegar market nationwide has exploded over the last three years, with a forecast of continued double-digit growth.

“A lot of people are integrating this stuff into their daily lifestyle,” he said. “They’ll take a shot in the morning and a shot at night.”

He said the flavored, single-serve portions work well as a salad dressing, ice cream topping, or simply as an additive to someone’s water bottle or seltzer.

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar Shots are available in small, independent stores like Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier.

Stephani Kononan, the co-op’s community relations and marketing manager, said Vermont Village drinking vinegar is “very popular.” The co-op has started to stock sipping vinegars but does not yet carry the vinegar shots.

Apple cider vinegar is popular among the kombucha crowd, she said, referring to the fermented tea drink.

“It has similar properties and health attributes but doesn’t have to be refrigerated like kombucha needs to be,” she said.

Apple cider vinegar shots will also be available at the GNC chain of stores in October.

Vermont Village makes a variety of organic apple products, most prominently apple sauce.

Lawrence said Vermont Village was one of the first producers in the country to sell organic apple sauce. The company has since expanded its product line to include apple butter, apple cider vinegar and flavored varieties of bottled drinking apple cider vinegar, sipping vinegar, and now vinegar shots.

A 12-pack of single-serve shots sells for $15.

With 36 employees, Vermont Village has a main office and production facility in Barre, with a satellite plant in Northfield.

Because of the limited number of organic orchards in the state, Lawrence said the company also relies on orchards from as far away as Washington and Canada.

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