Sales of cider in UK bars and pubs have risen by 3% thanks to fruity flavours and craft ciders. Jackie Annett reports
Although fruit and craft brands are driving the growth of cider, there is still a place for mainstream heavyweights on your bar and in your fridge. Changing consumer trends show that as a nation we are drinking less but not necessarily spending less, preferring to pay more for good-quality brands that offer great taste. More than half of us enjoy a glass or two of cider, leading industry experts to predict that the category could be worth £3.6bn by 2021.
Janette Murray, UK brand manager for Magners, says the best way to make the most of cider’s soaring popularity is to stock mainstream, fruity and craft cider in a range of formats. “It’s no secret that growth is being driven by fruit and craft brands, however, there’s always room for mainstream heavyweights on the bar such as Magners – the original Irish cider since 1935,” Janette says. “Cider lovers are also looking for their favourite cider brands to be available in varying formats to suit their drinking occasion – be that a quick pint with friends after work, or a relaxing, ice-cold bottle in a pub garden. While fruit-flavoured ciders are important, apple and pear still have their place.”
Although it is young consumers we can thank for making cider cool again, it is 30- to 45-year-olds who are responsible for the “special occasion trend”, according to Heineken. Their desire for the finer things in life led the company to launch a premium artisanal cider in 2016, which comes in a champagne-style bottle designed for sharing with a meal. “Cidrerie Stassen borrows cues from the world of sparkling wine – it complements food well, and the sparkling wine-style cork adds theatre to the serve,” explains Emma Sherwood-Smith, cider director at Heineken. “Its unisex appeal, serve and complex taste are a significant step change in the cider market.”
However, she adds: “Mainstream brands like Strongbow are still the bedrock of the category and should be the starting point of any range. However, flavoured mainstream cider is currently the fastest-growing segment within the cider category.”
Katie Hunter, innovation commercialisation manager at Diageo, agrees that the growth of the cider category within the on-trade is being driven by flavoured cider and adds that this was the reason for the launch of flavoured Smirnoff Cider and Pimm’s Cider. She also says that stocking cider in a range of formats such as bottles, cans and draught can help operators make the most out of every occasion.
In June last year, Smirnoff boosted the fruit cider category with the launch of Smirnoff Cider now available in new Mandarin & Pink Grapefruit as well as original flavours, Raspberry & Pomegranate and Passionfruit & Lime. Daf Pugh Williams, senior innovation commercialisation manager at Diageo GB, says that, while flavoured cider continues to show strong growth, the industry needs to keep abreast of changing consumer tastes. “Pimm’s Cider, for instance, offers consumers the accessible fruity taste they associate with flavoured cider but has a more authentic fermented taste profile. It provides consumers with a new story within cider whilst offering them a more mature taste profile.”
Martin Thatcher, managing director of Thatchers Cider, recommends offering two types of cider on the bar and more options in the fridge. “With the back fridge being the ideal place for specialist packaged ciders, the bar is where you should first see a mainstream apple cider – Thatchers Gold – together with one alternative,” he says. “This alternative would be a complementary style, such as a cloudy cider – Thatchers Haze – or a fruit cider.”
With so many new products on the market, bar owners may feel overwhelmed when it comes to choosing which ciders to stock. Jessica Markowski, head of trade marketing at AB InBev, says licensees should ensure they have a range to suit every taste and occasion, from classic consumer favourites like Magners to premium, continental-style brands such as Stella Artois Cidre. “The growth in cider is currently being driven by the more premium side of the category – traditional and world ciders – and bar owners can make the most of this trend by getting creative and embracing new flavours, hosting tastings and food pairing evenings and spicing their offering up for winter,” she suggests. “If you haven’t the fridge room to stock different varieties or flavours of bottled cider, why not offer a range of cider cocktails, using fresh fruit, herbs and plenty of ice? For instance, traditional Stella Cidre apple goes perfectly with fresh raspberries, mint and thyme.”
While cider sales tend to soar in the warmer months of the year, offering mulled or spiced cider during winter can help you to keep sales steady. David Bryce Howie, bar training manager at Scottish bar operator Buzzworks Holdings, says he rotates the cider on offer across all their House sites on a quarterly basis to keep things fresh. “Kopparberg, Rekorderlig and Old Mout have been innovating for years, and it’s emboldening to see great flavour combinations as part of the mainstream today,” David explains. “Brands such as Strongbow are now also launching their own flavoured ciders, which is extremely encouraging for the entire industry. The new norm is well made cider with more developed taste profiles.”
Darryl Hinksman, head of customer marketing and insight at Westons, says the biggest trend within cider in the on-trade at the moment is a move towards not just fruit cider but draught fruit cider. The company has responded to this with the launch of Mortimer’s Orchard English Berry – a super-premium sparkling, berry-flavoured cider made from a blend of bittersweet, sharp and sweet apples. Daryl says this demand for organic products is largely driven by younger consumers. A growing number, 41%, of consumers seeking organic products are aged between 25 and 44 and more than half of millennials (53%) try to include organic within their diet, versus a third of over-65s. “Fruit cider is the positive story experiencing 4% growth,” Darryl says. “The bottled apple cider category has become rather tired and we think the demand for organic products will help rejuvenate the category. This is why we re-launched Westons Wyld Wood in the spring with new packaging to emphasise its organic credentials and premium positioning.”
Diageo’s top tips for maximising cider sales
- Events: cider is well suited to summer events such as barbecues and sport screenings so we would advise tapping into these events where possible.
- Range: ensure that you stock a variety of ciders with different flavour profiles to cater to different palates.
Staff training: run tasting sessions with staff to ensure that they can provide customers with recommendations based on their needs.
- Maximise fridge space: flavoured cider is in growth. Tap into this opportunity by increasing total amount of fridge space dedicated to your fruit cider offering.
- Innovation: research shows frequent cider and craft beer drinkers are more likely to experiment by trying something new so we recommend placing new products, such as Smirnoff Cider, at the top right hand side of the fridge.
- Formats: stocking a range of different formats such as bottles, cans and draught options helps tap into every occasion in your bar, whether it’s relaxing, more up-tempo or outdoor.
Originally published in the September 2017 print edition of Bar magazine.