In cider trading

Cider is on the advance in the UK – and lager better watch out, according to analysts at research company Mintel.About three out of five British drinkers say they find cider more refreshing than lager, with half saying it has a fresher taste and 44 per cent preferring its sweeter taste.This follows a storming period of innovation including the launch of Stella Artois Cidre and a multiplicity of flavours, according to Mintel’s senior drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth.“Young cider drinkers have been attracted to the sweeter-tasting non-apple ciders due to a combination of factors – they appeal to their sweeter tooth and their love of constant flavour innovation,” he says.“If cider can develop its taste profile – and perception – to account for those with less sweet as well as sweeter palates, it has the potential for a broader appeal – for example, as an alternative to wine during meal occasions as well as providing the ‘all night’ volume appeal of lager – with the result that it can seriously close the gap on lager’s superior revenue.”

While lager volumes remain nearly five times as big as cider, Mintel contrasts the “steep” sales growth with lager’s “dramatic sales decline” over the past five years, noting that the number of people describing themselves as cider drinkers has gone up from 42 per cent to 47 per cent over the past decade – compared to 46 per cent who now say they are lager drinkers.

According to research group CGA, growth in cider in the on-trade has been led by premium and craft ciders with brands such as Stowford Press, Magners Golden Extra Cold and Thatchers Gold building volumes in contrast to declining mainstream draught brands. In this premium market,Aspall Cyder has reported volume growth of 308 per cent since 2009, and in 2012 it expects growth of another 55 per cent.The company has embarked on a five-year plan to invest £4million into the business and last year launched two new products: the crisp light Lady  Jennifer’s with an ABV of four per cent and vintage Imperial Cyder with an ABV of 8.2 per cent, based on an original Aspall family recipe dating back to 1921.

Another success story is Long Ashton Cider Company, a subsidiary of Butcombe Brewery, which produces cider at its north Somerset neighbourThatchers. Draught Ashton Press Cider, which is made from all English apples pressed locally and conditioned in oak vats, has become the fastest-growing cider brand in theWest Country.Available in about 400 on-trade outlets within a 75- mile radius of Bristol, it is on course to sell about 7,000 brewers barrels in 2012 and is  also available in bottles. It is complemented by the robust and dry traditional Ashton Still Cider, also on draught.

Heineken continues to add to its HP Bulmer portfolio with last month’s launch of Bulmers Vintage Reserve, a modern cider made from a blend of bittersweet apples grown in the UK. The limited-edition cider, which comes in 568ml bottles with an ABV of 5.5 per cent, celebrates 125 years of Herefordshire cider making. It follows new product development such as Bulmers No 17 Berry Cider made with crushed red berries.“Our limited-edition and Bulmers No 17 variants are great examples of genuine product innovation that drove the £20million increase in sales enjoyed by packaged cider in the on-trade last year,” says Sanjay Patel, brands director for ciders at Heineken in the UK.

Ciders from overseas are also driving the premium segment, such as Savanna Cider from South Africa. Now the world’s third largest-selling cider, it is to receive record investment in the UK this summer with prime-time national TV and radio advertising and a nationwide “experiential” campaign. “Our activity will deliver a step change in profile and sales in the UK,” says Anthony Mills, head of European marketing.“Consumers have embraced Savanna’s unique proposition – a serve with a wedge of lemon in the neck of the bottle – and its great taste. It is the premium end of the market that is driving interest in cider, and brands like Savanna that are investing consumer communication are vital to the continuing growth and success of the category.”

From Sweden comes Kopparberg, which has been shaking up the category since launching its pear cider in the UK in 2006.“We have been trying to innovate the market since we launched,” says Davin Nugent, managing director of Kopparberg Cider UK.“That’s the way to keep the cider market interesting for consumers.” Pear continues to be number one for Kopparberg, followed by Mixed Fruit.“It’s been about how to attract spirits, wine and beer drinkers,” Davin says, adding that the launch of Strawberry and Lime two years ago “brought in a whole new consumer” while Elderflower & Lime brings something “more eclectic and crisper”. Kopparberg’s seasonal range has been popular, such as Cranberry & Cinnamon, and this summer will see the return of Raspberry & Mint. Davin adds that more innovation is promised this month – and it will not be just another fruit flavour.

“What we are trying to get bars to do is treat cider like they treat beer,” Davin adds.“Beer covers a wide spectrum of tastes and styles, yet it’s still lager at the end of the day. Cider is much broader than just each category of cider, and bars should be looking at listing maybe two pear ciders and two fruit ciders in addition to apple ciders as that’s what consumers want and where the opportunity is.”

Pear cider and innovation by the likes of Kopparberg are keeping existing consumers interested while attracting new drinkers to the category, especially those aged 18 to 24, says Simon Couch, head of retail engagement at marketing agency RPM.“Younger consumers are attracted to the sweeter flavours that offer an alternative to other categories.Those who would have been ‘alcopop’ consumers are turning to these drinks based on their sweet and refreshing benefits.” A prime example, he says, is the new Rhubarb & Custard flavour from Brothers Cider which was chosen and voted on by fans of the Somerset producer. Launched in January through the student-oriented Scream pubs, it has the flavour of crisp and tangy rhubarb balanced with smooth, creamy custard. Simon adds that other new entrants to the market such as WKD Core, Stella Artois Cidre and the revived Lambrini pear ciders have helped keep the category fresh while new marketing initiatives have turned it from a summery refresher to an all-year drink.“The cider category has been the most dynamic and innovative of the last decade.”

Previous Just desserts
Next Follow the map to 52ºNorth