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As the sunny weather approaches, the cider category warms up to deliver fantastic experiences; our experts point venue operators in the right direction to help you capitalise on this opportunity.

Even though the weather is still finding its pace, spring is here and the hospitality sector is more excited than ever. Warmer weather means consumers will be starting to come out more and look for the perfect pub garden to have a refreshing pint. 

With cider being the British epitome of a sunny afternoon drink, it is only right for us to tackle the category and dive straight into what venue operators should do to best prepare for these exciting times. 

Let’s start with some category insights and what 2023 is bringing to the table so far. As reported by Charlie Fryday, HEINEKEN UK On-Trade Category Director, both draught and flavoured cider remain a popular option amongst consumers, playing a significant part in an outlet’s revenue. 

This means that a venue’s offering must be up to the task: it is of vital importance that operators stay tuned into the community and keep up with the latest trends in order to capitalise on this huge opportunity. 

Research shows that, currently, consumers seem to still prefer draught cider – think giant apple brands such as Strongbow Original or Inch’s Apple Cider – with the focus on premiumisation running high and driving additional sales. 

Charlie says: “Although experiencing slower growth compared to other categories, premium cider is on an upward trajectory, providing a lucrative opportunity for pubs. Value sales of premium draught apple and flavoured ciders have grown by 7% and 195% respectively in the last five years. Specifically, distribution of premium apple cider on draught is up by almost a third. While mainstream brands account for 52% of all apple cider taps on the bar, this is down from 60% just four years ago, indicating outlets are swapping out mainstream for premium options.”

Another way to push your cider offering is to include particularly premium exotic flavoured ciders in your selection, targeting the younger audience and unlocking potential for future category growth. 

Many brands are responding to this trend by launching more and more innovative, flavoured premium cider, with Old Mout Cider leading the way. As a venue operator, it is your duty to incorporate these newer options within your drink menu, which will result in happy customers and higher footfall. 

Charlie continues: “When it comes to flavoured cider, both mainstream and premium brands are performing well on draught across high street bars and premium locals. With cider drinkers having their heads turned by innovation in other categories such as pink gin, flavoured vodka and cocktails, there is a demand for restaurateurs to introduce more creative serves and premium experiences to their cider offering. 

“Packaged cider is often key to unlocking this consumer experience, as premium flavours are particularly popular and often come with simple but effective garnish or serving suggestions.”

Although there is a high demand for cider, most draught cider stockists only have a single cider tap on the bar so are limited to what they can offer. Instead, curating a bespoke cider range will help operators stand out from competition and attract cider drinkers and novices alike. 

Charlie suggests: “Signposting trade-up packaged options on chalkboards, menus and social media will help maximise total cider revenues. To optimise fridge space, ensure you have a breadth of flavours (so avoid duplicating berry flavours, for example) to appeal to every consumer, as well as an apple trade-up packaged option if guests want to step away from draught.” 

“Inch’s green credentials and background really appeals to the younger generation of drinkers. Its balance between sweet and dry means it has great taste credentials and is perfect for our pub.”  

  • David Smith, Bar Manager at the University Arms in Sheffield. 

Nevertheless, while real novelty flavours do a great job of reengaging casual cider drinkers by bringing excitement to the category, long-term sales will always come from more core, sessionable flavours, like Kopparberg’s Mixed Fruit or Strawberry and Lime.

Rob Salvesen, Head of Marketing at Kopparberg, explains: “The key to launching NPD (New Product Development) that will deliver long term is to identify market gaps and real consumer demands; something Kopparberg is famous for. After seeing huge trends to tropical, lighter flavours and a gap in the market for a large brand to deliver it, Kopparberg launched Mixed Fruit Tropical in 2021, its first limited edition variant.”

As the biggest cider launch of 2021 and more recently winning The Alcohol Product Launch of the Year 2022, Mixed Fruit Tropical has become permanent within the Kopparberg portfolio, establishing itself as the third bestselling Kopparberg variant. 

With the warmer months promising plenty of large, social outdoor occasions as we look forward to a year with no COVID restrictions, this is the time to get ready for it and really focus on what would best benefit you and your audience. 

Not to mention, we have a variety of sporting events and local and national festivals to create further drinking occasions that will drive additional footfall into venues. For this reason, Rob advises that operators stock a wide range of products to appeal to a just as varied range of drinkers and demographics, which you can do by speaking and collaborating with key consumer brands. 

He continues:  “Operators should also start to embrace the idea of multiple draught options for fruit cider – a lot like lager and beer, tiering your range will help drive sales and encourage your customers to trade up.”

This spring will see the launch of Kopparberg Summer Punch; a deliciously light and refreshing apple cider paired with white peach (Press Release to follow). This seasonal SKU will only be here until the end of summer, before it will be replaced with Kopparberg’s winter offering.

Innovation will keep being at the forefront of our industry throughout the year, providing an extra-special experience for consumers and helping bring excitement and theatre to the bar. 

Rob Sandall, On Trade Director at Thatchers Cider, says: “We’re seeing a shift towards lighter, citrus and tropical flavours across all drinks categories – and that includes cider. We’re expecting to see this trend continue as one of the biggest in 2023.”

It’s important not to ignore cider; it should be given as much thought as your lead lager, to ensure you’re meeting the needs of the cider consumer, who wants to be excited and enthused by the pint in their glass.

Rob continues: “Visibility is of course important – if your cider tap is a badge on a t-bar at one end of the counter where consumers can’t see it, then this is simply hiding cider away, and not supporting consumer choice. Outlets need to understand their consumers and then plan their cider range, from the number of fonts and the styles on offer to their visibility on the bar, thus benefiting from the untapped opportunities that lie within the category.”

Rob also agrees with Charlie in saying that premiumisation continues to be a main focus for operators, with consumers opting for ‘less but better’ as discretionary spend reduces and visits to pubs and bars are increasingly seen as a treat. 

“Having a range of premium ciders on your bar and in the fridge should remain key,” concludes Rob.  

With its innovative three in one font, Thatchers Fusion increases consumer choice and reduces business complexity. It removes the use of glass bottles, has improved visibility on the bar versus the fridge and, most importantly, has introduced quality theatre to the bar. The flavour, aroma and character of Blood Orange, Cloudy Lemon and Dark Berry ciders is just beyond words. 

Cider is an important category in any bar – as long as it’s high-quality! Offering consumers brands synonymous with consistent quality and ensuring a perfect serve every pint will maximise rate of sale and keep your cider drinkers coming back for more.

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