John Mills, managing director of Gaymer, warned that the independent sector needs to be less reliant on plastic bottles of cider, white cider and deep discount promotions.
"This feels like 10 years ago, talking about the growth of New World wine when wholesalers were full of Liebfraumilch, Lambrusco and hock," he told the Drinksummit conference organised by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors.
"The independent sector is not focusing on its range and promotion and marketing of its glass bottles, and is heavily over-trading on cheaper products."
He warned that the problems associated with high-strength, low-price brands are bringing the category into disrepute and could result in punitive tax increases that would hinder further market growth. He urged own-label brands to consider lowering their alcoholic strength from 6 per cent to a more sessionable level.
He praised the approach of multiples like Sainsbury's, which has focused less on plastic bottles and offers a "pick and mix" approach to its cider range, allowing consumers to select a range of brands for a set price. This has, he said, helped the retailer achieve an annual 35 per cent value increase in cider sales.
Mills also said the Blueprint needs updating to take account of the cider market's dynamic changes, which have resulted in it claiming a bigger share of the off-trade than ale (OLN, June 1).