Speak to anyone in the trade and they'll be happy to tell you that Magners has completely changed the face of the UK cider market, with its natural, orchard-rooted image, its over-ice theatre and its massive ad campaign.
The Irish cider's UK-wide roll-out this year has sent it racing up the charts. Distribution hiccups may have made it a bit less popular with some major multiples, but that didn't slow a 393 per cent sales increase that has pushed it into second place behind the long undisputed king of the cider market, Strongbow.
"Magners' dramatic growth in 2006 surpassed all our expectations," says marketing director Maurice Breen. "We plan to continue with the same mix of TV and outdoor advertising, sponsorship and public relations to communicate Magners' core messages of taste, quality, tradition and craft to consumers."
But all that growth has barely dented Strongbow's market share, which crept down to 31.4 per cent from 33.1 per cent in 2005. At 9.9 per cent, Magners' market share is less than a third of Strongbow's, and Scottish & Newcastle's giant grew sales by 16 per cent in 2006.
Then there are the copycats: S&N's Bulmers Original and Constellation's Gaymers Original unashamedly jumped on Magners' over-ice bandwagon.
They have not yet made it into the top 10, but with Bulmers making £6 million in its first year of trading and Gaymers making £1 million, they could be future challengers. Strongbow Sirrus, which launched in autumn 2005 when the Magners phenomenon was in its infancy, only just missed the top 10 with £8 million sales in 2006, and Nielsen says it is growing fast.
But the real strength in the cider market still lies with what S&N's take-home boss Mark Gerken calls everyday cider. Scrumpy Jack, Gaymer's Olde English, Blackthorn and Woodpecker may not be seeing the growth of Magners, but they are firmly ensconced in the top 10 - which accounts for 70 per cent of the £421.2 million off-trade cider market.
Losers this year are Diamond White, which lost 18 per cent of its sales, and White Lightning, which lost 24 per cent of its sales as a result of S&N abandoning 3-litre PETs and extra-fill .
Top 10 ciders
Brand Supplier Sales £m % Change
1 Strongbow Scottish & Newcastle UK 132.4 16
2 Magners C&C 41.5 393
3 Frosty Jack's Aston Manor 21.0 35
4 Scrumpy Jack Scottish & Newcastle UK 18.7 4
5 Olde English Constellation 18.7 -7
6 Blackthorn Constellation 15.3 -3
7 White Lightning Scottish & Newcastle UK 12.4 -24
8 Woodpecker Scottish & Newcastle UK 10.6 -2
9 Diamond White Constellation 10.2 -18
10 Merrydown Vintage SHS Marketing 8.2 13
Nielsen MAT to Dec 30 2006, GB off-trade
Nobody could match the unprecedented growth of County Tipperary's finest, with its over-ice idea and ad campaign based around the changing seasons in an orchard. More left-field ideas, such as turning corridors in Heathrow Airport and Waterloo Underground station into "virtual orchards", have boosted the brand's image even more.
Not even its rivals have a word to say against Magners because of the lift it has given to cider's profile. Retailers are happy to lose lager sales when they're making a profit from premium cider.