But have independents been getting their fair share of the spoils? We talked to three independents that specialise in cider about what they do and whoís drinking what.
I sometimes get stuff from Marcus Govierís farm at the bottom of Glastonbury Tor, Somerset Ė itís just a place that looks like an old builderís yard†really.
In bottles, itís more well-known products such as Sheppyís, Dunkertons and Gwatkinís but theyíre still not what you could call mainstream Ė and theyíre still bought face to face rather than through wholesalers.
We donít do things like Kopparberg or Aspall, partly because you can get them at cash and carries. Aspall is a really great product but thereís no point in stocking something all my competitors stock. Iím also really into the idea of provenance and I donít really understand the provenance of something like Kopparberg. Itís not that thereís anything wrong with it, but I donít really know anything about the Swedish cider market or understand the context of where itís coming from.
What trends have you seen in the market? We used to do 10 or 15 gallons of draught a week about 20 years ago, but itís dropped back just as it has with ale. There are just more pubs where people can get decent draught. At the same time, bottled sales have probably gone up tenfold. Thereís much more availability because all the smaller products are now bottling, just as microbreweries are.
Who are your cider customers?? Itís difficult to put a finger on, but theyíre very different from ale drinkers. It certainly goes from people in their 20s up to those around 60, but probably not much higher.
One thing has been the huge increase in women drinking cider and there has been a shift towards sweeter styles. I donít know whether thatís a gender thing or just because of the way cider is being marketed. Dry cider was probably 80% of sales five years ago and itís nearer 60% now.
Overall, sales have easily doubled over the past five years, but itís still intensely seasonal. Itís always sluggish until the end of March and then you can pretty much snap your fingers and all the cider drinkers come out of the woodwork until the end of September.
Which are your best sellers? Thatchers flies out the door and this year weíve been selling a lot of its bigger bottles like Ciderberry and Katy Rosť, especially through the summer. Itíll be interesting to see how they do from now on, but in this area we only have a slight downturn in cider sales in the winter.
?What trends have you seen in the market? Itís been growing well for the past few years, just as local ales have. Weíve got a name in the area for selling local products, which brings people in, and sales have gone up a lot. We havenít promoted cider because we havenít needed to.
Who are your typical cider customers? Itís a good mixture really. Women are really going for the rosťs, but weíve got a core of male customers who come in for the more traditional ciders. We donít get many customers below 25 because itís not that sort of place. Iíd say the majority of cider consumers are between 35 and 45.
How do you select the range? It tends to be what wholesalers have to offer, but I also seek out new ones by going to food fairs and seeing new producers or wholesalers.
Which have been particularly good sellers recently? Oliverís and Cornish Orchards are doing well. Theyíre new in and people return all the time as they like the revolving stock.
How have cider sales increased in the past few years??Weíre up 20% year on year for draught and 13% year on year in bottles, which weíve managed over an eight-year period.
Who are your cider customers? The biggest audience would be 30 to 40-year-old men, then women of the same age.
How important is cider to the overall business? Iím starting to realise more and more how important it is. We have peaks in summer, but itís a good all-year-round seller. In the past month, Iíve rearranged the cider bottles into a more prominent position, although itís too early to say whether this has brought an increase in sales.
How do you promote cider? Through our just relaunched website. I also set up our villageís Beer, Cider & Perry Festival four years ago, so people get to try new ones there. We supply lots of local festivals and now have a banner up at these festivals promoting the shop.