The new bottles retail at £1.99 and will sit alongside the 7.5% abv 75cl bottles and 44cl cans in the core range.
The premium bottled cider category is up 6% in value to £66 million in the off-trade impulse category in the past year (Nielsen MAT to April 27, 2013) and Merrydown believes its innovation will fuel further growth.
Referring to Mintel’s January 2013 cider report, Amanda Grabham, head of brand marketing at Merrydown, said: “Last year the percentage of adults who drink cider increased from 47% to 60%, with almost two-thirds of cider consumers being aged over 35.
“This is the audience we are aiming for with the new-look Merrydown as heritage brands have strong appeal for these consumers. Sales of heritage ciders – a sector which is dominated by four brands; Merrydown, Westons, Thatchers and Aspall – have grown by 12% over the past two years (Nielsen).
“Merrydown Cider’s history stretches back almost 70 years and that heritage, along with the product quality and crafted taste of the brand, has established a very loyal consumer following.”
A fox dances a jig and plays an apple-shaped fiddle on the new bottle’s logo to highlight the brand’s “light-hearted personality”, and the drink is based on a traditional Sussex recipe created by the brand’s founders in 1946.
Grabham said: “The brand has a great story to tell – three friends produced the first batch of Merrydown in a garage from a 300 year-old oak cider press borrowed from a farmer and named the cider after the house of one of the founders.
“For consumers, the brand is perceived as having lots of character and personality. The name conjures up a feeling of sociability and light-heartedness, and recent consumer research showed that we could be doing more to reflect the character of the brand in the packaging and the brand support activity. We’ve taken that on board and have had very positive consumer reaction to the new pack design.
“The brand’s history will continue to play a major role in promoting the new line which aims to bring together the traditional craft and quality cues for which Merrydown is renowned, whilst putting greater emphasis on the sense of merriment with its contemporary design.”
The new line is available to independent retailers and convenience stores and stockists include Batley’s, Bestway, Booker, Dhamecha and Nisa.
Consumer PR, digital and in-store activity, sampling and outdoor advertising will support the launch.