1. FRUIT AND FLAVOURS
Fruit cider sales grew 65% in the year to March 1, according to Nielsen, driving growth in a wider category still dominated by apple.
In the on-trade packaged fruit ciders now outsell apple, with flavours as diverse as strawberry, grape, elderflower and ginger making up 48% of the market in January this year, compared to 39% for apple and 13% for pear, according to CGA Strategy.
In the off-trade apple cider still makes up nearly two-thirds of sales, according to IRI, but sales were virtually static, while fruit flavours soared 86% by volume and 71% by value. Pear saw a slight decline.
“The popularity of fruit flavours shows no sign of slowing down, and our biggest launch by far last year was Strongbow’s Dark Fruit, which arrived with perfect timing just ahead of the hot summer,” says Matt Cain, senior beer and cider buyer for Conviviality Retail, which runs the Bargain Booze and Wine Rack off-licence chains.
Debs Carter, marketing director for alcohol at Merrydown supplier SHS Drinks, agrees: “There’s no doubt flavoured cider is going to continue to be one of the biggest drivers of growth in the take-home glass bottled cider category during the summer months.
“It really has been the powerhouse driving category growth in the past year.”
Heineken category and trade marketing director for the off-trade Craig Clarkson says: “Growth in the cider category has been meteoric, but there is still room for development. With an explosion of new flavours and brands, 22% of value growth in modern packaged ciders is currently coming from NPD, demonstrating the consumer need for experimentation.”
But C&C Group’s Ed Shoebridge is confident that apple cider will continue to hold its own.
“It will remain the sector’s largest segment,” he says.
2. GOING GLOBAL
An influx of ciders from around the world has given the category another shot in the arm.
It started with Sweden, but now shelves are packed with ciders from as far afield as New Zealand, South Africa, the US and Belgium, and even traditional Norman and Breton ciders are gaining interest among consumers.
World cider is the fastest-growing sub-category of cider, and nearly quadrupled in size over the past year, according to Heineken.
“Sweden continues to do well, but it is great to see some new products entering the market from further afield,” says Tesco’s Bird. “New Zealand and American ciders will offer something different, new and exciting, though customers are still keen to support home-produced cider.
But she adds: “Our British range continues to offer great quality ciders, made in the traditional way from home-grown apples. I don’t think any international cider will ever replace that.”
C&C Group has released US cider Hornsby’s. Shoebridge says: “There is increased interest among consumers for international brands and new propositions as they seek out exciting products to shake up their drinking habits. The new proposition of cider served the American way, with a softer carbonation, designed to be enjoyed chilled and straight from its 33cl long-neck bottle, appeals to customers looking for an alternative.”
International brands particularly appeal to younger drinkers who might have discovered these drinks on their travels, says Savanna’s Mills.
“As the category evolves, it is becoming increasingly more crowded,” he says. “However, rather than being overwhelmed, we are seeing younger consumers becoming more selective with their brand choices. Cider consumers seek innovation — though always something authentic, such as the unique serve of Savanna with a wedge of lemon in the neck of the bottle.”
Aston Manor sales and marketing director Glen Friel warns that value is in danger of being eroded in the burgeoning category.
He says: “Growth for international brands has largely been around the fruit segment, but the value per litre is declining. Some international brands that launched in the UK with initial success are struggling now. Essentially, cider is seen by consumers as a quintessentially British drink and that is what drives demand.”
As international brands are gaining traction here, UK ciders are growing exports. Aston Manor, Thatchers and Westons are all growing popularity abroad and, on a much smaller scale, Somerset craft producer Orchard Pig has found fans as far afield as Finland, Australia, Holland and Singapore.
“A continued strong performance from traditional lines and newer craft ciders will prompt a return to apple among customers.”
Crystal ball-gazers seeking the next big thing in cider could do worse than look at the explosion in sales of craft beers and microbreweries around the world.
In the on-trade, specialist and craft ciders boosted volume sales by 18% and value by 28% last year, according to CGA Strategy.
Thatchers’ managing director Martin Thatcher says: “Consumers are asking for regionally crafted, premium ciders that offer a real point of difference from those that are mass-produced.
“We’re expecting to see off-trade sales once again boosted by the consistent and growing demand for Thatchers Gold in the on-trade.”
David Paterson, head of sales at Hogs Back Brewery in Surrey, adds: “You cannot beat British cider, and this year will see some of the more craft producers make a big impact and brands with a lot of flavour come to the fore.”
Premium ciders are growing their share of the market at the expense of value brands and perry, according to IRI.
Tesco cider buyer Amy Bird says: “We anticipate customers trading up, trying more of our craft British products from producers such as Westons, Thatchers and Aspall.”
Cider may even start stealing share from sparkling wine as more people choose it for “everyday celebrations”, according to Wine Intelligence. The company found that 10% of sparkling wine drinkers now say cider is their favourite drink – up from 6% last year – while those who claimed sparkling wine as their favourite slipped from 24% in 2013 to 20% today.
Westons’ Ian Lewis says: “With consumers looking to drink at home, they will seek out more premium offerings as they represent great value.”
Premium ciders are drawing new and younger drinkers into the market, according to Anthony Mills, head of European marketing for South African cider Savanna.
“One of the main drivers of the cider market’s success in recent years has been its accessibility to new user groups, such as women and 18 to 24-year-olds. In particular, the premium sector is proving increasingly popular with a younger demographic who are searching for quality ciders,” he says.
Ed Shoebridge, head of customer marketing at Magners owner C&C Group, adds: “With consumer confidence at its highest for six years, retailers should stock premium products as they continue to perform well.”
No drinks category is quite as affected by the weather as cider. IRI data shows sales spiking every time there is a hot, dry spell. One week in July 2013 saw volume sales shoot up nearly 40% compared to the same week in 2012, and warm, dry spring weather in April 2011 prompted a 21% uplift in a week.
Ian Lewis, head of marketing at Westons, says: “Cider is still at its most popular during the summer months, mainly due to its clean, fresh appeal when the weather is warmer. With so many big events taking place this year, the big-night-in trend is likely to be significant again. Cider’s suitability as a food pairing to barbecues is likely to drive the trend.”
Good weather is particularly good news for fruit ciders – sales soared 25% when temperatures rose in the four weeks to July 20, 2013, according to IRI.
Ben Turner, customer marketing manager for Swedish cider Kopparberg, says: “Last year Kopparberg experienced year-on-year growth of 88% through July and August in the off-trade.
“With that in mind, it’s imperative to make the most of the weather. According to Mintel, 70% of consumers think cider is more refreshing than beer on sunny days.”