So which producers are putting their faith in cans?
Within cider, Westons was one of the first three years ago with the “highly successful” launch of its Caple Rd. This autumn it added a collection of canned craft ciders for the off-trade, including Caple Rd No 5 and two flavoured ciders under the Rosie’s Pig brand – Handbrake Cloudy Cider with Damson and Flat Tyre Cloudy Cider with Rhubarb. A fourth addition, Pure Hopped, is a blend of English cider and hops.
Westons head of off-trade Angela Clay says: “The launch comes amid a growth opportunity for both craft beer and cider, with followers looking increasingly towards premium drinks which have a point of difference, traceability of ingredients, and artisanship. This is something we see continuing through 2017 and beyond.”
Westons isn’t alone in adding more cans to its portfolio. Aston Manor extended its range of small-batch craft cider, Friels First Press Vintage, with a 33cl can last year. It also added a hop- infused variant exclusively in cans.
And Orchard Pig made its Reveller cider available in both bottles and cans in 2016. Founder Andrew Quinlan says we can expect to see more canned ciders and also more limited editions in 2017.
Thatchers is also investing in cans. This month it added two new gently sparkling canned ciders as part of a rejuvenation of its traditional craft cider range under the new name, Stan’s.
Kopparberg added a smaller 25cl can format for three of its flavours. The producer is leading the way in exploring other formats, having added to its range of Frozen Fruit Ciders in pouches last year with the launch of Frozen Mixed Fruit Cider.
And over the summer it revealed a sharing format in the form of a limited-edition KopparKeg, sales of which “exceeded its expectations”.
Senior marketing manager Rob Salvesen says: “While was always knew this product would be popular, the consumer demand and excitement was phenomenal.”
The producer says the 25cl format has been a strong contributor to growth for its brand and it will continue to support this format through 2017.
New formats also came from Brothers with the launch of its Festival Apple 1-litre cider cartons. The company says the launch was “incredibly successful” and it will ramp up activity around its cartons ahead of the 2017 festival season.
Producers say they will continue to invest in cans. “In terms of format, this sub-category [of craft cider] is all about 33cl cans,” says Claire Young, national off-trade controller for Shepherd Neame, which produces Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider.
Tesco already has a craft cider section in stores, and Young predicts others will “almost certainly” follow suit this spring.
And Martin Thatcher, managing director of Thatchers, adds: “Within craft beer, glass bottle continues to be the dominant format, but 33cl cans are growing and we anticipate this to be the same in the cider category. These saller format cans are particularly popular with younger, affluent shoppers.”
WHAT’S THE STEER FOR BEER?
Within the thriving craft beer market brewers are increasingly moving from bottles to cans, and the rise of mobile canning units is helping enable this transition.
James Hickson, owner of London’s We Brought Beer, tells OLN: “When we first opened in 2014 we had 15 to 18 beers in cans, and they were mostly from the US which is ahead of us in terms of craft beers.
“Our stores in Balham and Clapham Junction now each have a dedicated can fridge and in each store this has become our most popular fridge. In fact, six or seven of our most popular beers are in cans.”
Hickson notes that almost every week he sees a brewer changing from bottles to cans. “It has taken me by surprise but people like the fact they are easy to store, they can be recycled, and they are lighter.
“It is easier to take home a six-pack of cans than bottles although we won’t stop selling the amazing bottle range we have.
“We have noticed some brewers moving from bottles to cans and also some new ones who have opened up and will only use cans. Fourpure in Bermondsey for example, only offers its beers in cans.
“Belleville, which is our most local brewer, used to only do 50cl bottles and it was adamant it would stick to this – it is quite traditional in this respect. “But over time it has changed its mind and now has just 33cl cans and no bottles at all.”
We Brought Beer now has around 110 beers available in cans. “We like cans so it is great they are popping back up. They do look good too. Beavertown Gamma Ray for example, is a striking design and it’s our bestselling beer,” Hickson adds.