CIDER has been one of the drinks industry’s most dynamic categories in recent years.
Sales have continued to rise steadily as a raft of new products have attracted new consumers, and there is now a broader range of ciders to choose from than ever before.
But with trading conditions expected to remain tough during 2012, is there scope for one of the country’s most innovative drinks categories to expand further?
Cider producers and distributors contacted by SLTN are optimistic.
Davin Nugent, managing director of COS Brands, the company behind Kopparberg, told SLTN innovation will continue to drive the category’s growth in the year ahead.
“I think cider has seen some very strong growth over the last six years, it has seen innovation,” said Nugent.
“The brands that are innovating, the brands that are staying ahead, are benefiting.”
Nugent said the on-trade is particularly important for Kopparberg, which has seen its sales in Scottish pubs climb 130% in the last year. And he confirmed its innovation programme will continue this year with a new product set to be launched in the coming weeks.
“We’re not stopping,” he added.
“Our focus is on how to keep the cider category innovative, how to keep the cider category attractive to consumers, and to ensure that we are bringing in as many consumers as possible from other alcohol types.
The brands that are innovating are the brands that are staying ahead.
“We really have to be careful with this [innovation], because it’s a fantastically interesting and innovative category, but if it’s overplayed then harm can be done to it.
“The retailer and the consumer need to buy into what’s being done.”
Nicol Mason, senior brand manager at Chilli Marketing, the company responsible for distributing Rekorderlig in the UK, agreed that innovation will continue to be a key factor as the category moves forward. Aside from introducing new products, he reckons there is scope for brands and licensees to be innovative in the serves they promote.
“Unusual perfect serves allow brands to offer a point of difference,” Mason said.
“We encourage people to drink Rekorderlig with additions such as fresh mint to Strawberry Lime [flavour], giving more of a cocktail look and feel.
“Our summer pitchers will be huge this summer with a calendar full of social occasions perfect for sharing.”
Mason argued that the growth in flavoured cider has established it as a separate category.
“Consumers have always been and will continue to be excited by new things,” he added.
“Flavoured cider is a category in its own right now with a following that actively seeks something new.
“I think there is always scope for more innovation, allowing the category to continually grow in 2012.”
Geoff Bradman, joint managing director of Aspall, advised publicans to stock a “balanced range” of quality ciders.
“A publican’s bottled cider offering needs to complement what’s on the bar, not just repeat it, and indeed there needs to be a complement of other long alcoholic drinks per se,” he said.
“Publicans should also remember that bottled cider, like draught cider, needs to be served chilled and with the correct glassware.”
Communicating the cider offer is also vital – particularly when it comes to younger consumers, according to Heineken trading director John Gemmell.
“It’s interesting to note that a 25 year old drinker has probably only experienced a world where cider over ice has existed, so for younger drinkers the centre of gravity of the cider category has shifted,” he said.
“There is still some work to do in raising the profile of cider so it is front of mind for consumers and this underlines the importance of using point of sale material, branded glassware and a great font on the bar.”