Operators who stock the right range stand to benefit
I AM bound to be biased but, by any measure, cider is a success story.
It has been the best performing drinks category for nearly a decade and I am delighted for the businesses involved in the industry and the opportunities it creates for retailers – especially in the on-trade, which has been battered by a combination of factors.
So how has cider managed to consistently buck the trend and, more particularly, how can bar and pub operators in Scotland benefit most?
There is no magic formula. However, there are a number of elements that cider makers are regularly getting right which are contributing to the category’s success.
• Innovation and investment – the category has seen more innovation than any other and that has engaged the natural curiosity of consumers. Not all of it succeeds and not all of it might merit success but looking for ways to interest people and have them ‘discover’ something new can create opportunities that you then need to deliver on.
The other element is investment – having the confidence to back new ideas. What the investment in consumer communication for cider has done so well, in my opinion, has been to focus on the virtues of the product in terms of taste and refreshment. It has been less about seeking to create an affinity between a brand and a certain audience, with the product and product quality secondary.
• Quality and provenance – cider makers are consistently producing drinks of great quality and for many producers it is a key consideration to them that people know where a product is made and how. These are important cues for consumers and interest in provenance has grown significantly even when people have less disposable income.
It is not unique to cider and brewers of quality cask and bottled beers have adopted a similar approach. However, cider naturally has a number of advantages, not least the positive association with apples and trees and the strides made in becoming a very sustainable industry.
• Occasions and consumers – with a broader range of ciders to choose from, more people are finding cider an appropriate choice more often.
Without question the category has a more even profile in terms of both men and women enjoying cider than any other category. And with cider a genuinely good match for many foods, stocking a range of ciders covers so many drinking occasions.
Cider has very successfully moved from just being a seasonal, summer product and is now a key part of the repertoire for very many drinkers.
Research (from Mintel) reveals that more people enjoy cider than enjoy lager – with 47% declaring themselves as cider drinkers compared to 46% describing themselves as lager fans.
That the picture is different in terms of volume just suggests that there is still scope for cider to build incremental sales.
With premium bottled ciders, matched with food or otherwise, that opportunity might be as an alternative to wine for those consumers favouring lower alcohol levels and a British product.
I am cautious about making predictions, but I would suggest that cider makers have worked out that innovation, a focus on quality, and building consumer interest are good things to do.
So we can expect that they will continue with more of the same – and for pubs and bars stocking the right range of ciders, there is a great chance to share in the success.
• Henry Chevallier is chair of the National Association of Cider Makers.
Images: Innovation and investment by cider producers has helped keep the category buoyant, according to Henry Chevallier.