But can cider maintain that momentum?
Absolutely, according to cider firms contacted by SLTN, who reckon there’s still scope for new products and innovation within the category.
“The burst of new brands and flavours available to publicans and the rising interest in craft ciders have definitely helped to re-engage drinkers with cider,” said John Gilligan of Tennent Caledonian, whose cider brands include Magners and Blackthorn.
“To stand out and to continue the growth of flavoured and apple cider in an interesting way, we would suggest that it is now time for some fresh thinking around innovation.
“Craft beer is a good example, with producers using clever innovation across serve, provenance and occasion to drive trial, profile and volume in the on-trade.”
Gilligan’s suggestion that cider can learn from the premium beer category was reinforced by Gemma Copping of fruit cider brand Rekorderlig, who said that a drop in on-trade footfall has actually helped to grow demand for premium ciders.
“People are visiting the on-trade less frequently and looking to trade up on what they perceive to be more premium products when they do,” she said. “As a result the provenance and heritage of drinks have become of increasing importance.
“When purchasing a premium fruit cider the consumer is expecting something different to the norm, a point of difference and an added value.”
The consumer demand for quality cider means publicans have the chance to introduce a wider range of products, said Peter Stuart of Scottish cider brand Thistly Cross.
“With consumers focused on new experiences and the craft culture becoming ever more prevalent, bars will be able to sustain a high quality craft cider on tap and seasonal varieties in the fridges,” said Stuart.
Luke Wade of Swedish cider brand Briska was also keen to extol the virtues of seasonal cider products.
“In recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of winter ciders introduced as ‘seasonal variants’, which clearly demonstrates a demand for cider outside of the summer period,” he said. “Mulled cider has been particularly embraced in recent years as an alternative to mulled wine, thus proving the versatility of cider throughout the year.”
Briska isn’t the only cider maker expecting growth for the category in winter.
Product quality is paramount, so it is imperative for staff to be trained.Anthony Mills of South African brand Savanna Cider believes investment in the category from premium brands “will prove vital to the ongoing growth and success of the category this winter”.
And despite the raft of new brands and products entering the market, there is still plenty room for growth across the category, according to Henry Chevallier Guild of Aspall.
“There is room for growth across the category in all of the UK, and yes, Scotland still has great potential,” he said. “Greater distribution will obviously have an impact, and the large brewers’ entrance in to the cider category will certainly help with this.
“We would therefore expect to see the most notable growth coming in the mainstream sector, whilst genuine premium will continue to grow steadily as many outlets follow their counterparts south of the border and list two or more draught ciders.”
Drinks company SHS Group also reckons there is room to grow sales of cider in the on-trade.
Previously only available in the off-trade, the company’s Merrydown brand is returning to bars and pubs.
“What’s happened is a lot of the brands have attracted a lot of 18-30 year olds,” said Amanda Grabham, head of brand marketing for Merrydown. “For us it’s about targeting the over 35s market.”
Grabham added that the rejuvenation of the cider market over the last ten years has created an appetite for brands with a longer history, predicting that future growth will come “from the craft area of the market”.
However, regardless of the size of the cider category Andrew Turner of Heineken, the firm behind Strongbow and Bulmers, said it is still essential to get the basics right.
“In an age of continued austerity, consumers remain price conscious, demanding superior service, innovative products and a top quality drinking experience every visit,” said Turner.
“Product quality is paramount, so it is imperative for staff to be trained in serving techniques to ensure both draught and packaged ciders are served as they are intended to be enjoyed.
“Clean, chilled branded glassware plays a vital role in creating the perfect drinking experience and helps to boost sales and profits as satisfied consumers are more likely to trade up and repeat purchase.”
Mastering the basics was also espoused by Rob Calder of Kopparberg. He said: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – getting the perfect serve right can go a long way to persuade more people into the category at busy times.”