Government must work with cider industry, writes Paul Bartlett
Last year, I celebrated the success of cider as the best performing drinks category for nearly a decade.
The last 12 months have seen more evidence emerge of a sustained – and sustainable – future for cider.
After a difficult few years in economic terms, the on-trade cider category has remained resilient and still presents opportunities for pubs and bars.
This is largely due to the continued efforts by cider makers to drive innovation and investment, making cider the most exciting drinks category for consumers and operators alike.
These efforts are particularly commendable considering the challenges cider makers have continued to face, particularly in terms of duty.
In last year’s Budget, duty was frozen on beer. This was good news for pubs and consumers but could have been even better if it was extended to cover cider as well.
We hope the government chooses to do that this year.
[pullquote_right]We would like to see the government engage in a discussion about duty and policy.[/pullquote_right]Scrapping the escalator is crucial as last year duty rose by five per cent, yet government revenues increased by only around two per cent – so we are close to reaching a tipping point.
This comes at a time when the industry is focused on premium products that mean higher average retail prices and essentially more revenue for the government.
We would also like to see the government willing to engage in a discussion around duty and policy, which apply to industries like cider that are founded upon long-term commitments and investment.
The future sustainability of our industry relies on government support.
This support gives cider makers the confidence they need to continue making the necessary investments to secure the future of the industry.
Stability on alcohol legislation and policy more generally is also crucial because of the long-term nature of the industry.
When cider makers have certainty they are more inclined to grow the category for pubs, bars and consumers to enjoy.
Scotland has long been a key market for the cider industry – particularly in the on-trade – and Scottish consumers are often the first to embrace innovative new products and to help establish new brands.
As well as appreciating the innovation of cider makers, Scottish consumers also tend to value the heritage and provenance of cider.
[pullquote_right]Scotland has long been a key market for the cider category.[/pullquote_right] These are encouraging signs for publicans who are considering their cider offer.
The evidence suggests that stocking more than one draught cider and a range of packaged ciders builds incremental sales, so we would encourage all publicans to think about expanding their range.
Scottish pub and bar owners have always been aware of the role they play in managing alcohol misuse by providing a controlled environment.
Cider makers remain committed to increased responsibility, and reducing the harm caused by alcohol misuse is a key feature of our sustainability work.
Tackling misuse has to be a cohesive effort which is based on robust, evidence-based policies.
Despite the numerous challenges ahead, we remain positive about the industry and how it can build opportunities for operators.
I am confident the Scottish on-trade will continue to grow and strengthen in the cider category and I am hopeful that Scottish consumers will continue to champion the oldest drink produced in these islands.
• Paul Bartlett is chair of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) and group marketing director of C&C Group.