From sunburn to strawberries, certain things have always been associated with summertime in the UK.
Just as barbecues and ice cream grow more popular in terms of food sales, cider traditionally enjoys a summer spike on the drinks side.
And despite shifting trends across many categories in recent years, drinks firms reckon cider calls at the bar could well be the sound of the summer again in 2016.
“While cider is now considered a perennial drink, it has a long-standing association with summer and so of course it performs well over this time,” said Matthew Jamieson, Magners brand manager at Tennent Caledonian Breweries.
He added that, as consumer palates continue to evolve, “authentic taste” is becoming increasingly important to them when choosing cider.
Rob Salvesen, customer marketing manager for Swedish cider brand Kopparberg, said that in the warmer months there is a “pendulum swing” to “more premium refreshing and lighter bodied drinks” – ideal conditions for selling cider.
Salvesen also reckons that with so many major sporting events on this summer, including the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and Euro 2016, the sales potential could be pushed up even further.
“While Kopparberg fruit cider is not synonymous with sport, sporting events simply mean a larger number of consumers have more reason to frequent their local pubs and bars,” said Salvesen.
“This combined with the warmer days, means that fruit cider will no doubt benefit as consumers fill beer gardens before and after fixtures.”
Sarah Allaway, category development manager at Carlsberg UK, the firm behind Somersby cider, agreed that summer provides a great opportunity for boosting cider sales, describing the season as “the peak sales period for cider”, and said that, while traditional styles of cider continue to prove very popular, the steady stream of niche and craft cider brands entering the market is attracting new drinkers to the wider category.
“The craft boom has been felt across all drinks sectors – from beers and ciders to spirits and wine – and we expect to see big developments throughout 2016 as producers and licensees continue to embrace the craft revolution,” said Allaway.
Cider drinkers are becoming a lot more discerning.
Carlsberg UK wasn’t the only firm to highlight the ‘craft boom’ as a significant trend in cider this year.
Martyn Railton, founder of Euroboozer, the distributor of Jake’s Kentish Cider, said the recent influx of craft products across different categories has led to cider drinkers “becoming a lot more discerning in their selections”.
“I think this trend will continue with consumers searching out quality products which showcase the glorious apple, innovative techniques and smaller niche producers,” said Railton.
The cider category is said to be booming across the UK, with figures from Heineken putting the value in sales terms at £1.7 billion and growing.
In fact, the company expects cider to be worth £3.7bn by 2019, driven largely by the introduction of new brands and products.
Heineken’s head of marketing for the on-trade, Andrew Turner, said the fact that both ‘world’ and ‘niche’ ciders are performing well is a “clear sign that consumers are looking for variety and premium ciders”.
The diversity of the cider category means it is worth stocking a few additional ciders over the summer, according to Ally Atha, senior brand manager for Stella Artois Cidre at parent company AB InBev.
The craft boom has been felt across all drinks sectors.
Atha said that for licensees looking for a competitive edge, “it is worth stocking a larger cider range over the summer months and we recommend offering three or four different flavours that tap into the sweeter taste trends”.
Variety is important, according to Carlo Valente, director of VC2 Brands, the company behind Stivy’s Cider.
Calling cider the “must-stock product of the summer”, Valente said a good cider range should offer “real choice rather than brands mimicking each other’s flavour profiles”.
And the best products for an outlet will depend on its customer base, with different products more suited to different groups of consumers.
Valente said that mainstream draught cider tends to be most popular with 35 to 55 year old consumers, with fruit-flavoured ciders popular with 25 to 35 year olds (and more women than men) and heritage products most often consumed by people aged between 30 and 45.
Whatever the range stocked, highlighting it in-outlet is vital.
Graham Archibald, sales director at Morgenrot, the firm behind the Avalon cider brand in the UK, suggested there are a number of steps licensees can take to promote their range of ciders over the summer.
“Pairing food with cider is a great way to get customers to try new arrivals as cider naturally works well with many styles of food and different cuisines,” said Archibald.
“However, operators should also be letting bar-goers know about new ciders via social media, clear signage and most importantly through their staff, who play the biggest part in promoting new brands.”