SUMMER may be the traditional cider season but over the last few years there’s been a lot to challenge that point of view, with cider makers producing a raft of new brands, variants and seasonal serves to give customers something to mull over during the colder months.
As the warmer weather wanes for another year, firms behind some of the biggest cider brands in the Scottish on-trade have offered their assessment of how the category is performing at present – as well as where the opportunities may lie for improving sales in the coming weeks and months.
Emma Sherwood-Smith, cider director at Heineken, the firm behind Strongbow and Bulmers, said the category is showing “steady growth”, quoting figures from CGA showing cider is up in both volume and value terms, growing at 2.4% and 3.3% respectively. “60% of adults drink cider and this number is still growing – we expect the total UK cider category to be worth £3.7bn by 2019 so there is certainly room for growth,” said Sherwood-Smith.
Cider sales may be set to rise over the next few years but it looks like the market will be a bit different come 2019, as Sherwood-Smith highlighted areas within the category where growth is strongest.
Consumers will always have an appetite for premium innovation.
“At the moment we’re seeing tremendous growth in the world cider segment, where volume is up by 13.5%,” she said.
“The consumer trends such as premiumisation and the desire to discover new and exciting flavours means there will always be an appetite for premium innovation.”
Rob Salvesen, customer marketing manager for Swedish cider maker Kopparberg, agreed that customers continue to show a desire for fruit flavours.
“Fruit cider is still bucking the trend in the total packaged cider category,” he said.
“Growth within packaged fruit cider is up 9% volume and 11% value.
“The demand for fruit-flavoured products has definitely been one of the key driving trends over the past few years.
“This has been evident across many categories and can be demonstrated by the success of brands like Kopparberg that have a strategy of premium fruit refreshment at its core.”
Strawberries and pears may be most easily associated with the warmer months, but Salvesen reckons publicans can also cash in on fruit cider as the mercury drops.
New craft offerings are doing a great job and offer a point of difference.
“While fruit cider sells more in the summer, it is still a very successful and profitable category through the winter months and retailers should ensure they stock a well-thought through fruit cider range,” said Salvesen.
When ranging fruit cider, Salvesen suggested publicans look to reduce their range to “only include the big hitters, the proven winners and the true innovators within each category”.
“By doing this, retailers will not only reduce confusion at the bar but also increase their profits as a result,” said Salvesen.
Fruit has definitely found favour with Scottish pub-goers but it’s not the only cider sub-category with big sales potential.
Salvesen reckons there’s also an opportunity for operators to boost their bottom lines with low calorie and no-alcohol variants.
“As consumers become more health conscious and responsible, brewers and cider makers need to ensure that they are prepared by diversifying their portfolios and ensuring they have appropriate pack formats available for both consumer and publican needs,” he said.
And for the future, Salvesen reckons the craft cider sub-category is gaining traction with customers, paving the way for more premium sales in the years to come.
“New craft and heritage offerings are doing a great job in communicating premium positioning to consumers through visual cues and are offering retailers a point of difference,” added Salvesen.
“As a result, craft brands are on the up. I believe this trend will continue and it will be the producers that can deliver a great tasting, premium product with true heritage and provenance that will be the winners both within fruit cider and the wider category.”