SUMMER may feel like a long way off, but grey skies shouldn’t do anything to dampen cider sales in the on-trade as the category’s evolution has helped bolster its perennial appeal.
That’s the view of a number of cider producers and distributors, who say the sector’s diversity means fruit-flavoured ciders continue to offer sales potential.
Andrew Richardson of VC2 Brands, the firm behind Stivy’s, said publicans should focus on “providing products that their customers will find attractive”.
“There are many consumers who want a fruit-flavoured cider which is fun, stylish and tastes great, but don’t care where the apples come from,” said Richardson. “There has been enormous growth in the retail trade for these products, with all of the major supermarkets stocking them.”
A spokeswoman for Diageo, the firm behind Pimm’s Cider Cup and Smirnoff Cider, agreed that fruit ciders have been “one of the biggest success stories of recent times”.
One of the cornerstones of cider’s success is the way in which the category has morphed to meet market demand down the years, according to Diageo, with firms creating drinks to capitalise on “changing consumer needs” by “delivering credible and authentic ways to enjoy sweeter, easy drinking liquids”.
Spirit-based ciders are the next evolution in this area, according to Diageo, with the spokeswoman adding that the ‘spider’ category represents “the third generation of premium cider’s evolution”.
“Stage one was the glass bottle served over ice and stage two was flavours such as pear,” she said.
“Whilst flavoured cider continues to show strong growth we are conscious that we need to evolve with our consumers’ tastes and offer them products which remain relevant to them.”
It’s not just packaged ciders that are driving sales. Rob Salvesen, senior marketing manager for Kopparberg, reckons both apple and fruit flavoured ciders are “increasingly available” on draught.
“Draught variants of fruit cider and craft apple cider are fast becoming a premium second-tap option for many operators as consumers migrate away from a variety of categories that are increasingly being viewed as less exciting and continue to look for products that are authentic, more refreshing and tasty,” said Salvesen.
“This trend continues as licensees install additional taps, switching from beer, lager and multiple standard cider installations to capitalise on the growing trend”.
Martin Thatcher of Thatchers Cider also reckons craft cider is seeing a resurgence, suggesting that many consumers are “going back to cider’s roots” to “embrace the drink’s heritage”.
“We are seeing consumers increasingly turn to apple cider, and in particular they have embraced contemporary apple cloudy cider,” said Thatcher.
To keep on top of this, Thatcher suggested operators “look carefully” at their customer base to ensure they have a range that’s right for their outlet.
“The job is then to match the consumer and outlet style with a suitable cider range,” he said.
“Is it a food-led pub? Is it a city centre pub popular for the big night out? The answers to these questions will lead you to the cider styles to stock.”
In terms of numbers, Thatcher reckons operators should stock up to five ciders in the fridge,“including bottles and cans, being a mix of standard, specialist apple, and fruit”.
Ranging in this way can also help operators gauge what will work for their draught cider offer.
“Remember packaged ciders also allow trial within an outlet to test a brand before installing it on draught,” added Thatcher.