WHEN looking for ways to boost drinks sales it’s probably quite easy to fall down the rabbit hole researching experimental styles, serves, and marketing initiatives.
Yet sometimes the simple solutions are the best.
For instance, while it may seem obvious to focus on cider during the summer, the category does remain key to sales over the season.
That was the view of a number of drinks firms, which encouraged pub and bar operators to capitalise on cider’s seasonal appeal.
Matt Dudley, customer marketing manager at Kopparberg, told SLTN that while “sales of cider have become less seasonal, there is naturally a pendulum swing to more premium, refreshing and lighter-bodied drinks in the warmer months by consumers”.
A refreshing glass of chilled cider in the sunshine epitomises the British summer.
“Fruit ciders will no doubt benefit again this coming summer as consumers fill beer gardens with drinks that are hugely refreshing, light and full of flavour,” he said.
Sharing this view, Paul Condron, marketing director at Magners, said fruit ciders remain “a firm favourite with Scottish drinkers”. “It’s no secret that some cider drinkers have a sweet tooth, with fruit-flavoured ciders seeing a huge increase in volume sales across the category,” he said.
And Glen Friel, sales and marketing director at Aston Manor Cider, said that a glass of chilled cider in the sun “epitomises the British summer”.
A broad range of flavours has helped boost cider’s appeal amongst younger drinkers, according to Claire Wright of Molson Coors, the firm behind Rekorderlig.
“Fruit ciders in particular have exploded in popularity over the last five years, with growth showing no signs of letting up,” she said.
“Apple ciders still have their place, but bars should also be tapping into the new ranges available to them.”
Taking a similar stance, Dudley of Kopparberg reckons that blueberry, in particular, is a “rapidly-growing, on-trend flavour” that operators should consider stocking ahead of summer.
However, not all share this view.
While Friel of Aston Manor Cider admitted that fruit cider “has been a powerhouse of growth in the cider category for the last few years”, he said apple continues to be a strong performer in on-trade cider.
But it’s not just flavour trends impacting the category; many producers predict that the ‘craft boom’ seen in beer and spirits could also impact on cider this year.
Chris Harrison, founder of Scottish craft cider producer Waulkmill Cider, whose Mooseheid Perry picked up a silver award in the perry category at CAMRA’s National Cider and Perry Championship (see page 28), said that while “the craft cider category is at a very early stage”, he believes that “there are clear signs of growing consumer demand, knowledge and understanding of craft and regional-based cider”.
This was echoed by Rob Sandall, on-trade director at Thatchers Cider, who said craft cider “is certainly one to include in your 2017 cider offer”.
“I believe we’re going to see many more entrants into the category this year, particularly bottled artisan ciders,” said Sandall.
He added that “craft and bag-in-box ciders offer publicans a huge opportunity to offer a really interesting and varied cider range to their customers”.
Consumers want to know where ciders come from and what makes them unique.
Similarly, Dudley of Kopparberg said customers are becoming more discerning about what they are drinking.
“They want to know and understand not only where their products are from but what makes them unique,” he said.
With so many products now on the market, deciding which brands and formats to stock in the fridge can be challenging.
A varied range, factoring in mainstream and lesser-known brands, is said to be key.
“Stick to a core range of proven sellers, and then stock a couple of very different brands/flavours to give consumers a real choice,” said Andrew Richardson, director of VC2 Brands, the firm behind Stivvy’s Cider.
This was echoed by Condron at Magners, who said when it comes to stocking ciders, “licensees should look to stock both draught and bottled/canned cider to keep regular drinkers happy, but also [to] attract new drinkers to the category”.
Dudley of Kopparberg agreed, saying it is important “to cater for consumer needs for different drinking occasions”; he said that during the day draught ciders can be top-sellers, shifting to packaged in the evening.
Friel, of Aston Manor Cider, took a similar stance, stressing that there must be a balance when it comes to an outlet’s cider range.
“It’s important to offer customers the full range of the category, without overwhelming patrons with choice,” said Friel.
Wright of Molson Coors said that, if there is space on the bar, operators should offer at least one fruit cider on draught.
“To cater to as broad an audience as possible, we recommend offering a wide range of ciders, from core brands which are familiar with consumers through to more premium fruit and flavoured varieties which both inspire choice and offer the opportunity to trade up,” she said.
And Emma Sherwood-Smith, cider director at Heineken, the firm behind Bulmers and Old Mout, said that mainstream ciders “are still the bedrock of the category”.
To pull in undecided customers, she said licensees would do well to “offer the opportunity to trade-up by stocking a premium range alongside your mainstream offering, and avoid duplication of flavours and sub-categories”.