AS the nation heads to the polls today for the second time in as many months, and the counting of the ballots gets underway, there will no doubt be many seeking respite in their local as the country awaits the outcome.
And while it’s unclear at the time of writing who will find themselves in Number 10, the big-selling drinks in bars this summer seem altogether more predictable, with cider expected to be one of the star performers in the coming weeks.
That was the view of producers and distributors contacted by SLTN, who said a strong cider range should be at the core of an outlet’s summer drinks offer.
As temperatures rise, customers are on the lookout for refreshing, thirst-quenching drinks.
Magners marketing director Paul Condron said as temperatures rise, “consumers are on the lookout for refreshing, thirst-quenching drinks”.
“There’s no doubt cider is a refreshing drink enjoyed across the year but summer has always been, and always will be, synonymous with cider drinking,” he said.
Taking a similar stance, Glen Friel, sales and marketing director at cider firm Aston Manor, said there is a spike in consumer demand for cider during the warmer months.
“As consumers venture into the beer garden, a refreshing cider becomes an obvious choice so operators should prepare for an increase in demand, especially over bank holiday weekends,” he said.
And central to that preparation should be a thorough review of the brands stocked, according to Friel.
He explained that a strong cider range should offer customers “the full range of the category, without overwhelming patrons with choice”.
“A considered core range of mainstream brands, craft and premium can cover all bases while rotating a ‘guest cider’, perhaps from smaller cider makers, will attract more dedicated fans,” he said.
Echoing this view was Emma Sherwood-Smith, cider director at Heineken, whose cider brands include Bulmers and Strongbow.
Mainstream brands are still the bedrock of the category and should be the starting point.
She said that while ‘mainstream’ brands are “still the bedrock of the category and should be the starting point for any offering”, operators 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”.
Attention must also be paid to what is stocked in back-bar fridges, according to Sherwood-Smith, who said bottled cider should be “chilled and given sufficient space in the fridge to display them clearly, as a cluttered display will confuse your customers and diminish sales”.
Additionally, she pointed out that bottled cider “is easier to store than draught, so they are a great way to introduce new brands and offer a wide range of choice to drinkers”.
Matt Dudley, marketing director at Kopparberg, emphasised the need to “maintain a diversified portfolio containing both draught and packaged cider to cater for consumer needs for different drinking occasions”.
“During the day, particularly in the summer when drinkers flock to beer gardens, offering a draught alternative with the perfect serve means consumers are willing to pay more for the product,” he said.
Flavour innovation has helped drive the category and attracted younger drinkers.
“Bottles/cans are crucial for the higher energy evening occasions to offer a more convenient format to improve the drinking experience.”
And there are other formats to consider stocking.
Rob Sandall, on-trade director at Thatchers Cider, said that bag-in-box ciders offer publicans a “huge opportunity to offer a really interesting and varied cider range to their customers”.
Additionally, Sandall explained that as bag-in-box ciders are often available from wholesalers, it makes them more accessible to independent operators “who want to benefit from the growing craft trend”.
“So by stocking a range of ciders across different taste profiles, publicans can really attract customers,” he added.
It’s not just the format of the cider that’s important; flavours are another key consideration when it comes to ranging this summer.
Claire Wright of Molson Coors, the firm behind Rekorderlig, said flavour innovation “has helped drive the category and attracted a new, younger audience to the cider market, keen to experiment with new flavours and serve styles”.
“Fruit ciders in particular have exploded in popularity over the last five years, with growth showing no signs of letting up,” she said.
Dudley of Kopparberg agreed and advised operators to keep abreast of the latest flavour trends. For instance, he reckons that blueberry is a “rapidly-growing, on-trend flavour in the wider [cider] category”.
Regardless of which ciders operators decide to stock, visibility is crucial, according to Sherwood-Smith of Heineken.
She urged operators to keep in mind that bar staff “still play a key role in the consumer’s decision-making process”.“They need to be able to not only serve a top quality drink, but talk around the subject with confidence and specialist knowledge,” said Sherwood-Smith.