Choice is key as the sun shines

Selection of apple and fruit flavours essential for cider sales

AN appetite for refreshing, sessionable drinks that can be enjoyed in the sunshine could help increase demand for one of Scotland’s most popular categories this summer as customers turn to cider to slake their thirst.

Though popular year-round, cider does traditionally see an uptick during the warmer months, and brand owners advised operators to ensure they have plenty of options available for their customers ahead of the season.

According to Heineken UK, the company behind brands including Strongbow, Bulmers and Old Mout, nearly half a million pints of cider are sold in the UK on-trade every day, with mainstream apple brands accounting for half of that volume and packaged variants adding an additional £560 million to the industry’s coffers every year.

Charlie Fryday, Heineken UK’s on-trade category and commercial strategy director, said cider’s importance to on-trade businesses “should not be underplayed”.

“Mainstream apple continues to dominate with 75% of cider drinkers buying from this category, worth £12,000 on average to a venue per year,” said Fryday.

“Flavoured cider appeals to a similar number of consumers, with around half of all cider drinkers switching between apple and flavoured depending on the occasion, with mainstream flavoured cider delivering around £8000 on average per outlet.”

Fryday recommended stocking mainstream apple and fruit brands on draught, then adding “variety and interest with bottled products in the fridge, which can be more easily rotated and offer venues a longer use date”.

Within fruit cider, there has been a shift towards citrus-style flavours, according to Mark Bentley, on-trade category controller at Molson Coors Beverage Company, owner of Rekorderlig – which has recently added new variants to cater to this growing demand.
Bentley said outlets “should focus on offering a broad cider range that caters to different occasions and needs”.

That was supported by Neil Martin, regional on-trade sales director for the east at Tennent’s – parent company of Magners – who said both draught and packaged options are likely to be in demand throughout the summer months.

“Draught will always offer that experience that can’t easily be replicated at home, and for many consumers a pint will be the drink of choice when socialising in venues – especially after extensive periods of lockdown and restrictions to the hospitality industry over the past two years,” said Martin.

“Draught also often offers an opportunity to maximise profit margins for operators.

“However, with more ciders on the market, consumers are also interested in trying new flavours, so it’s worth supporting this with a small but quality range of packaged fruit or rosé ciders.

“Much like traditional apple ciders, these can be enjoyed all year round so are a good offering to include.”

Format and flavour are not the only factors to consider when choosing cider products for the fridge.

Martin said it is also advisable to include at least one low or no-alcohol cider in the range.

“Consumers are becoming increasingly more conscious of their alcohol and calorie intake and as a result are looking for more no and low-alcohol versions of their favourite drinks,” he said.

With warmer weather and cider tending to go hand in hand, it’s no surprise that the category can perform well in outdoor areas, and drinks companies encouraged licensees to ensure they are making the most of any outdoor facilities throughout the summer.

“It’s no secret that outdoor space played a huge role for pubs post-lockdown and despite the easing of restrictions it’s clear that this trend is here to stay,” said Rob Sandall, on-trade sales director at Thatchers Cider. “Lumina Intelligence cites investment in outdoor space as a clear future growth driver for the pub market.”

Martin, at Tennent’s, agreed. And he encouraged licensees to speak to reps to find out if there is any support available.

“Cider is synonymous with beer gardens so be sure to talk to your rep/provider and see if there’s any support for garden furniture, accessories or even blackboards that can help amplify your cider offering,” he said.