Cider isn’t just for summer – report finds demand undimmed by winter dark

Cider is proving to be a resilient category – while already the fastest growing drinks segment within the on-trade, the latest Cider Report from Heineken UK looks forward to yet more innovation and premiumisation.

A key part of that market development is a loosening of the category’s ties with the summer months, and an increasing willingness among younger demographics to embrace it as a ‘year-round’ choice.

This year’s Cider Report – ‘The Changing Demands of New Generation Cider Drinkers’ – sets out its stall by noting that the last 12 months have seen cider deliver +8.6% value sales growth, amounting to £1.9bn in value sales.

“Our latest Cider Report demonstrates that there’s so much more for operators to go after within the cider category,” said Heineken UK’s category development manager Jack Wignall. “As we enter the darker winter months, there’s real opportunity to get creative and have fun with new cider serves and marketing to boost appeal and trial.

“Our Report reveals 83% of cider drinkers would be open to the idea of drinking cider throughout the winter.It’s therefore worth considering rotating in some ‘wintery’ flavours, darker berry-infused variants and mulled cider options this festive season, to grab the attention of cider enthusiasts who are renowned for their category loyalty,” said Wignall.

Heineken UK was also keen to highlight the synergy between cider and the ‘phenomenal year of sport ahead’.

“Operators have a great opportunity to further boost sales in 2024, with cider continuing to cater for a wide variety of occasions, holding onto its reputation as an easy-going, sociable option,” said Wignall.

“It’s perfect for the all-year round sporting calendar, as much as it is for those casual after-work drinks. We hope this year’s report proves helpful and inspirational for operators looking to up their cider game over the coming months.”

Heineken’s report acknowledges that, with fewer taps on the bar, cider hasn’t premiumised at the same rate as other drinks categories such as beer or spirits. But it said that recent innovation in cider had created greater choice and trade-up options on draught and in the fridge.

Premium cider is growing quickly and is now worth 42% of all cider sales, it said, helping reinvigorate drinker interest and allowing operators to maximise cider revenue.

It also noted that, for millennial and Gen Z consumers, choice is particularly important. Premium and exotic flavours are driving interest and growth among 18–34-year-old drinkers, with almost half (48%) saying they would purchase flavoured cider rather than apple because they like being able to switch between flavours.

“As we move into the new year, staying tuned into the latest innovation will be key to cater for these drinkers, who are vital to the long-term growth of the cider category,” said the Heineken UK report, which also revealed that No & Low Alcohol remains the fastest-growing cider segment for the second year in a row, primarily driven by preferences of younger consumers.

Importantly, the availability of an alcohol-free cider option would encourage purchase for over a fifth of 18–34-year-olds across both apple and flavoured.

“In summary, cider is continuing to see remarkable evolution and is maintaining a widespread appeal across a diverse range of drinking occasions,” Wignall concluded. “Whilst cider traditionally invokes images of hot summer days, it absolutely continues to play an important role during the colder months.”