The bubble has truly burst and innovation is needed
Big Number: 47% of cider drinkers are interested in larger wine-style bottles for sharing
A football World Cup and a rugby one, on top of two rather disappointing summers over the last two years, have taken their toll on the cider category, which last year experienced another drop in volume and the first drop in value in over a decade (down 1 per cent to £3.1bn).
Also of concern is cider fans’ attitude to price, only 30 per cent of them are willing to spend more than £4 for a pint of cider in a pub, according to a recent survey. 18 per cent aren’t even willing to pay more than £3, which will make boosting category value even more difficult.
There’s also been a reliance on innovation in the fruit cider sector at the expense of apple cider. This is significant because, while fruit variants remain very popular, particularly with the under 35s, apple remains the largest segment of the category and over half of cider drinkers cite it as their favourite.
However there is good news to be found for the sector and a return to growth is forecast in the next few years, to reach sales of £3.4bn by 2020.
This is partly down to cider’s increasing year-round appeal, a mere 9 per cent of cider drinkers now drink cider in the summer but not in the winter, for example, but there are other opportunities as well.
Tapping into the craft boom, is one. Aside from Westons’ entry into the market with its craft canned brand, Caple Rd, 13 months ago there’s been little activity in this area. Producers should look to ape craft beer cues and create the same kind of chat around apple varieties as brewers have around hops.
More association with food could also help.
Thatchers and Merrydown have dabbled in this area for some time and brands such as Aspall have had great success with cider and food-matching in export markets. Heineken embarked on some work in this area last year for its Strongbow brand but with drinkers willing to embrace the idea (54 per cent of cider drinkers think that cider is as good as wine for drinking with meals) the sector needs to do more to embrace the opportunity – and do it soon.
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