A mate of mine has been asked to work on a temporary basis for a Football League club (I'd better not name them - let's just say they're a couple of divisions below the Chelseas of this world). His job is to try and revamp the bars in the stadium, which haven't been doing too well recently.
Given my exalted position in the trade (yes, exalted!) my friend asked to bend my ear on what new drinks he should look to stock. It didn't take long for me to declare that if he had half a mind on succeeding, he had to stock Magners.
Three weeks ago brand owner C&C announced year-on-year sales of the cider had increased by 250 per cent. Come again? That's right, 250 per cent. Now, whatever school of economics you went too, that number is just incredible.
Ask anyone why Magners has succeeded and a number will say it is simply down to the great marketing and the fantastic branded proposition they have provided. Rubbish.
That may have a small amount to do with it but how many drinks brands out there have spent six-figure sums on excellent marketing campaigns, only to lose out or break even at best?
The sheer level of Magners success is inexplicable. Sure it is well packaged, well marketed, with a good point of difference. But so are hundreds of other brands. Is it so wrong to say that Magners just got lucky?
Sometimes a brand will come along and capture the zeitgeist - it has that certain intangible something, like Sol in the 1980s and Hooch and Caffrey's in the 1990s. It just catches a wave of popularity and everyone buys into it.
I can't believe that it is because people have simply rediscovered a taste for cider.
I would love to say that Magners' success is going to lead to a sustained charge by cider over the next five to 10 years, but it is just not going to happen.
Now other cider brand owners may "aha" this point and wag their fingers, pointing out impressive recent sales figures. But why is it so many of the brands which are achieving good sales numbers are also drunk over ice? (Gaymers and Strongbow Sirrus, I'm looking at you)
Temperature is the key here. By going for the over-ice serve Magners has found a way of ensuring drinkers' pints will be cold, despite being poured from a bottle that has been stored in the sometimes unreliable back-bar fridge. They have managed to tap into extra cold technology without forking out for the technology. Now then Mr and Mrs Guinness, that's true Irish GENIUS.
If I'm wrong, why are bottled beer brand owners, such as Carlsberg with its Elephant and Budweiser with its new pint-bottled Silver innovation, looking at recommending an over-ice serve for their products?
But what next for Magners? It is fantastic to see something different shake up back-bar fridges that were getting quite staid and dull. But such dramatic highs can often lead to bone-juddering lows.
The real challenge for Magners will lie at the back end of 2007, following a second summer of sales success. Will it be able to truly embed itself in the market, or will it fall as quickly as it rose? Much like Hooch, Sol and Caffrey's before it…