Advocate of the apple

Related tags Cider National association of cider makers

The challenge in front of the new head of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) is aptly illustrated by shortcomings on the organisation's...

The challenge in front of the new head of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) is aptly illustrated by shortcomings on the organisation's website.

A graphic supposedly charting the development of the UK cider market has 2005 as its cut-off point. Every licensee who has ever served a drop of the stuff will know that the following summer brought the revolution led by Magners and Bulmers that re-popularised cider, taking us to the point we are at today.

Henry Chevallier Guild, partner in Suffolk-based cider producer Aspall and chair of the NACM as of September 2, likewise has a job to do to keep pace with modern happenings in cider. Chevallier Guild is acutely aware that there is much to be done if cider is to remain the profitable drink it has been for pubs.

Currently, his industry is suffering tax hikes that threaten to shake it to its core (boom boom!), and is moving away from its traditional roots to develop new types of cider to try to retain the consumers attracted by Magners over ice.

The whole cider industry is particularly aware of the Duty issue, for it has historically avoided the level of taxation that blights brewers. This has been attributed to good campaigning work by the NACM.

"We are holding our own," says Chevallier Guild, "but I would not want to say we are in such rude health that we can afford another Duty rise."

He goes on to say that new products are one of the reasons for this strong position, explaining: "One of the things cider makers have been very good at is product development. Just look at pear cider."

However, simply throwing new types of cider at the on-trade doesn't work. For example, Scottish & Newcastle recently axed draught Bulmers Pear less than a year after its launch because it proved not to be selling as well as the bottled version.

"Meanwhile, producers continue to launch weird and wonderful variants to pique the interest of consumers - Kopparberg's elderflower and lime flavour or Magners' new focus on its draught product after concentrating for so long on bottles and ice cubes.

There are two particular sub-sectors of cider that Chevallier Guild identifies as having potential. The types of 'premium' draught cider that can command a higher price point are one - and into this basket he throws Symonds Founders Reserve, from Scottish & Newcastle sales and marketing venture Heritage Brands, and Cornish brewer Sharp's launch of Orchard Cider.

The second is ciders with lower alcohol content, mimicking fashionable four per cent ABV lagers. The Gaymer Cider Company recently relaunched its Blackthorn brand with less alcohol in it, and Chevallier Guild approves.

"There was a very vocal minority of consumers who didn't like it," he says, "but Blackthorn sales have had a good summer because Gaymer has continued to produce a good-quality cider but with the more sessionable strength that people like."

If the new NACM head can handle all these issues, cider sales should continue to be rosy. But it would help if he got the website updated.

Related topics Cider

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