Cider trends: Make sure you're well stocked

By Nigel Huddleston

- Last updated on GMT

Cider trends: Make sure you're well stocked

Related tags: Cider, Apple

With peak cider season on its way, Nigel Huddleston takes a look at what’s available for you to make sure your pub is the destination for thirsty drinkers.

Many drinks categories would like to think they can be all things to all people but perhaps none comes closer than cider.

  • Want to attend the Future Trends: Beer and Cider event on 22 June in London? For more information and to book, contact Joanne Horton by email​ or phone 01293 610 403. 

Competition from the likes of craft beer and gin have taken the pace off the cider market like the slower ball from a fast bowler at the World T20 cricket tournament, but it remains a massive market — and one where the on-trade is outperforming the take-home sector.

CGA Strategy figures for the year to December 2015 show flat volumes but a 2% upward spike in on-trade value sales, with Nielsen’s figures for the off-trade showing a 3% decline in both volume and value in the year to January. While the take-home market is worth just over £1bn, in the on-trade sales are nudging closer to £1.8bn.


Apple’s versatility as a base flavour gives free rein to producers to create ciders to satisfy a broad church of tastes, from sweet and fruity contemporary brands to rich and mellow bitter-sweet vintage products, while pints of mainstream draught cider can slake the thirst on a summer’s day as well as any 4% ABV lager.

Fruit ciders have been one of the big success stories of recent times, led by the Swedish contingent of Kopparberg and Rekorderlig, with the engine stoked by spin-offs from mainstream domestic products such as Strongbow Mixed Fruit and a rolling programme of Bulmers flavours.

Licensees can expect no let up in this area this summer with Bulmers already rolling out its new Blueberry & Lime variant and Carlsberg’s Somersby introducing Strawberry & Rhubarb, its first flavoured cider to be made available on draught.

World ciders

World ciders are the other big area of growth, both in sales and product numbers, with wine supplier Bibendum PLB offering a range of ciders from Australia, New Zealand, Spain and France through its Instil Drinks spirits division; Heineken going great guns with its Old Mout range from New Zealand; and Matthew Clark including exotic Canadian ice ciders and craft brands from Europe and the US in its Perfectly Picked Cider portfolio.

Several producers are touting hop ciders such as Instil’s Zeffer as the next big thing, while Kopparberg has gone the whole hog and moved its brand into fruit lager for its latest product launch.

With the peak cider sales season approaching, we asked some of the leading players to tell us where they thought the growth and excitement in the category will come from.

Angela Ham, customer marketing controller, C&C Brands


What are the major trends in on-trade cider at the moment?

“The cider category continues to grow and evolve, responding to the consumer’s ever-changing tastes and thirst for experimentation. It is currently up in terms of both value and volume on last year and we expect to see this growth continue during the year.

“There have been a large number of new variants entering the fruit cider market in recent years. However, many of these new flavours are proving a novelty, and do not always stay the course. We are beginning to see a resurgence in the popularity of traditional apple ciders. As we see growth in the flavoured cider category begin to slow, it would appear that consumers are beginning to tire of them in the same way that they moved away from alcopops in recent years.

“While provenance was the trend that drove the craft cider boom in 2015, we predict authenticity will be the primary driver in 2016. According to the European Cider & Fruit Wine Association, cider can only be defined as made from the juice of fresh apples without additional sugars added. Perhaps this is why we are seeing such a boom in the apple category, as consumers begin to move towards that original, authentic taste. This presents an opportunity to focus on the core brands that sparked the initial cider surge such as Magners Original. As a brand that reinvented the cider category more than a decade ago, we believe we are now perfectly placed to reinvent the apple cider category once again.

“Draught cider is continuing its on-trade resurgence, up in both volume and value. We don’t expect this trend to slow down any time soon given the current levels of growth and so we will be continuing to introduce Magners Original in this format.”

Andrew Turner, on-trade category and trade marketing director, Heineken


Is cider still growing as a category?

“Sixty per cent of adults drink cider and rising. We expect the category to be worth £3.7bn by 2019 (Mintel Cider Report, January 2015), so there is real room for growth via innovation and premiumisation. Strongbow Dark Fruit has grown the category and is increasing in volume at double the rate of the draught cider category (CGA, year to November 28, 2015). It is, therefore, crucial for pubs to stock it as well as heritage variants such as Strongbow Cloudy Apple.

“World and niche ciders show strong performance. The Old Mout range from New Zealand, expanded in 2015 with Pomegranate & Strawberry. The brand is proving itself a driving force in the cider market, with its intriguing fruit flavours offering consumers the variety they are looking for. Last year also saw the launch of Blind Pig, a new range of premium ciders blended with fruit and spirit flavours inspired by US speakeasies of the 1920s, appealing to drinkers looking for an alternative high-end option.”

Is there room for more innovation?

“We are committed to working with customers to keep the momentum going and ensure the cider category remains relevant. Through a clear innovation strategy, we’re driving more consumers into the category and increasing the range of consumer occasions, leading to increased on-trade spend.”

Martin Thatcher, managing director, Thatchers


What are the major trends in on-trade cider?

“The market is getting tough but we’re bucking the trend. The category has been facing competition from beer, but cider is a great product, and we believe it is one of the greatest pleasures in life. In the on-trade, draught cider is the hero. Figures from CGA (year to 3 October, 2015) show draught cider accounting for 66% of volume sales in the on-trade, growing at 2.7%. Thatchers Gold is the UK’s second largest on-trade brand. Having been faced with the introduction of a raft of ciders from the big brewers in the past few years, consumers have come to realise that there is a choice and that there are ciders that offer the authentic apple cider experience.

“There’s been a trend towards contemporary cloudy ciders. Thatchers Haze is an aspirational cider for those who have been introduced to the cider category through fruit ciders and are now looking for an authentic apple cider, but aren’t quite ready for traditional cloudy cider just yet. It bridges that gap.”

How can pubs make cider more attractive?

“Pairing cider with food is a great way to extend the cider occasion from the bar and into the restaurant. Cider naturally enhances many styles of food, from spicy and aromatic curries, pasta and pizza, through to fish and chips. Bolder, richer ciders, such as Thatchers Vintage, can partner red meats, for example. The freshness of Thatchers Gold can cut through rich foods with ease. Thatchers Katy, which has lighter, fruitier tones, is a great match for seafood. So diverse is the nature of cider that there is a match for practically everything.”

Mark Johnson, managing director, Instil Drinks


What do you see as the most significant trends in cider in the on-trade?

“Cloudy is the style of the past 12 months, which has been driven by consumer perception that cloudy is more authentic and premium. Aside from provenance, those cues are what the consumer is looking for and the bigger brands have jumped on it as the easiest way to deliver without driving up their cost of production.”

Which segments offer most excitement in innovation?

“World craft ciders are well placed to deliver what the consumer is looking for, such as provenance, authenticity and interest, especially countries where high juice content and cider making expertise count, like France, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the USA — the wine-making countries whose tradition is to get the best out of fruit juice rather than bulk it out with water and fortified alcohols.”

Which parts of the market offer best growth prospects for 2016?

“The on-trade needs to focus on driving value growth. Craft ciders are best placed to encourage drinkers to trade up, especially when bars offer premium world cider on draught and premium bottled ciders with provenance that fit food offers.”

What is the next big untapped frontier for innovation?

“Non-traditional flavours that enhance the natural apple taste rather than dominate it. There are some fantastic premium hopped ciders where New World hops have been used to give a subtle fruity rather than bitter taste.”

Justin Wylde, category manager cider, Matthew Clark


What do you see as the most significant trends in cider in the on-trade from the past 12 months?

“Growth of premium cider is definitely driving the market and the rise of craft, whether UK or international. We’re starting to see more Spanish, French and American ciders in the UK market. The re-emergence of bag-in-box cider makes draught cider more accessible in terms of stock rotation, an advantage for an outlet that doesn’t have huge cellar space. Single apple variants highlighting specific flavour profiles have become much more popular.”

Which areas are offering most excitement in terms of innovation at the moment?

“People are opting for more serious ciders. New consumers to the market are much savvier when it comes to the heritage and provenance of a product and this is much more important to them when making a beverage choice. Premium craft is the market entry now; new kids on the block are looking for authenticity over familiarity.”

What do you see as the next big untapped area of innovation for cider producers?

“I’ll be tipping hopped ciders, which cross over the categories of cider and craft beer. We’re currently exploring a number of brands as exciting additions for our Perfectly Picked Ciders range.”

Sarah Allaway, category development manager, Carlsberg UK


What trends are providing growth in the on-trade?

“The cider category remains extremely popular among pubgoers and shows no sign of slowing down. With summer approaching, the peak sales period for cider, licenses should start planning now.

“Traditional styles are also proving popular as the trend towards discovery grows. Consumers are interested in exploring brands that are less well known or have a strong point of difference. People are embracing cider in a similar fashion to beer and food matching, cider festivals, flavour maps and more. Cider producers are constantly experimenting with apple flavour profiles and production methods, meaning the category never stands still.

“Growing the category in recent years has come down to innovation, particularly within the fruit cider sector. This has helped to introduce younger adults to cider, who often enjoy it during late-night occasions.

“It is also key that drinkers identify with brands. For example, the appearance of Lord Somersby, the face of Somersby cider, at music festivals has helped to connect the brand with consumers.”

Where do you see innovation coming?

“It’s an exciting time for cider as awareness of craft styles grows and suppliers continue to innovate. The craft boom has been felt across all sectors — from beers and ciders to spirits and wine — and we expect to see big developments through 2016 as producers and pubs continue to embrace the craft revolution.”

Gerry Doyle, sales and marketing manager, Brothers Drinks


Which segments of the market do you see as offering most excitement in terms of innovation?

“The flavoured cider market has become saturated with products as producers look to cash in on the growth, though lots of flavours have not been particularly original or offered much innovation. Brothers has launched Coconut & Lime cider, a completely original flavour, cashing in on the recent growth of coconut water. It is a different proposition and confirms our position as offering a point of difference against the mass of standard flavours available currently.

“In 2016, Brothers Cider will launch its hop-flavoured cider. Taking cues from the craft-ale market, Brothers Hop Cider is a lightly sparking blend of pear and apple ciders, infused with natural hop extract.”

What do you see as the next big untapped area of innovation for cider producers?

“Pairing cider with food is an untapped area of innovation, as great success has been seen in the area of food pairing with both wine and craft ale. Brothers Hop Cider is a great food pairing with both seafood and pasta dishes and can be used to offer Hop Cider as part of a meal deal, or as a suggested pairing alongside these dishes. With cocktails increasing in popularity, there is the opportunity to use flavoured ciders in cocktails as drinks of the month. Coconut & Lime cider goes fantastically well in a two-pint pitcher with crushed ice, 50ml Coconut Rum and a splash of pineapple juice. It is a fantastic summery cocktail serve that is a different way to serve cider.”

Geoff Bradman, commercial director, Westons


What do you see as the most significant trends?

“The premium sector is one of the main drivers and, within this, draught apple cider performs particularly well. Consumers are increasingly discerning and becoming used to better quality products and experiences, so we see this trend continuing through 2016. Cider is still one of the best performing on-trade categories, outperforming soft drinks, wine, and beer.”

What do you see as offering most excitement?

“There has been a big increase in the number of craft cider producers. We launched Caple Rd a year ago and have just expanded the range. Craft cider is predicted to be the second largest trend this year, according to CGA. As the craft cider market develops, it is important producers and consumers do not confuse craft and traditional ciders because the two styles are quite different. We have also seen strong growth within traditional ciders, with our bag-in-box range faring extremely positively. Our limited edition still ciders in 20-litre bag-in-box format have been very popular.”

Where will growth come?

“Our Mortimer’s Orchard, the super-premium cider made from 100% fresh English apple juice is driving sales as consumers look for quality experiences. There has also been a resurgence in cloudy cider, which has definitely helped the strong growth of our Old Rosie brand — including Rosie’s Pig — which is growing at 11.3% year-on-year (CGA, year to October 2015).”

Alison Pickering, brand director portfolio, Molson Coors


What are the major trends in the on-trade market?

“The market shift towards premiumisation has continued with consumers’ purchasing decisions being driven by quality and taste. Cider has come a long way and thanks to the work of brands like Rekorderlig, consumers now see it as an engaging, exciting and premium proposition. The category’s innovative approach to new product development has been welcomed, not only by cider lovers, but by beer drinkers looking for an alternative. This has seen fruit packaged cider gaining 13.6% during the past two years.

“Cider has evolved into a drink that can be enjoyed all year round. Rekorderlig’s category-defining Winter Cider returned for a sixth year, and has consistently performed well. The campaign focused on celebrating the drink’s versatility. It can be enjoyed either hot or cold, and consumers have a wealth of options when it comes to serves.

“Cider cocktails are a relatively new area, but one we expect to be huge. We fell that bartenders shouldn’t just confine flavoured cider to a glass with ice, and instead should take advantage of the innovative flavours on offer. All Rekorderlig’s variants have a perfect serve.

“Food pairing with cider adds an extra element of excitement. When matching flavoured cider to food start by looking at the fruit rather than the base of the cider. Rekorderlig Strawberry-Lime works wonders paired with many desserts, while Wild Berries lends itself to richer meals like game.”

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