The apple may have been forbidden to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but fortunately for cider drinkers that sentiment is no longer an issue. Latest trends and consumer analysis of the segment indicate that the apple is well and truly back in vogue.
FUTURE TRENDS: BEER AND CIDER
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It is certainly not the done thing to ignore the apple, especially when it comes to the upper end of the category.
Premiumisation is a trend that has hit all areas of alcohol and food in pubs and cider is no exception to that.
Aspall recently launched a premium, mid-strength cider, ‘Aspall Cyder’ in a bid to satisfy growing demand for such products.
Along with premium, ‘craft’ is emerging as a continuing trend within the category, according to Heineken cider director Emma Sherwood-Smith.
“Artisanal apple is the new category segment we’ve identified,” she says.
“This is the premium end of the market for those who are buying cider for a lower-energy occasion, perhaps as an accompaniment to food.
“These brands – made with British cider apples – are popular both on draught and in bottles but when we use the word ‘craft’ here we use it quite separately from how we talk about craft beer.
“In cider, craft translates more as ‘rooted in tradition’. Craft cider lovers will look for strong orchard credentials from the key cider-producing areas such as Herefordshire.”
While craft and premium are important in putting together a cider offer, there are other trends serious cider operators should look to.
“Cider is sociable and is ideal for sharing, whether with food or on its own,” says Thatcher’s Cider fourth generation cider maker Martin Thatcher.
“Our premium bottled ciders are available in 500ml bottles and our Thatchers Family Reserve sparkling apple wine is presented in a 750ml bottle, ideal for serving at special occasion events.
“At 11% ABV, this sparkling apple wine rediscovers the recipe for ‘Champagne cider’ crafted by founder William Thatcher in the early 1900s.”
Kopparberg senior marketing manager Rob Salvesen echoes Thatcher’s comments, agreeing that the sharing occasion cannot be ignored.
“Over the past year and heading into 2017, the sharing occasion and products that access this have started to gain some momentum,” he adds.
“Following the success of its limited-edition KopparKeg last summer, Sparkling Rose Cider has been launched by the maker to fit into the shareable cider occasion.
“It aims to extend fruit cider into the traditional ‘sparkling wine’ drinking occasion. Currently exclusive to the off-trade, the 750ml Sparkling Rose Cider will be made available to the on-trade from April 2017.”
Another sharing product is Heineken’s Cidrerie Stassen, made by the Stassen family in Belgium, which has been producing cider since 1895.
The sparkling cider comes in Champagne-style bottles and is aimed at high-end pubs and bars.
Sherwood-Smith adds: “We’re driving sharing ciders in premium outlets with this product and there are three varieties, including a Brut, Cuvée Rosé and Grand Cru.”
Matt Slocombe, licensee of the Crown Inn at Woolhope, Herefordshire, and winner of the Great British Pub Awards (GBPA) Best Cider Pub 2015, is an advocate of sharing cider.
He says: “Sharing platters are all the rage with food, so why don’t we do it more with drinks? We are about to start bottling and canning a really premium presented 500ml bottle, which will be higher in strength and treated more like a wine. The kind of product to be sipped, not gulped. Tell people to share a bottle, have a wine-sized glass with your meal.”
However, the licensee of the 2016 GBPA Best Cider Pub does not necessarily agree sharing cider is a trend consumers will buy into. Jason Allison, manager of Foleys Tap House, Leeds, says: “Sharing cider seems reminiscent of the beer scene, but I am unsure it will catch on because I don’t think we have that culture.”
But, Allison predicts a different style of presentation will be the next big thing in the cider world, takings its inspiration from beer.
“Canning will be the next trend because you tend to find cider follows the beer world. It seems to have taken a little while for suppliers to home in on it as it is a little trickier than beer to can.
“For beer, it is straightforward, but for cider, thanks to the acid content in a lot of them, it was reacting with the insides of the cans. This meant it was kicking in secondary fermentation and making it undrinkable or not as desired.”
Another notable trend, which is unlikely to surprise operators, is fruit flavoured cider, which saw a huge rise in volume sales.
Kopparberg’s Salvesen says drinks don’t need to be trendy, but instead must be relevant and this is what will drive the category for the next 12 months and beyond.
“When fruit cider was launched in 2007, the landscape of cider changed dramatically for consumers with a strong focus on flavour and innovation and this is what has driven growth within the category over the past several years and where it has left the other sub-categories struggling,” he adds.
“Apple and pear producers are just now taking note of this and it is starting to have a positive effect on the overall category with declines slowing in the wake of the introduction of craft and heritage offerings.
“New craft and heritage offerings from the apple and pear producers are doing a great job in communicating premium positioning to consumers through visual cues and are offering operators a point of difference and talking point through heritage and provenance at the point of purchase.
“As a result, mainstream products are being de-listed but heritage and craft brands are on the up.”
Thatchers Cider has also returned to its roots after launching two new craft ciders in 330ml cans this year under its Stan’s range. Barrel Roller and Leaf Twister are a response to the demand for craft ciders.
Craft cider potential
Thatcher says: “Craft cider has huge potential – and it’s something that we’ve been at the heart of for four generations.
“Our traditional ciders have had a very loyal following, particularly in the West Country, throughout Thatchers’ history, so this resurgence comes as no surprise to us.”
Westons is another brand that has tapped into the craft market with its Caple Rd Cider being the fastest growing draught product.
Head of customer marketing and insight Darryl Hinksman says: “Caple Rd leads the way in modern, small-batch cider production, with an image that presses all the right craft buttons and, of course, the perfect branded glass!”
With the cider category continuously expanding, now spirits brands want a piece of the action, too.
Smirnoff Cider entered the fruit cider category last summer (June 2016) with the launch of its blend of fruit flavours and vodka – Passionfruit & Lime and Raspberry & Pomegranate variants.
But this isn’t Smirnoff owner Diageo’s first foray into cider after it launched Pimm’s Cider Cup in March 2015.
The 4% ABV fruit spirit-cider infusion, made from Pimm’s No.1 and British cider, blended with Pimm’s strawberry and cucumber flavours, was supported with a £1.1m campaign.
The latest brand to jump on the proverbial bandwagon is Jack Daniel’s (JD), which is launching its whiskey-blended Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Cider to the on-trade.
The 5.5% ABV cider is blended with JD’s Tennessee Whiskey and will be rolled out in 330ml bottles across UK pubs and restaurants from 1 May.
Vodka brands, whiskey brands and original cider makers are all joining forces to jump on the cider bandwagon, and illustrating in the process that the apple is forbidden no more.