Those who snubbed fruit cider as a passing fad in 2005 must be red in the face right now, since the segment has grown its reach significantly over the past decade, and continues to outperform the overall category when it comes to volume growth.
In the release of its Cider Report this year, cider maker Westons made a statement the doubters would consider bold, which was “fruit cider is here to stay”. On the face of it, the proclamation is a little daring, but delve down into the stats and the truth is clear.
“Fruit cider is now a firmly established part of the cider marketplace, most notably in the on-trade where draught fruit cider has delivered cider category growth in a challenging
marketplace,” summarises Westons MD and fourth generation cider maker Helen Thomas.
Thomas’s sentiment is not surprising, especially when considering the UK’s position as the world’s largest cider market. Cider on our shores is worth £2.98bn, with value sales growing at 3.5% in the past year and in volume by 2.2%, according to the report. What is striking is fruit cider already accounts for 27% of all UK cider sales, rising to 36% in the on-trade alone.
On the march
Mapping the growth of fruit cider makes for compelling reading; in 2005, the segment held virtually no market share, eventually reaching between 1% and 3% in the three years to 2010, before growth really began in 2011, when its share of the cider market reached 5%.
In 2005, just 500,000 litres of fruit cider were sold, representing 0.8% of total cider volume sales, the Cider Report says. Conversely, pear cider sales have been in a state of freefall, dropping from a high of 9% of total market share in 2012, to a paltry 6% in 2017.
By 2023, Westons predicts, fruit cider will account for half of all UK cider sales. Currently more than a third of on-trade cider volume sales are fruit and worth more than £714m.
While fruit is experiencing big growth, the bulk of sales are coming from draught and not packaged, which is perhaps the opposite of what many assume, given the array of bottled and canned products on the market.
So it makes sense when Darryl Hinksman, head of customer marketing and insight at Westons, says the future of the segment lies firmly within draught. “Fruit cider has grown significantly in a relatively short space of time, but that growth has mostly come from draught and that’s where we see it staying,” he explains.
The beauty of fruit cider is its approachability, as cider can be a challenging drink for some people. Hinksman agrees. “It’s a bit of a Marmite thing. It is breaking down those barriers. There was an element of stigma attached to fruit [being too sweet], but moving away from bottles and towards draught has helped with that.”
Breaking down the stigma has helped cider reach more age groups, sexes and areas of the country. Half of fruit cider drinkers, for instance, are aged 18 to 34, with 67% of those supping from the segment being female. By comparison, the male-female split across the wider category favours men, at 53% versus 47%.
As a result, the trade sees the segment as a recruiter, which introduces new drinkers to a wider world of cider, as well as driving innovation.
“We’re confident the fruit cider segment provides an entry to the wider category as a whole,” explains Hinksman. “Despite the growth, it’s still very early days for draught fruit, but the rate of sale is very high, suggesting that when it’s placed on the right bar, it can enhance an offer.”
The marketing and insight boss recommends operators tap into this by, at least, offering one draught apple cider and one draught fruit cider. For the right pub, with a higher rate of cider sales, a draught fruit cider like Westons’ Mortimer’s Orchard English Berry can be offered as a step up into super-premium.
Mixed variant fills gap
Within cider, there is a very distinct gap between standard and super-premium, though Westons’ Stowford Press Mixed Berries, launched in April, has filled this by offering an option somewhere between Strongbow Dark Fruit and Mortimer’s Orchard.
This is significant as 25.7m fruit pints were drunk in the on-trade last year, with the majority of sales coming from Strongbow Dark Fruits. Westons’ new launch plays into an untapped area of cider, which could generate sales from consumers who don’t want to drink Strongbow, yet find a product like Mortimer’s Orchard too high-end.
“We’ve been getting between 30 and 40 requests from operators a week to install Stowford Press Mixed Berries since we launched,” reveals Hinksman.
This new development from Westons shows how far the fruit segment has come and how far it can go. “Heineken has done a brilliant job with Strongbow Dark Fruit; it’s similar to the launch of Magners in the early 2000s, in that they’ve gone mainstream,” Hinksman adds.
“We’re going above entry level with Stowford Press Mixed Berries and we have a product above that with Mortimer’s Orchard English Berry. There’s an opportunity to put a longer ladder of choice in there.”
The future of the cider category is in draught fruit, Hinksman states. “The move is going to continue towards draught fruit. We’ve got a five-year strategic plan and our prediction is at the end of that, draught fruit will be half of the market.”
That said, there is still space for packaged fruit ciders but their time to shine will come later on, he believes. “Cans will have a role to play in the longer term, but their growth isn’t happening yet. However, as bottles decline, canned is growing into that space – but more in the off-trade than the on-trade for the time being.”
Any doubts people may have had about the success of fruit cider, it is safe to say, should be well and truly quashed. The segment is in rude health with growth predicted long into the future. However, only time will tell whether cider can stand taller than other heavy-volume categories further down the line.