Cider lowdown: how's the category performing?

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

How are cider sales performing in 2019?
Cider remains a growing category but there is more work to do when it comes to the traditional apple variant and perry.

The cider category overall has seen an uplift in both volume and value sales according to CGA figures – rising by 1.9% and 4% respectively in the 12 months to 29 December 2018 when compared to the previous year.

When this is broken down into subcategories, draught and fruit are performing the best. Volume sales for draught are up by 5.5% and value by 8.3%.

Fruit cider has enjoyed volumes sales growth of 14.2% and a value sales increase of 15%.

However, it wasn’t all good news as packaged, apple and pear cider all saw declines across the amount consumed and spent on cider.

Volume sales of packaged cider fell by 7.2% and volume dropped by 4.1%. Apple saw a decrease of 4.2% in volume and 2.1% in value.

However, pear cider saw the biggest decline from 55,269HL (hectolitres) to 41,039HL – a fall of 25.8%. The figures with value were similar as it fell from £41.4m to £31.3m – down by 24.5%.

CGA client director Phillip Montgomery says: “The cider category continues to see growth in the GB on-trade, outperforming all established long alcohol drink (LAD) categories and attaining more and more visibility in outlets up and down the land.

“The key driver of this continued momentum for cider has been the proliferation of draught fruit cider, which has well and truly entrenched itself at the centre of a licensee’s core offer.

“Growing at 14.2% and with three out of the top five NPDs (new product development) in cider being fruit, it looks like its influence will continue to grow, which can only be good news for cider generally.”

Westons cider has seen an increase in consumption for the drink outside of traditional cider-drinking areas.

Head of business development Darryl Hinksman says: “The cider category continues to perform strongly in the UK with value sales of £1.94bn across cider and perry in the on-trade – up 4% year on year.

“We are seeing strong volume sales for cider in non-traditional cider drinking regions such as Lancashire and Yorkshire, and this can be attributed to the popularity of fruit ciders in these areas.”

He also outlines how the cider category is flourishing thanks to a change in consumer tastes and his predictions for this sub-category.

Hinksman adds: “Sales of fruit ciders are flourishing and this is driven by the vast number of consumers seeking out sweeter, refreshing flavours.

“Fruit ciders represent 40% of volume sales and this is up 14.2% year on year. More than 205m fruit pints are now consumed in the on-trade and draught fruit cider has become a key driver for on-trade sales, up 35.7% year on year.

“Based on the growing demand for fruit cider nationwide, we expect it to account for half of all cider sold by 2023.

“Last year, we brought Stowford Press Mixed Berries to the market. This provided an opportunity for the on-trade to drive greater value into the fruit cider category with a premium mainstream offering.

“The consumer thirst for Stowford Press Mixed Berries was incredible and its success smashed even our own ambitious targets.”

Core offer

While apple cider stats show some decline, Hinksman highlights why operators shouldn’t ignore the original cider variant.

“Apple cider continues to dominate the on-trade with a 60% share of the market and a big role to play in the category. This is especially true for premium and traditional apple ciders,” he says.

“Apple cider is ripe for growth in the on-trade as the market continues to both premiumise and diversify.

“This diversification is demonstrated by the growing success of cloudy and hazy ciders. We also can’t ignore the ever-growing thirst for fruit cider up and down the country.

“These drinks are bringing new consumers into the cider market by broadening appeal for non-traditional cider drinkers such as women and younger drinkers. As a result, fruit cider is driving incremental sales.”

Hinksman also comments on the variety of packaged cider available and how the growing demand for fruit cider is also pushing draught.

He says: “As for draught compared to bottled or canned, the draught market is a crucial driver of volume sales in the on-trade. Some 74% of on-trade cider volume is sold via draught, compared to 26% in bottles or cans. We are also seeing more consumers choosing draught cider – volume sales are up by 5.5%.

“Fruit cider provides an opportunity for outlets to recruit new consumers and drive incremental sales, so operators should consider dedicating a third of their cider offering to fruit and drive outlet value sales by choosing a premium mainstream option.

“While fruit cider is fast growing, it is crucial that operators don’t neglect apple cider because it represents the majority of draught serves.”

Operators need to ensure they give drinkers a choice of ciders on the bar in order to please punters, according to Hinksman.

He adds: “Outlets with one cider tap at the bar should prioritise an apple cider that reflects and reinforces the positioning of the site, while outlets with three or more taps – denoting a high-volume cider outlet – should stock one draught fruit cider.

“Packaged fruit cider tends to be more suited to higher tempo occasions in wet-led outlets. When fridge space allows, experiment with a range of ciders but ensure one bottle is an apple variant and one is a fruit variant.”

Donated fruit

Local cider maker The Garden Cider Company produces hand-crafted products sourced entirely from locally sourced, donated apples.

The business relies on garden fruit donations from more than 4,000 households that bring their spare fruit in return for a share of the cider, which they receive for free.

Co-founder Will Filby gives his insight into the cider market and how he makes his business work.

He says: “The cider market is incredibly buoyant at the moment but what is particularly encouraging for us is that we have noticed an increasing demand for drinks with local provenance and a story to tell.

“Sustainability is a key pillar of our approach to cider making and there is growing support and recognition for this from consumers and retailers alike.

“There is a great tradition of cider making in the UK and we are passionate about reviving this. It is clear that not all ciders are equal and there is a lively debate in our category at the moment over what constitutes real cider, however, it is generally agreed that real cider must be made from 90% real apple juice.

“This is being headed by organisations like the Small Independent Cidermakers’ Association and the Campaign for Real Ale’s Real Cider and Perry committee.”

When it comes to trends, authenticity is something that isn’t going away according to Filby. He adds: “The emphasis on natural, authentic ingredients fits with the premiumisation of

the drinks market. This movement is helping to change the image of cider.

“Unlike wine and beer, cider lacks long-established styles and categories that have helped people promote and understand these drinks.

“This has been one of the greatest challenges for cider, however, with the UK’s first pommeliers being accredited by the Beer and Cider Academy in September 2018 and an increasing number of new brands on the cider scene, it is an exciting time for us and shows that cider is a product to be taken seriously.

“Flavoured ciders remain the driving force in the market. We added a blueberry cider to our range last year and are developing a new fruit flavour that will be launched in the summer.

“Customers are definitely becoming more aware and conscious of the amount of alcohol they are consuming and we have found some people are turning to cider due to its lower ABV, which is typically between 4% and 5%.”

Filby also has his say on packaged cider and lays out the pros and cons of serving and storing cider in different ways.

“Bottled cider is easier to store than draught so if you are looking to extend your range or try new flavours, bottled is the way to go.

“It is also a much quicker and easier serve for bar staff, which can reduce waiting times and have an impact on profitability during busy periods.

“That said, it is important not to overstock the fridge because a cluttered display will confuse customers and could impact on sales, so ensure there is sufficient space to display the range clearly.”

Overall, cider sales are still increasing thanks to the growth of draught and fruit variants but operators should ensure they have a decent range of options available for drinkers to quench all thirsts and keep them coming back to the bar.

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