In association with Westons

Fruit cider sales rising faster than expected

By Nigel Huddleston

- Last updated on GMT

Juicy: fruit cider sales on the increase
Juicy: fruit cider sales on the increase
You can tell a drinks market category has reached genuine scale when experts talk in terms of the number of Olympic swimming pools its annual sales could fill.

In cider’s case, that figure is 329, which translates into 822m litres, worth £3.1bn – and Westons Cider, in its 2019 Cider Market Report, predicts that at least half of them will be filled with fruit cider by 2022.

In last year’s report, the producer forecast that wouldn’t happen until 2023 but such has been the rapidity of growth it has revised its prediction forward by 12 months.

The start of summer 2019 heralds the year of fruit cider for the on-trade, with the promise of several more to come it would seem.

Value and volume growth

Westons insight and innovation manager Matthew Langley says: “Last year, we predicted that fruit cider would account for half of all ciders sold by 2023.

The importance of apple

This may be the year of fruit cider, but apple remains a key player, as Darryl Hinksman, head of business development at Westons Cider explains: “Apple cider continues to dominate the on-trade with a 60% share of the market and a big role to play. This is especially true for premium and traditional apple ciders.

“Apple cider is ripe for growth in the on-trade as the market continues to both premiumise – with offerings such as Mortimer’s Orchard – and diversify. This diversification is demonstrated by the growing success of cloudy and hazy ciders.

He continues: “It’s crucial operators don’t neglect apple cider as it represents the majority of draught serves. 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 suited to higher tempo occasions in wet-led outlets. Where fridge space allows, experiment with a cider range – but ensure one bottle is an apple-led variant and one bottle is a fruit-led variant.”

“But with fruit already accounting for 40% of volume – up from 36% last year – we estimate that this is now likely to happen a year earlier than our original prediction.”

The on-trade has 62% share of the total cider market by value, not far shy of £2bn in annual sales, with the average pub selling 5,157 pints of draught cider and 1,479 bottles each year (CGA figures in the Westons Cider Report 2019).

Within that, fruit cider has value sales of £826.9m and grew 14.2% by volume and 15% by value in 2018.

The number of fruit ciders in the top 20 draught cider brands has risen from two to four, with Carling Black Fruit and Magners Dark Fruit entering the lower reaches of the chart.

Strongbow Dark Fruit is now number two among draught ciders, behind only Strongbow apple.

Fruit dominating

In packaged on-trade cider, three of the top five are fruit ciders, with Kopparberg occupying the top two places and Rekorderlig Strawberry & Lime at number four.

Overall, packaged cider is in decline in the on-trade, by 4.1% in value last year, with draught cider growing by 8.3% and accounting for just under three quarters of all on-trade cider sales.

“Packaged cider is in long-term, sustained decline in the on-trade,” says Langley, “in part driven by a lack of innovative new products breaking through, so there is a real opportunity for operators to try something new and different with their cider selection in the fridge.”

The big casualty of fruit cider’s rise has been pear cider, whose sales plummeted by more than a quarter last year, and which now accounts for just 1% of the on-trade market.

Launched in trends response

Apple cider has been more resilient and still accounts for the lion’s share of all on-trade cider sales, with 59% market share, with craft and premium brands helping to put the brakes on any decline.

But the steady drift towards fruit cider has led to a lot of the category’s innovation being focused in that part segment. Westons’ own Stowford Press Mixed Berries was launched in April 2018 and 1m litres were consumed within the first year.

Head of marketing Sally McKinnon says: “We launched it in response to recognised trends within the fruit cider market having identified that there was a clear opportunity in the marketplace to introduce a more premium fruit offer.

“It has become the most successful launch within the history of the Westons Cider business, selling 1.7m pints to date.”

Stowford Press Mixed Berries will have a new look this year as part of a refresh for the premium cider brand as a whole, with both the fruit and apple versions being equipped with a 3D pump clip with an enhanced colour palette – dominated by bold purple in the case of Mixed Berries. There’s also new PoS to highlight the refreshed look.

McKinnon says: “The updated look and striking pump clips will strengthen the brand’s position as a premium mainstream option and make it even easier for cider drinkers to recognise Stowford Press in outlets.”

Cider Fans

Westons Cider Report 2019 identifies ‘fruit cider fanatics’ as one of four main types of cider drinker in the on-trade.

A survey for the company by Cambridge Market Research put one in four cider drinkers in this category which tends to be made up of young women aged 18 to 34, with a northern England bias.

They have a sweet tooth in their cider preferences with fruit ciders such as Stowford Press Mixed Berries and Westons’ super-premium fruit cider Mortimer’s Orchard English Berry favoured choices.

“They’re not interested in provenance, heritage and all those craft cues,” says Matthew Langley at Westons. “They’re interested in whether it tastes nice and whether it goes with their particular type of evening.”

Another significant group for fruit cider are the ‘cider enthusiasts’. These make up 13% of on-trade cider drinkers and are again typically aged 18 to 34 but, this time, with just a slight skew towards women, and a higher concentration in the south and Midlands.

“These are really enthusiastic in all things cider,” says Langley. “They’ll drink fruit ciders and apple ciders.”

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