Anne Claypole, category controller at Kopparberg wants the on-trade poised to win as doors reopen in just a few weeks’ time.
The key to success is in ranging decisions, creating Covid-safe environments, ensuring the perfect serve is delivered and that premium point of sale is visible in outlet, to entice customers back.
With fruit cider anticipated to be in the highest demand of all beer, wine and spirits categories in beer-gardens this spring, stocking the bestselling brands is imperative with operators under more pressure than ever to put sales through their tills.
Prior to the pandemic, Kopparberg Mixed Fruit and Strawberry & Lime were the number one and two packaged ciders in the on-trade, according to CGA, and during lockdown, the brand has gone from strength to strength with 53% of all fruit cider buyers purchasing Kopparberg in the off-trade in 2020 versus the nearest fruit cider competitor saw only 23% market share in Kantar figures.
This is vital for operators to take note of, with over 75% of consumers saying that they will continue to or will start drinking the brands in the on-trade once it reopens that they have enjoyed at home during lockdown, according to CGA data.
Keeping the offering exciting with seasonal trends and draught options will also prove integral. As tropical flavours dominate the fastest growing current drinks trends, no brand is better positioned for success by bringing out a new tropical variant as Kopparberg.
Kopparberg Mixed Fruit Tropical is available now, with a limited-edition bottle and can arriving in May. The new limited-edition has been developed to create cut-through and appeal with younger customers and is sure to standout in beer gardens and create intrigue and excitement.
Finally, premium assets and point of sale visible in-venue, such as mobile draught bars to create an additional pouring point in beer-gardens are not only there to increase volume and speed of serve for operators, but importantly ensure that the customer is not waiting too long for their drink (in what’s expected to be a very busy beer-garden!).
Sharing serve solutions such as cider towers and sharing pitchers will also support fewer trips back to the table for busy staff, whilst creating excitement at the table for customers.
With British Summer Time officially underway and Britain gradually working its way through the Government’s roadmap, it’s not just lighter evenings and warmer weather that’s bounced back – the nation’s collective mindset is slowly ticking towards “glass half full”.
Speaking of filling glasses, should everything proceed as planned, it won’t be long before parched pub goers are allowed to return to their local’s beer garden – with more than half (51%) of consumers earmarking a return within the first few weeks of reopening, according to CGA.
What’s more, one-in-three intend to go out as much as possible, with a “catch up with friends” the top choice of occasion (26%) – playing into big group occasion of cider, according to the research consultancy’s analysis.
“This year, more than ever before, in the initial phase of opening it will be vital for operators to get their ranging right,” Anne Claypole, category controller at Swedish cider maker Kopparberg says.
“High turn stock products will ensure that cash flow is optimised, and our pubs and bars will get back on their feet faster – slow moving lines collecting dust will not help.”
Darryl Hinksman, head of business development at Westons Cider, adds: “The long-awaited re-opening of the on-trade and easing of some restrictions coincides with the summer cider season for the UK, meaning cider will continue to play a key role in helping venues across the country recover from the impact of the pandemic.”
The on-trade draw
According to CGA data from the first raft of lockdown measures in spring and early summer 2020, cider drinkers missed the experience of stopping by their local for a pint – despite having the pick of fruity pours stacked on supermarket shelves.
When the trade returned in July, cider outperformed categories such as wine and spirits according to CGA’s On Premise Measurement Service 2020, largely due to the shift towards staying local and pubs, according to the data and research consultancy.
“With outdoor table service the order of the day, operators will need to prioritise what will provide their customers the most memorable experience, first time,” Rob Sandall, on-trade sales director at Thatchers Cider says.
“Growing cider sales is all about creating a memorable experience,” he continues. “With such variety in the cider category, enjoying new and exciting ciders is a journey of discovery.”
Kopparberg’s Claypole continues: “Whilst packaged still performs strongly, it is worthwhile noting that draught fruit cider is in strong growth and because this serve is more difficult or costly for consumers to recreate in their own home.
“We expect to see massive demand for draught when the on trade reopens. Attention should be paid to this when considering range and front of bar space.”
Despite combined on-trade sales volume of the top ten cider brands being almost halved by Covid-19 according to The Morning Advertiser’s latest Drinks List, Claypole adds that it’s, nonetheless, essential that operators don’t simply write off brand habits from the past 12 months.
“Looking back at 2020 informs the decisions operators should consider when choosing their range for reopening,” she explains.
“Over 75% of consumers saying that they will continue to or start drinking the brands in the on-trade that they have enjoyed at home during lockdown reinforces the importance of ensuring ranging is right and customers are not left disappointed.”
Tis the season
Seasonality playing a key role in on-trade cider sales should come as no surprise, with warmer weather and beer gardens activating the nation’s sweet tooth year after year.
According to CGA’s Recovery Tracker 2020, the Government-backed Eat Out to Help Out scheme in tandem with one of the hottest summers on record, boosted the cider category by 66% in the week commencing 10 August.
What’s more, hours of sunshine gave category sales a 14% boost versus rainy days last summer according to the data and research consultancy’s findings.
“We know that seasonality plays a major role in fruit cider sales,” according to Westons’ Darryl Hinksman.
“With all drinkers outside in beer gardens, whatever the weather, until mid-May at the earliest as venues adhere to Covid-19 regulations, the cider category has an opportunity to entice even more drinkers this summer."
CGA forecasts that outdoor spaces such as beer gardens reopening from 12 April will play into the hands of the cider category.
In Spring 2019, an uplift of 22% value was seen for community pubs with gardens versus ones without with draught cider experiencing a 17% boost in sales in these outlets and packaged cider up 30%.
“Operators should take note of seasonal heavyweights and capitalise on them to avoid disappointment for their customers,” Kopparberg’s Claypole adds.
“As the weather gets warmer it’s usual to see an uplift across all beer, wine and spirit categories, with the highest uplift seen in the cider category as customers crave that long, refreshing and fruity serve to quench their thirst.”
Don’t miss out, these are the ciders your customers will be asking for this summer
Are you ready for a cider summer?
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So which ciders should you choose to help drive sales this summer?
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By adding Thatchers Haze to Thatchers Gold on draught, appealing to both drier and sweeter tastes, the average bar sells 23% more cider.*
To appeal to the growing number of people looking to moderate, include Thatchers Zero, the new-to-market alcohol-free cider that’s changing perceptions with its crisp, medium dry character and fruity aroma.
Zero retains the taste and character of a true cider and is the #1 low/no apple cider in the off trade***. Zero is a must-stock for any bar looking to offer an alcohol-free alternative choice to their discerning customers.
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*CGA February 2020
**Kantar 52 w/e 27 Dec 2020
***IRI w/e 27 February 2021
Experimenting with flavour
While apple cider continues to represent the majority of draught serves, the fast-growing fruit cider category currently accounts for a third of all cider sales on tap in the on-trade (29.9%).
Regardless of many cider traditionalists maintaining that fruity pours “aren’t proper cider”, the point remains that consumer clamour makes them a must serve and that operators should be prepared to experiment.
“When considering the range to reopen with, there is no doubt the UK population have a love for specific flavours of their drinks as we’ve mentioned, but to keep things interesting for their consumers, operators should consider introducing a single new flavour from the number of new flavours that are introduced annually by producers in line with emerging trends,” Kopparberg’s Claypole explains.
This comes after Kopparberg launched a Mixed Fruit Tropical limited-edition bottle and can in time for the summer off the back of data revealing that tropical is the fastest growing profile across other drinks categories.
What’s more, the founder of Klynk ventures, a company which works closely with new and disruptor brands to connect them to retailers and shoppers, Hamish Clarke, explains that the range of brands and taste profiles within cider has transformed in recent years.
“In much the same way that we say beer taste change at the start of the craft beer revolution we see the same interest in ciders from curios consumers,” he says. “So while there has been lateral growth in cider mainly through fruit flavours, we think its worth publicans include some new ideas when looking at what to stock.”
How’d you like them apples?
In 2019, five million pints of apple cider were being poured every week – around 70% of all draught cider sales.
As such despite the exponential growth of fruit and experimental cider flavours, publicans will be well served by remembering to position apple at the core of their cider offer.
However, according to Rob Sandall, on-trade sales director at Thatchers, this doesn’t mean sacrificing variety, with more than 458 different varieties of apples growing in the cidermaker’s orchards alone.
“With the traditional cider flavours that come from bittersweet apples, to the fresher, contemporary ciders from dessert apples, there really is a cider for every taste,” he explains. “Refreshing flavours of ciders are always a hit during the summer months – just as they are throughout the year.”
Chance to reach younger customers
According to CGA, the move towards table service and apps – for the short term at least – offers cidermakers the chance for educate younger consumers around cider flavours and heritage directly, rather than competing in the fridge or on the bar with other categories.
In addition to data revealing that 41% of 18–24-year-olds say they’d prefer to order on an app even when vaccinations are completed, beer gardens are expected to be flooded with younger consumers when trading resumes this summer, according to Kopparberg’s Anne Claypole.
The ‘perfect serve’
According Claypole, the “perfect serve” will never go out of fashion when enjoying the Swedish cider maker’s range in the on-trade.
“When customers return to the on-trade, they’ll be looking for excitement by way of premiumisation and the perfect serve, which is now more important than ever as consumers eagerly anticipate that first drink back,” she says.
“A perfect cold pint of cider or an over ice serve with fruit garnishes in a branded glass is exactly what consumers have been waiting for, anything sub-standard will be met with disappointment as consumers flock back to the on-trade, hotly anticipating their most loved drinks.”
However, Claypole, adds that the clamour to see friends and loved ones this summer could drive a trend for sharing options in the on-trade as pub goers seek to maximise time spent socialising, rather than trying to get the attention of staff.
“To increase volume and upweight on serves we also recommend the use of a sharing serve, such as multi-serve draught cider towers to hold up to five pints, pitchers, and wire carriers for pint glasses, when serving groups,” she says.
“These solutions allow less or quicker interaction with customers, as well as convenience for busier staff when table service is still going to be heavily relied upon.”
Rachel Knowles of Sussex cidermaker Silly Moo believes that the “most exciting” trend in cider is the revolves around local producers, transparency and what she refers to as “discerning drinking”.
“The resurgence in craft makers is a revolution against the commercial producers' drive for efficiency, which inevitably leads to a detriment of diversity in aroma and flavour that real ciders can provide,” she says.
“We are big believers in sessionability,” Knowles adds. “We prefer quaffing cider to sipping cider and think good ciders need to have plenty of character, with well-balanced tannin, sweetness and acidity matched with a sessionable alcohol content. So the real question is, one pint or two?”
Klynk ventures’ founder Hamish Clarke concurs that consumers are increasingly interested in the presence and traceability of the brands they consume.
“What Covid has done is allow smaller bands to grab some of this attention,” he says. “In much the same way as we see some of the craft brewers behaving – on-trend and engaging packaging, language that reflect a younger more digitally engaged consumer and local stories, we have seen this replicated by an emerging new wave of cider makers.”
An apple a day…
A third of UK adults moderating their alcohol intake and two-thirds (65%) proactively trying to lead a healthier lifestyle offers a unique opportunity for cider brands and publicans to tap into, according to John Gemmell of Heineken UK - whose cider brands include Strongbow and Old Mout.
“With health and moderation becoming increasingly prevalent in drinkers’ lives, no and low alternatives are becoming a must stock feature so health-conscious consumers feel part of the occasion,” he says.
“At the start of 2020, the no and low alcohol sector was worth £94m in the UK – a 0.6% share of total beer and cider – and £8m in Scotland.”