Cider’s bounce back to popularity in the blazing summer of 2006 may have been cut short by the unhelpful weather since, but suppliers have done well out of the drink’s association with summertime. Now they are looking to get shoppers to look at cider as a year-round proposition – and possibly even a Christmas favourite.

The signs of a shift are reflected in a survey conducted by Gaymers, in which 81% of respondents in the drinks industry said that cider’s growth has been at the expense of lager. “Cider has been the fastest-growing drinks category for three years, and it’s extremely encouraging to see that the trade shares our view that this growth is here to stay,” says Gaymer Cider Company managing director John Mills. “It’s my view that brand investment is the key to the future. 

“Faddy fruit flavours are in danger of devaluing the market. The future is in quality ciders, which you can’t make with fruit other than apples or pears.” 

Halewood International’s Nigel Tarn agrees that new products and energy will be needed to sustain interest in the category. “Perhaps the biggest challenge is the need for innovative npd,” he says. “If you shop the fixture you can see real innovation has slowed and in recent months we’ve seen additional entrants giving their take on cider without delivering any real innovation.”

In-cider tips
John Mills of the Gaymer Cider Company has these tips for retailers:

● Offer choice, not duplication. Go for some skus that are a bit different.
● Display ciders next to lagers on aisle ends to present them as an alternative to beers.
● Have a premium range and feature top-quality locally-produced ciders. Try running ‘pick and mix’ offers of beers and ciders.
● Chill your ciders – put price-marked multipacks in the chiller. They will be a big hit at Christmas parties.
Carol Saunders, head of customer marketing at Scottish and Newcastle UK, also cites extensions to known brands as the way foward. “Our premium brands have new offerings to help create trial, excitement and interest in the drinks aisle,” she says. “Jacques Orchard Fruits offers an alternative specifically created for females. As with the Fruits of the Forest variant, it’s sold in a large wine-sized bottle to provide a ‘sharing’ serve.

“Bulmers Original portfolio, which includes Bulmers Pear, also offers a lower-calorie variant of the brand in Bulmers Light, which is a good opportunity when health-conscious consumers are looking to avoid too much over-indulgence throughout the party season.”

Magners is also innovating, with the roll out of a mid-strength cider with half the alcohol content of Magners Original. “There’s an untapped market for a great tasting product with a lower abv,” says Scott Fairbairn, marketing manager at Magners. “Magners Mid Strength is perfect for occasions where limited alcohol consumption is preferable.”

Above all, Mills says, the category needs to provide choice. “Not all ciders are the same and, as the cider category grows, consumers have become more knowledgeable about the variety of brands, and increasingly seek a wide choice of quality ciders.

“It’s important that the trade keeps up with the growth in cider and offers a full and varied range of differentiated brands – not just ‘me too’s’ – especially within premium cider.”