Cider sales have climbed to more than £1bn this year, the first time the sector has hit the milestone figure since 2014, according to Nielsen.

Sales of the drink rose 5.5% during the 12 months ending July 15, with warm weather at the beginning of the summer helping to increase demand, epos data from 20,000 UK shops reveals.

Cider sales from the middle of May to the middle of July increased 16% compared to the previous year, but the research company warned that sales were too reliant on warm weather.

Helen Stares, a Nielsen expert on the liquor industry, said: “This is extremely welcome news for cider manufacturers after what’s been a sustained period of struggle.

“However, it also highlights how highly dependent the cider industry is on good weather – essentially it’s been brought back into growth off the back of some near record-breaking temperatures.”

Cider brands such as Thatchers, Kopparberg and Rekorderlig all experienced strong annual growth this year. However, Strongbow remains the biggest cider brand, with a 28% market share.

Stares added: ”Cider is arguably the most reliant alcohol on good weather in terms of consumer behaviour. Its key to long term and sustainable growth is making itself more attractive to people outside of the BBQ season, as indicated by our preliminary data showing sales dropped off quite notably once the weather worsened from late July.”

Retailers agreed that cider sales were currently booming. Conrad Davies, owner of five Spar stores in North Wales, said: “Alcohol is going really well at the moment as we come out of the summer season. Fruity ciders are particularly popular and generally any NPD within the cider category tends to sell well. Heineken’s new Bulmers Orchard Pioneers cider, which comes in Cloudy Apple and Red Apple flavours, are on their own display and they look really good.”

Richard Inglis, from Parkview Retail in Southampton, added: “Cider has definitely grown in importance over the past couple of years. What people seem to like is the trendy, slightly rustic feel that you get from brands such as Kopparberg. When you pick up the bottle, It’s like a ‘real ale’ approach.”