The ensuing sunshine and lighter evenings paved the way for producers and licensees alike to enjoy a phenomenally successful trading period – one that is now set to continue into the summer months and beyond.
There’s no doubt that cider will be one of the main summer drinks trends in the on-trade, particularly considering its lower duty rate and therefore higher margin compared to beer, but with constant innovation and evolving consumer demand afoot, which trends are likely to drive this growth over the summer?
“The evolution of the cider category has created two different types of premium quality cider which play slightly different roles in the cider drinker’s repertoire,” says Darryl Hinksman, head of on-trade customer marketing for Heineken UK. “The first includes those… where innovation is key to their success. The limited edition series for Bulmers is a good example.
“The second is ‘craft’ brands, where provenance and heritage come to the fore. We know that consumers are increasingly seeking brands which give a large focus to their authenticity and heritage.”
While the cider category in the on-trade has grown 1.5 per cent to December 2010, according to CGA data, those cider brands experimenting with new flavours, such as Bulmers Red Apple and Brothers Tutti Frutti, have seen a huge leap in sales over the past year.
Swedish producer Koppaberg saw sales increase 50 per cent across the on and off trade during 2010, and as such has invested an additional £2m into its marketing strategy for 2011.
The pear cider category has also seen a leap in sales, contributing more growth to the category over the past year than any other segment.
And although unpopular with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which deems ciders containing more than 5 per cent of another fruit as “unreal”, fruit ciders are once more expected to be one of the main drivers of the cider category this summer.
“There aren’t so many artisan suppliers producing it because it’s not classed as real within CAMRA, which is a shame because the sector is obviously growing,” says artisan cider producer Simon Reed of Rough Old Wife in Kent, who has seen a soaring demand for his wares in the past year.
“It’s a good way of introducing younger people, who may not have tried real cider before, from alcopops to the drink. But while the mainstream suppliers are putting colours and sweeteners in, artisan suppliers are still keeping to their ethos – if they do anything like this it’s with real fruit, not from concentrate.”
While CAMRA may controversially shun the production of fruit ciders, a real, locally produced brand with decent visibility will undoubtedly draw attention at the bar when sat next to a mainstream product.
“People are being drawn into the mainstream experience (by high profile advertising) and think ‘hey, this is good but what else is around?’ So they start to experiment with different, smaller and more regional brands to see what other flavours and experiences are out there,” says Ian Lewis, head of marketing for Weston’s.
“Everybody’s conscious of food miles and we’re seeing more demand from consumers and licensees for more provenance of goods.
“The days of having one mainstream cider on your bar are gone – licensees are now looking to mix a mainstream product with a premium or regional cider for provenance and experience for its customers.”
The growth of cask ale, which now accounts for 15.2 per cent of the on-trade beer category, is thought to have kick started an interest in real cider from new drinkers who deem quality, provenance and locality as important when choosing a brand.
But while some critics have labelled regional cider’s soaring popularity amongst young people as a “fad”, the category’s success this summer is almost certain.
Lewis adds: “From a licensee’s perspective there’s a good margin opportunity to offer something a little bit different and make some profit on that as well.”