12 September, 2012

Cider – and its many variants – continues to capture the imaginations of consumers. But does it have worldwide appeal? Hamish Smith gets to the core of the issue

C'EST CIDRE NOT CIDERsays the suave, bespectacled gent on Stella Artois’ UK TV and billboard ads. No doubt the irony of the slogan was not lost on the creatives at AB Inbev. Bar a few pockets of popularity in Europe, cider is still very much a drink of the English-speaking world. For the vast majority of its consumers, it is most definitely cider, not cidre. 

It was a full year ago that the Belgian brewer surprised the drinks world with its move in the UK market, branching out from grain to apples. The AB Inbev number-crunchers knew it made sense, though. The UK market makes up a 51% share of the entire cider category (Euromonitor International). On top of that, the market has steadily grown by around 5%-10% year on year since Magners’ over-ice serve defibrillated the category in the mid 2000s. In 2011 volume growth stood at 5.6%.  

Stella Artois Cidre’s sequel, Pear, launches this month but is somewhat less of a surprise arrival than the original. These days (as the cockney said to the cidermaker) it’s all about apples and pears. And, considering the success of Cidre, it was a matter of when, not if.  

“Stella Artois Cidre has established itself as the second-largest premium apple cider in the off trade, with retail value sales of £50 million and more than 220,000hl of volume sold (that’s 39 million pints of Cidre),” says James Watson, European marketing director of Stella Artois at AB Inbev. 

The pears used in the cider’s “Belgian recipe” are sourced “from a variety of regions”, while pressing, fermentation and bottling takes place in Belgium. “With the premium credentials of Stella Artois, the proven success of Stella Artois Cidre and the research results we have seen for Stella Artois Cidre Pear, we anticipate our new variant will give a further boost to the cider category and delight our consumers,” adds Watson. For now, the group has “no plans to launch [Cidre] outside of the UK”, it is content with the fertile pastures of its core demographic of British males aged 18-34.

Fruit cider

If the traditional apple cider is page one in the cidermaker’s handbook and a pear variant is step two, the third is most definitely fruit. The brand that pioneered the style that is now common among most of the UK-focused brands is the Swedish-headquartered and produced Kopparberg. 

“We saw an opportunity coming from a fruit cider market to offer a sweeter cider than the traditional British and Irish ciders and pioneer the development of pear and fruit cider,” says Kopparberg UK managing director Davin Nugent. “We’re a minnow compared with ABInbev, C&C and Heineken, but where you can get ahead is innovation.”

Indeed, Kopparberg sits at number seven in global volume terms in a list headed by Heineken (Strongbow and UK Bulmers), C&C (Magners, Gaymers and Irish Bulmers) and Distell (Savanna). But with a fruit portfolio that includes Mixed Fruit, Elderflower & Lime, Strawberry & Lime and two seasonal lines, Kopparberg has become the go-to sweet cider brand. 

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