12 September, 2012

“Fruit cider is en vogue – it’s the segment that’s driving the growth,” says Nugent. “It’s not anywhere near the volume of apple but if you look at the UK on-trade, fruit cider has grown 250% in the past two years – against apple growing in single digits and pear in double digits. It attracts a much wider audience than traditional ciders. Up until two years ago it was just us – now we’ve been joined by Bulmers, Brothers, Magners and Gaymers,” says Nugent.   

Gaymers Pear Cider with Raspberry and Gaymers Pear Cider with Cherry & Apple are ready for UK fridges. From this month they will share the shelf with the existing – but repackaged – Gaymers apple and pear ciders. 

According to Victoria Walker, marketing manager for Gaymers cider at C&C, the relaunch “is set to secure Gaymers’ position as a modern fruit cider in the growing flavoured cider segment”. 

Another hoping to capitalise on the burgeoning sweet cider segment is Briska. The Swedish Spendrups Brewery-produced brand launched last summer through UK distributor Proof Drinks but also operates in its domestic market. 

“Swedish fruit ciders appeal to a diverse range of drinkers and have taken share from the RTD market as well as beers,” says Luke Wade, director of Proof Drinks. “Scandinavian ciders are sweeter in taste profile compared to traditional English style cider brands. But Briska Cider, although still sweet on the palate, has a more subtle, refreshing taste than current Swedish brands on the market. 

“As such, the brand is focused on growing the cider category rather than stealing share from existing Swedish cider brands and [our] pomegranate variant adds a more sophisticated edge to current cider offerings.”

It seems there’s a lot of benevolence between cider brands in the UK – a sure sign that the market is not yet saturated and there’s plenty of growth potential to share around. Through diversification of styles and formats, the category can extend its tendrils into unexplored corners of the drinks market, to demographics beyond young drinkers in pubs and bars. 

“With new players entering the market each year and continued innovation I see the category continuing to go from strength to strength,” says Wade. “There is substantial room for cider growth in the restaurant and late-night sector and this is one of the reasons we launched Briska in 33cl format to complement our draught product.”

At Heineken, owner of the world’s number one cider brand Strongbow, the UK Bulmers brand and Jacques, innovation is key to seeking out growth in the category.  

“Genuine product innovation such as Bulmers Vintage Reserve and Bulmers No 17 are the lifeblood of the category – they fuel consumer interest and deliver incremental sales by attracting new and lapsed drinkers to cider,” says Sanjay Patel, brand driector, cider, Heineken. 

Darryl Hinksman, head of customer marketing for the UK on-trade at Heineken, picks up the point: “Since Bulmers No 17 was launched in June 2011, 60% of sales have been incremental to the cider category and it is already the number two flavoured cider.”

Over at the group’s Strongbow brand – which makes up a colossal 35% of the UK’s volume (almost 18% of the global category) – product innovation is not at the brand’s heart. But with so much activity around it, Strongbow has ridden the cider wave quite successfully. 

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