The great cider divide

03 August, 2018

Traditionalists are calling for tighter restrictions on production methods while their younger fruity rivals are lapping up their freedom. Shay Waterworth reports


THE UK REMAINS THE largest cider market in Europe by a significant margin – producing nearly 10m hl in 2016 and 10 times larger than Spain in second place according to Global Data. The biggest influence within international cider markets over the past five years has been the emergence of fruit and flavoured varieties. Since its launch in 2013, Strongbow Dark Fruit has become the second best-selling cider in the UK, behind Strongbow Original. Other fruit cider brands such as Rekorderlig and Kopparberg have helped gain a popular following among younger consumers with a sweet tooth and, according to Jerry Shedden, category and trade marketing director at Heineken UK, there are no signs of fruit ciders going away.

He says: “The latest picture of the market continues to be an interesting one, with strong growth in flavoured cider. In fact, more and more outlets are now adding flavoured cider to their bars to cater for this growing demand. The launch of Strongbow Dark Fruit brought a new proposition to draught drinkers and has driven huge growth within the market.

“Within premium flavoured cider New Zealand-born Old Mout is the fastest growing premium flavoured cider in the on-trade with 25.3% increase in volume share and 31% increase in value share versus the previous year.”

This rise in the popularity of fruit ciders has, however, created a divide within the industry between the newer, consumer-driven brands and traditional ciders. This isn’t because fruit ciders have taken away the audience from traditional brands, but because there is confusion over the word ‘cider’.

Since 2010 the laws introduced by HM Revenue & Customs state that to qualify as cider in the UK, a beverage must contain at least 35% apple juice. However, this does not extend to brands produced outside the UK. According to Polly Hilton, cidermaker at Find & Fosters in Devon, products from Sweden do not require any apple juice at all in order to be able to use the word ‘cider’ on a label. Neither Rekorderlig nor Kopparberg use apple juice in production, instead using words such as ‘apple wine’.


Gabe Cook, chairman of the International Cider Challenge and self proclaimed ‘ciderologist’, said: “I don’t think fruit ciders will ever go completely but I think they’ll soon come to a peak and eventually reduce again. I’d like to see the minimum 35% apple juice marker increased because there are some cidermakers who feel cheated due to the vastly different production methods used by different brands.”

It could be argued that the influence of fruit ciders has helped attract new drinkers and create a stepping stone towards traditional ciders. But Cook says: “I don’t think there’s any evidence to support this. People drinking sugary fruit ciders aren’t interested in ciders with high apple juice content. Although there is now a far wider range of cider drinkers, many of them don’t know what they’re actually buying.”

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