Minimum pricing: the 'death' of white cider

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The government’s plans for minimum pricing on alcohol will be the death knell for white cider, a leading cidermaker has admitted.

C&C, the UK’s second-biggest cider producer, said there would probably be no white cider left on sale in the UK in the wake of home secretary Theresa May’s announcement last month of plans for a 40p per unit minimum pricing on alcohol to tackle the rise in drink-related health and social problems.

A C&C spokesman, who emphasised C&C’s support for minimum pricing, said the dramatic impact on price would mean the controversial white cider would no longer be “commercially viable”.

C&C’s white cider brand Diamond White currently sells at an average price of £3.79 for a two-litre bottle. With an abv of 7.5%, this contains 15 units of alcohol and could not be sold for less than £6.

He also cited other examples, such as a three-litre bottle of cider priced at £3, which would end up costing £8.80.

C&C was looking at the products it sold in light of the changes in the legislation and changing consumer trends towards more premium and craft ciders, he added. However, rather than withdraw products such as Diamond White immediately, it was looking to adjust its portfolio to have the minimum impact on employment.

In 2010, Heineken stopped production of the most infamous white cider brand, White Lightning, saying at the time that the category “continued to attract negative headlines and is still associated with a park-bench mentality”. The C&C spokesman hailed this move as having showed leadership.

The cheap white cider category was clearly a target for the government as it drew up its plans for a minimum booze price. Just a couple of weeks before the proposals were announced, prime minister David Cameron made it clear that he considered this type of drink an issue.

“It’s mad when you can buy cans of lager for 25p or two litres of cider for less than £2. So we need to deal with that and this shows a radical government, not frightened of taking big decisions, rolling up its sleeves and getting on with the job,” he said.

The industry remains divided over minimum pricing. While companies such as Molson Coors have joined C&C in supporting the move others, such as Heineken, remain firmly opposed. The National Association of Cider Makers has also come out strongly against minimum pricing.

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