The once-booming branded cider market has slowed to a halt this year.

Kantar Worldpanel data has revealed that overall volume sales of cider brands - which were growing 18% two years ago and 3.9% in 2011 - have risen just 0.2% year-on-year, an increase of 500,000 litres [52w/e 8 July 2012].

As has been seen in all drink categories, own-label cider has outperformed branded, with volume up 7.7% year-on-year [Kantar] - a hike of about five million litres. Over the past two years, own label increased its share of cider market volume from 16.9% to 19.1%.

While price increases have helped overall value sales grow 10.7% year-on-year, volume growth has fallen from 13.3% two years ago to 1.5%, prompting brands to respond with NPD such as pear versions of existing brands.

Strongbow - down 8.6% y-o-y by volume [Nielsen 52 w/e 13 September] moved into pear in July, while core Strongbow was cut from 5% to 5.3% abv and given a packaging revamp. Stella Cidre - up 141.8% by volume - also went into pear, and Carlsberg entered UK cider with its Somersby apple brand.

It was natural for any market in strong growth to eventually slow, said Kantar analyst Richard Lee. “The ‘Magners effect’ brought a surge of interest, but cider seems to have ridden the crest of that wave,” he added.

Cider had also been hit by the poor weather this summer, said Nielsen analyst Helen Stares. “Cider over ice is a very popular serve in the summer, but the season was a bit of a washout this year,” she added.