Carlsberg is making its first foray into UK cider with the launch of the Somersby brand.

Somersby Cider - originally launched in Denmark and Norway in 2008 - rolls out to retailers this month before expanding into the on-trade early next year.

Described as a “crisp, refreshing cider”, the 4.5% abv drink has no artificial sweeteners, flavours, preservatives or added sulphites and will initially be available in 440ml cans (four and 12-packs) and 500ml bottles from Tesco before rolling out more widely. It will be brewed in Hertfordshire and packaged in Northampton.

Somersby is sold in more than 22 countries in Europe and Asia but Carlsberg had spent the past 18 months adapting the cider for the UK palate, giving it a less sweet, more balanced taste.

It will target male and female consumers who were either mainstream cider drinkers fed up with “artificial and astringent ciders” or new consumers who had entered the category through premium ciders and now wanted a more affordable drink.

A plethora of new products have launched in cider over the past year, helping off-trade sales rise 10% to £939.6m [Nielsen 52 w/e 26 May 2012]. Last month, Heineken overhauled its Strongbow brand, cutting its abv from 5.3% to 5% and confirming the launch of a pear variant, just days after AB InBev announced a pear version of Stella Artois Cidre.

While the launch of Stella Cidre last April had added value to the market, many launches had been niche with only one or two SKUs, said Carlsberg marketing manager Darran Britton. “We’re a big business, we operate scale propositions in beer and we want to do the same in cider,” he explained.

Somersby’s UK launch will be backed by a marketing campaign including sampling over coming months.