When AB InBev revealed plans to extend Stella, Britain’s number one lager brand, into the cider category market, many observers said the industry first would never work - that mixing your drinks could only go one way.

One year and £36m in supermarket sales later [SymphonyIRI 52 w/e 17 March 2012], AB InBev appears to have proved the doubters wrong.

According to Kantar Worldpanel figures, 10% of households have tried the brand, and its repeat purchase rates have been higher than any other cider launch in the past five years.

What’s more, 46% of Cidre sales have been incremental to the beer and cider category: although Strongbow and Bulmers have fallen 13.7% and 11.4% by volume respectively since Cidre launched, the newcomer’s success at bringing new drinkers to the cider market has limited the harm it has done to rivals.

Indeed Magners - the brand many tipped to be most affected by Cidre - has actually grown more than 21% by value and volume in the past year.

“The launch appears to have done well at bringing Stella Artois drinkers into cider,” said one industry observer.

Not that AB InBev has had things all its own way. Its strong start prompted concerns the brewer would run out of the Jonagold apples used to produce the drink last summer, while three batches were pulled from shop shelves last September after a yeast contamination caused a bottle to explode.

But it would have taken more than that to upset the apple cart, with a senior figure at another top cider brand admitting: “Cidre was a gamble, but it’s definitely worked.”