From its former reputation as the cheapest way to get drunk, cider has made significant inroads into gaining a more upmarket image.
While this revival hasn’t happened overnight, and there is still work to do at the budget end, it is acknowledged among most trade insiders that cider has beaten the odds to reach a position many wouldn’t have expected even two years ago.
Keith Hogg, group sales director at Scottish Courage, which has more than 50% of the cider market with its
Strongbow, White Lightning, Scrumpy Jack and Woodpecker brands, says: “Cider has gone from being a dog to a success story.”
This can be attributed to a number of factors happening around the same time, namely the end of extra-free deals by many manufacturers and innovation at the premium end of the category.
The introduction of Irish brand Magners to the UK this year was a key breakthrough, with consumers readily taking on board its new way of being drunk over ice.
Magners goes head to head with ScotCo’s Strongbow Sirrus, which was also launched this year and is meant to be drunk with ice. However, Hogg insists he is pleased with the work Magners has done to grow the category at the premium end.
The amber category is enjoying much of the activity in cider, but there is also a growing interest in varietal ciders. Thatchers, which has been working on innovation with its single varietal styles, is reporting strong summer sales this year. Thatchers also recently launched its Thatchers Gold into the off-trade after a successful period in the on-trade.
English cider companies Westons and Aspall are also reporting increased interest in their premium ciders. Westons says its sales are up more than 20% on last year.