Cider is enjoying a popular revival, with producers keen to promote premium brands

The future looks rosy for the cider industry, with many producers reporting last year’s sales as the best ever, coupled with new products looking to take a slice.
And while ScotCo’s Strongbow still leads the way in value terms, up 9.2% to £108m [ACNielsen MAT to w/e April 16, 2005], it is the specialist segment that is grabbing consumers’ attention. ScotCo has launched Strongbow Sirrus to corner this area of the market too.
The red cider, designed to be drunk over ice, is a competitor to rival Irish cider brand Magners, recently launched into the UK after experiencing booming growth in both Ireland and Scotland.
One company that is clearly focused on reducing the white cider sector and growing the premium end of the market is
Merrydown. “If we can grow the premium sector then we can have a positive effect on the market,” says Chris Carr, Merrydown’s MD. Carr also admits Merrydown is single-mindedly after Scrumpy Jack (the fourth largest cider brand, according to ACNielsen) in terms of market position, and will be running promotional activity for the first time in two years in search of this goal.
Aspall Cyder is also running summer-related promotions through supermarkets. Barry Chevallier Guild, sales & marketing director at Aspall, says last year was the company’s best ever in its 227-year history, with sales for the first few months already up 100% on last year. “The surprising star was organic cider, but our Premier Cru and Vintage brands also sold well,” he says.
Thatchers Cider also recorded its highest sales ever last year with an unprecedented trading year which saw increased distribution throughout the multiple and independent sectors, says MD Martin Thatcher. “Innovation is a key part of Thatchers philosophy - from Rum Oak Matured to Thatchers Perry,” he says. The company also recently launched its Christon Orchard brand, its first single-orchard cider, which has already seen evidence of consumer interest in the premium sector.
Like Thatchers, many of the traditional players in the English cider market are upping their game in terms of refreshing their product offerings, while maintaining their authenticity and heritage.