Heineken is developing low-abv ciders as it looks to tap into what it claims could be a £600m opportunity for lighter drinks.

The brewer - owner of brands including Strongbow and Bulmers - said the market for low-abv beer and cider could grow from its current £40m to be worth £600m over the next 10 years.

“Low-alcohol ciders and beers will offer retailers a significant opportunity for incremental sales as demand for occasions when consumers want to moderate their alcohol intake continues to increase,” said Craig Clarkson, Heineken off-trade category & trade marketing director.

Heineken was developing low-abv cider options, he added. “We have exciting plans to help retailers capitalise on the profit opportunity the moderation category offers,” he said.

Industry insiders suggested the ciders would be fruit-flavoured and rolled out next spring.

Such a launch would tap demand for sweeter, more refreshing products driving the success of citrus-flavoured low-abv beers. Sales of Heineken’s Foster’s Radler beer have reached £7.2m in less than eight months [Nielsen 52w/e 12 October 2013].

Swedish cider supplier Kopparberg, which sells an alcohol-free range in the UK, said mid-strength ciders of around 2.5% abv were a large market in Europe.

However, there is a currently only a limited range of low-abv ciders in the UK, including a 1% own-label product from Waitrose and a 0.5% abv Stowford Press drink.

Mintel senior drinks analyst Chris Wisson pointed out that while the lower duty on beers at 2.8% abv or below encouraged brewers to make lighter beers, ciders between 1.2% and 7.5% abv were taxed at the same rate. “Cider producers have not been incentivised to go this route and the ones that have have mostly gone alcohol-free,” he said.