Independents are losing out to the multiples by concentrating on white cider rather than premium, according to a leading industry figure.

"They should allocate one shelf to premium and then they will get more people into the category than if they just had a range of white ciders," said Chris Carr MD of Merrydown.

Carr's message coincides with an announcement by the producer that it is ready to offer its latest variant to the off-trade following successful on-trade sales.

Merrydown Gold (5% abv) will be launched in a 500ml format early next year.

Pointing out that growth in the cider category was predominantly at the premium end and this was also where the more diverse flavours could be found, Carr added: "Some are recognising this. Thresher, for example, has a really good range now."

Merrydown Gold has a lower alcoholic content than the remainder of the producer's portfolio, which it thinks will help attract younger drinkers. "We have a loyal consumer base but they are all getting on a bit now," said Carr. "People like the taste of Merrydown but at 7.5% abv it can be limiting."

Gold has a higher concentration of apples, according to Carr, and therefore earns its premium price tag of £1.69 to £1.79. "I would be extremely disappointed if we didn't see it in one multiple retailer and one major off licence by Easter," he said. Carr added that he hoped the bottle would appeal to both men and women and would not have the male bias of rival brands.

The producer is also planning additional sampling activity next year and wants to use instore shelf barkers to inform consumers. A cider-tasting event for consumer magazine wine writers will be held in London early next year.

The cider producer, which is celebrating its diamond jubilee, has also signed an exclusive sponsorship deal with DJ Fat Boy Slim's New Year beach party and will be the only cider available at Big Beach boutique 3, the DJ's third open-air concert on Brighton seafront.