As Chris Carr, managing director of Merrydown's cider division, says: "In spite of heavy discounting, new consumers have not been drawn into the market place, so the challenge is to make cider fashionable again.
"It can be a delicious, refreshing drink which has real heritage compared to flavoured alcoholic beverages and premium packaged spirits."
Carr believes the way forward for the Merrydown cider team is to emphasise the brand's premium character.
"I will be slightly controversial and suggest the category is not going to grow and that the biggest opportunity is in developing premium brands," he says.
"Enough consumers are looking for more than cheap deals and are enjoying premium products." He adds: "We have focused on reinforcing Merrydown Vintage as the leading premium packaged cider and we are working on the brand personality and price positioning."
The team's main areas of focus during 2002 were repackaging and building supermarket listings.
Carr says: "We redesigned the labels of our one-litre glass bottles in gold and silver. Merrydown Vintage will never go into PET. However, we have been testing six packs of Vintage Cider for cash and carries to encourage trial."
He adds: "Merrydown's main thrust is to get Vintage Medium and Vintage Dry into all supermarkets, then we will look at npd."