Tim Palmer Leading cider Strongbow is muscling in on lager territory and outselling some of its high profile brands. Sustained support behind Strongbow this year has propelled the brand into the top five of the UK's leading long drinks, according to Bulmers sales director John Jenkins. He said the growth of the brand had been faster than expected. Last year it became one of the top 10 volume sellers in the long drinks market ­ which includes cider, lager and premium packaged spirits. "We set ourselves the challenge to get Strongbow into the top five by 2003 and reaching our goal ahead of schedule is proof of the qualities of the brand," said Jenkins. ACNielsen figures for the 12 months to the end of August showed volume sales of Strongbow were ahead of both Heineken and Kronenbourg. The four lagers which sold more than Strongbow were Stella Artois, Carling, Fosters and Budweiser, while Strongbow's value sales of £65.5m put the brand in seventh place. Jenkins said Strongbow volumes had grown by 27% in the period and value was up 25%. The brand has been backed by price promotions and tailormade activity as well as an £8m TV campaign which ran from June until the end of this month. It will not be back on air this year but a spokesman said: "The awareness levels are so high that they will carry us through the pre-Christmas period. A lot of alcohol advertising takes place during this period and brands get lost in the clutter, whereas we have built up awareness levels over a period of time." {{DRINKS }}