strongbow cloudy apple

Top launch: Strongbow Cloudy Apple - Heineken

Clouds - they’re mysterious, moody, and a little impenetrable. Those were associations Heineken was hoping to prompt when it rolled out this brand extension, designed to retain slightly older consumers seeking a more sophisticated drink. Heineken spent £8m on the launch, declaring it would be the year’s biggest, and it has two big things going for it: the brand’s track record - it follows 2013’s Dark Fruit, now the second best-selling cider after core Strongbow - and demand for traditional styles.

It’s all gone pear shaped in cider. Once the category darling, cider shrunk by value and volume, with the top five pear-flavoured drinks in double-digit decline, and many apple ciders also down, including Stella Artois Cidre, down 29.9% from third place to ninth. Owner AB InBev blames the poor summer, an abundance of NPD, and other sweet variants that made Stella’s Raspberry flavour among the fastest growers (up 30% to £9.4m).

Kopparberg, ideally positioned for sweeter tastebuds, has taken two top-five spots by focusing on its “big hitters”, says senior brand manager Jodie Alliss and “avoiding the flavour conveyor belt”. The £14.2m growth in Strongbow Dark Fruits more than compensated for the drop in apple. And Henry Westons Vintage (up 19.4% to £25.6m) and Thatchers Gold (up 37.8% to £21.8m) shows there is demand for traditional apple ciders.

Overall lager volumes are static but prices have fallen for almost every major brand as a result of increased deals on large packs, and Tesco and Asda price-matching Aldi and Lidl, says Nielsen analyst Jon Sheppard.

In the case of standard lager, the top three brands are taking a strategic gamble on how to add value to its offer. For Foster’s, this has included the launch of rum flavour variant Foster’s Rocks, while Carling has offered another huge footie-related on-pack giveaway. Carlsberg will be hoping the relaunch of its popular If Carlsberg Did… campaign can mitigate some of the effects of being delisted by Tesco in September.

Ales have also been hit by deflation, with Old Speckled Hen recording volume growth of 10.7%, but with average price down 8.5%. “The most positive aspect is that it has been fuelled by new consumers,” says Greene King’s take-home sales director Neil Jardine.

Almost half the category’s growth has come from Sharp’s Doom Bar, up 77.2% to £17.5m. Another barnstormer is BrewDog’s Punk IPA, which has doubled sales, and is now one of the top 20 ale brands. And Diageo attributes the return to growth of Guinness Draft partly to the halo effect of its Dublin Porter and West Indies Porter. Both are now top 50 ales.

TOP 5 Lager  SALES
        £m change (£m) change (%)
Total volume change: 0.3% Total Category 3,081.60 –21.2 –0.7
      Total Own Label 65.9 –11.3 –14.7
1 1 Stella Artois AB InBev 472.4 17.4 3.8
2 2 Foster’s Heineken UK 394.6 –31.9 –7.5
3 4 Budweiser AB InBev 301.8 4.3 1.4
4 3 Carling Molson Coors (UK) 298.7 –12.4 –4.0
5 5 Carlsberg Carlsberg UK 206.7 –17.1 –7.6
TOP 5 Ale & stout  SALES
        £m change (£m) change (%)
Total volume change: –0.6% Total Category 649.4 19.3 3.1
      Total Own Label 20.7 0.1 0.5
1 1 John Smith’s Extra Smooth Heineken UK 70.4 –4.3 –5.7
2 2 Guinness Draught Diageo 66.3 1.6 2.4
3 3 Old Speckled Hen Greene King 44.9 0.6 1.3
4 4 Guinness Original Diageo 19.8 –1.8 –8.1
5 6 Hobgoblin Marston’s 19.6 1.5 8.1
TOP 5 Cider & perry  SALES
        £m change (£m) change (%)
Total volume change: –3.2% Total Category 1,037.20 –29.4 –2.8
      Total Own Label 52.6 –11.2 –17.5
1 1 Strongbow Original Heineken UK 201.30 –8.7 –4.1
2 6 Strongbow Dark Fruit Heineken UK 60.8 14.2 30.5
3 4 Kopparberg Mixed Fruit Cider Cider of Sweden 49.7 1.4 2.9
4 9 Kopparberg Strawb & Lime Cider of Sweden 41.7 7.2 20.8
5 7 Frosty Jack’s Aston Manor 40.9 –3.9 –8.7

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