Cider takes centre stage

05 March, 2010

Cider is riding out the recession on a wave of growth and has managed to outperform all the other drinks categories in terms of value and volume.

This time last year the cider market was worth £626 million and now, at £728 million, it is easily worth more than the entire Champagne and sparkling wine market put together.

The explosive levels of growth witnessed at the peak of the “over ice” phenomenon are very unlikely to return, but producers across the country remain confident there is still room for? more increases.

The list of top 10 cider brands this year doesn’t include any new faces from 2009 but when we take a closer look at the positions they’re vying for, a different story emerges.

Strongbow continues to rule the roost at number one and outsells Magners by nearly four to one in terms of sales value. Shaun Heyes, Heineken UK’s head of customer marketing for off-trade, says: “We have maintained momentum with the Strongbow brand through sustained marketing investment – which is set to increase by 30% in 2010.

“This will include heavy?weight TV, radio and outdoor advertising, sponsorship of Talk Sport radio and two major bursts of experiential activity across the UK in June and August.”?The latest activity saw TV ads and outdoor building wraps featuring the Strongbow Rewards Hard Graft tagline, which “celebrates the work of unsung heroes in the UK,” according to Heyes.

The cider brand also underwent a packaging makeover last summer, with Heineken UK hoping for increased shelf stand?out and “building and strengthening the modern and premium aspects of the brand”.

Magners, meanwhile, is the only brand to see double-digit sales declines. Sales are down 13% and volumes have also fallen by 4%. The brand that pushed the category so far in the beginning can only look expectantly to the future following its acquisition of Gaymer

ast November.

C&C Group says “it is not expect?ing Gaymer? to contribute meaningfully to operating profit in the current financial year” but its portfolio, together with new distribution routes being opened up in Scotland after the group’s acquisition of Tennent’s in September, will certainly result in a shake?-up of the category in the forthcoming months.

Industry insiders say Blackthorn – in distant days a challenger to Strongbow for market leadership – is the one to watch following the C&C buyout. One source believes it may again try to take on Strongbow as better distribution will give the brand a major boost.

Blackthorn has seen impressive double?-digit growth following its revamp of both the liquid and packaging last year.

Olde English, meanwhile, another Gaymer brand, has seen a 3% decline in value sales.

Gaymer managing director Peter Spencer says: “We put more focus behind Blackthorn but had a particularly good Christmas with Olde English.

You have to prioritise where you put investment and effort.”?Heineken’s Bulmers Original continues to hold on to third position and the gap in value sales between it and Magners sits at a significant £25 million. This gap has closed slightly since last year, and the brand’s value and volumes are in sync,? with both seeing growth of 7%. It was supported during the summer by a sampling campaign using the Bulmers apothecary and a press and poster campaign which focused on the unpredictable nature of the British summer.

This summer will also see Bulmers and Strongbow benefiting from an off-trade promotion surrounding the World Cup. Heyes says: “These are two of the five key Heineken UK brands to feature in the Who Wants to be a Football Millionaire promotion fronted by Chris Tarrant as part of our World Cup activity.”?Holding on to number six is another Heineken UK brand, Jacques, with a very respectable value growth of 33%. It targets young professionals and was launched specifically with women in mind back in 2006.

Now worth £20 million, Scrumpy Jack has changed things around after seeing a sales decline last year. The sales and marketing team at Jygsaw Brands ha?s been giving it the attention it craved after taking on the S&N heritage ale and cider brands in 2008.

Jygsaw has since given Scrumpy Jack new packaging to celebrate its heritage and provenance, and continued sponsorship of the Npower Village Cricket Cup.

Finally, at number 10, Kopparberg’s producer Cider of Sweden has just announced it is looking to build the pear cider’s profile to “ensure there is a long-evity to the brand in a congested market”. A new £1.5 million marketing campaign represents the biggest spend since its launch in 2006.

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