Can smaller craft ciders survive and thrive in a market dominated by big brands?
Published:  21 March, 2008

Martin Thatcher, Thatchers

"This is a great time for

smaller brands. The image of cider is being continually enhanced as growers progress planting schemes throughout the country

and the provenance and traditions of the craft producers are brought to the fore.

"As a company we are always looking to move forward, and with the renewed interest in the cider category this innovation remains vitally important. The continued introduction of new products within our single variety range, for example, allows people to experiment with tastes. As consumers who were first introduced to the category a few years ago look to try something new and develop their understanding of cider, so the concept of a single variety cider, and the characteristics borne out of the type of apple, are recognised.

"The crop of the Dabinett apple, for example, has been excellent this year, and we have decided to bring this variety back into our range after a break of five years. "

Barry Chevallier Guild, Aspall

"The prospects for smaller craft products are high as they offer consumers choice, heritage and authenticity.

"High quality, niche ciders are essential for a vibrant and developing category - without them the cider market could be in danger of becoming commoditised.

"They are also important for retailers , offering a point of difference for consumers. Consumer appreciation for the more niche products is definitely growing as people increasingly seek out locally-sourced products from the regions.

"The chances of the smaller brands are undoubtedly enhanced by the success of their bigger mainstream rivals."

Chris Carr, Merrydown

"I believe there are excellent prospects for craft ciders because consumers are now shopping the shelves for cider and small niche brands, plus the established premium ciders such as Merrydown, with its 60-year heritage, are there to be discovered. Every time someone new discovers cider it is a good thing for the industry ."

Paul Burton, InterContinental Brands

"Prospects for craft products are excellent because consumers have never been more receptive to sampling such a wide range of cider products, especially premium cider products."

Rod Marsh, National Collection of Cider & Perry

"The bigger brands have certainly increased their dominance of the market with their seemingly inexhaustible advertising budgets, but they might just have shot themselves in the foot a bit

by taking the product back to the bucolic idyll of the orchard.

"It's an image which has brought people back to where cider really comes from beautifully. Huge factories with state-of-the-art science fit uncomfortably into this perception of the drink.

"If the weather is halfway reasonable 2008 will see cider sales continue to grow apace, and all the indications so far are that craft cider is going to be a far more major beneficiary than hitherto.

"As well as taking market from the industrial product, it has market to steal from ale, lager and wine with a freshness

and a perceived honesty of outlook - a rustic artlessness, if you will - that appeals to the widest possible audience, neither age, nor gender, nor income-bracket specific."

Simon Russell, NACM

"With the exception of white cider most sectors and producers are in growth to some degree. It is clear that it is more ­premium products that are stimulating growth here, though the smaller producers are flourishing as well.

"For many it is a logical progression that if they enjoy one of the new mainstream brands they will try other, more premium ciders from a range of producers."

Glenn Asquith, Aston Manor

"The ever increasing marketing budgets for big brands, including ours, have an extremely positive effect on the whole sector. I believe all cidermakers are benefiting from this effect."

John Mills, Gaymers


such as Westons, Thatchers and Aspall have always produced good products and they're really benefiting from this growth.

"That's why we've taken a category approach with our range. We have NPD on the 'top shelf' with Addlestones and more to come this year, right the way down to rationalising the bottom shelf.

"There is an analogy with premium bottled ales. People want those kinds of choices. We pride ourselves on being a bit of a category adviser because we've got a range of own-label at the bottom right up to the top shelf.

"Independents really need to start looking at premium products that offer choice, diversity and taste - and there's a huge demand. Premium glass is the fastest-growing part of the market."

Scott Fairbairn, Magners

"It can be quite confusing for consumers when fixtures contain a diverse range of products, so retailers should focus on a manageable number of brands, which drive their category value and represent the highest proportion of sales.

"While it is important to offer choice and there is always space for some niche products with USPs, the trade should concentrate on bigger brands that will consistently generate more revenue."

What are social and commercial prospects for white cider?

Glenn Asquith, Aston Manor

"The white cider market has seen a small decline in the past few years and currently only accounts for 0.6% of total alcohol consumption.

"Frosty Jack's has seen massive growth over the past three years and is now by far the largest brand in the UK, even though the total sector is in slight decline.

"I do not believe the sector will see growth, but I do believe that the number of white ciders will decline as retailers rationalise their ranges to include the largest brand and maybe one own-label or commodity brand.

"We actively encourage responsible retailing but obviously have no control in retail pricing.

"We live in a society where it seems to be acceptable to misuse any form of alcohol. This can only be combated through education and government-led initiatives."

Chris Carr, Merrydown

"In the independent sector there is still too much space allocated to white cider in large plastic bottles."

John Mills, Gaymers

"White cider is a small and rapidly declining part of the cider market. We have put up the pricing of Diamond White and K over the past three years so they're not at the cheap end of the market.

"Diamond White's typical drinker is someone who drank it when they were 18, 19 or 20 but are now 35 and still love it. Are we promoting it or investing in it? No and no. If we do promotions they're really shallow. Are we trying to get new drinkers into Diamond White? No.

"We are where we are. White cider will find its own natural level."

Simon Russell, NACM

"The NACM has no specific view about white cider. Any product legally produced, responsibly marketed, responsibly sold and responsibly consumed does not present a problem. The vast majority of consumers enjoy a range of different drinks responsibly and they should not be punished for the actions of a minority - whatever the category of alcohol.

"White cider is in long-term decline - sales for 2007 were down 6.5% while amber cider sales were up by 27.1%.

"Average prices for take-home cider are up 5.4%, which is ahead of any measure of inflation, so cider is becoming more expensive relative to other drinks and consumer goods.

"The average price for white cider has grown 1.3% in the past 12 months and 2.5% in the past 12 weeks.

"Hence the suggestion, in some quarters, that white cider is responsible for a growing problem of alcohol misuse, simply does not reflect the evidence.

"That said, as a responsible industry we are not complacent and we will work with any body, agency or organisation that has a sincere wish to manage and reduce the misuse of alcohol by a minority of individuals."

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