Breaching geographical and flavour barriers holds the key to unlocking future cider sales, says Daniel Hooper, co-founder of YesMore drinks marketing agency
Cider is a category with a massive fan base in the UK. Almost half of all UK households regularly buy it, according to IRI data.
Sunshine and big sporting events are proven to drive an increase in category sales, but many producers and retailers are now reporting strong sales throughout the year, indicating that cider is no longer just a summer drink in UK consumers’ repertoires.
More importantly, value and white ciders are in decline. In the same way that tequila is premiumising and making waves, it seems that nasty white cider is almost a forgotten relic and the category’s better products can start to shine.
So everything is looking rosy for cider: 2020 was a record year for sales and 2021 showed a substantial 6.8% increase on pre-pandemic cider sales, according to the 2022 Westons Cider Report. But how can the category seize this opportunity to achieve even further growth in the years ahead?
Broadening its geographical appeal is one possibility. The top two regions for off -trade cider sales currently are Wales and the south west, accounting for 20% of sales; and the Midlands, with 16%. North east England is the lowest on 6% [Westons]. There’s also a clear southern bias from a production standpoint, with five southern regions accounting for 62.4% of cider volumes, rising to 76% for crafted cider [Westons].
The category is largely built on an emotional connection to south west England. A marketing campaign which ditches the clichés of cider, that celebrates the north and gives consumers there something to latch on to and be proud of, could be a way into this relatively underdeveloped regional market.
The flavour profile of ciders is another barrier to entry for many consumers. Cider can be incredibly sweet. This can – and might well have – put a lot of people off the drink. Some more recent launches into the crafted sub-category, such as Thatchers Haze, aren’t as sweet as some mainstream ciders. A promotional campaign with elements of trial, showing consumers that not all cider is sweet, could be an interesting avenue for developing non-cider lovers into new customers.
Additionally, the “crafted” area of cider – in the same way craft beer did before it – is generating some wild and different flavours, with Old Mout Watermelon & Lime being a big seller last year.
So beyond just showcasing that cider isn’t always sweet, brands would benefit from talking about the great range of flavours they can produce. Sustainability is something we’re seeing many brands bring into their marketing – for good reason – and cider seems an especially ripe fit for eco-conscious consumers.
As the UK is the world’s largest producer of cider it means the drink hasn’t normally had far to travel, and apple production is a more sustainable process, especially where pesticides have not been used. Promoting cider as a greener option is another way to entice new customers on board.
These are just a few simple ideas for how brands could attract more people to the category. Cider is a brilliant and changing product. It just might need to shed some of the perceptions people hold of it to really boom.