NIQ senior analytics executive Derya Calis takes a closer look at the category’s off -trade performance

In the 52 weeks to February 10, the cider and perry category witnessed a modest increase in sales value, to total £1.1 billion, representing 1.4% growth on the previous year. This was primarily driven by higher prices, as volume sales saw a decline of 7.4% in the same period. 

Amid the challenges of the cost of living crisis, the market struggled to restore value sales to the pre-pandemic level of £1.2 billion in 2019. Despite experiencing a decline of 3.4% in the previous year, Heineken UK remains the dominant force in the cider category, boasting ownership of the two largest brands in the market. 

Thatchers and Westons were the biggest winners in retail, adding £20.6 million and £13.8 million in sales value respectively. Kopparberg supplier Cider of Sweden experienced a decline in sales value of 0.8%. 

Among the major manufacturers, Brothers Drinks’ remarkable growth of 113.6% makes it a company worth watching. It is currently the 11th biggest manufacturer and has just relaunched its ciders with new packaging, flavours and a fresh creative identity. The relaunch is potentially significant to its market standing in the future. 

BRANDS 

As the table above shows, among the top performing brands Strongbow Original experienced a slight decline in sales, down by 2.2%. Strongbow Dark Fruit faced a more significant challenge, with an 11.1% decrease in sales value. 

In contrast, Thatchers Gold and Henry Westons Vintage saw growth, with increases of 8.7% and 12.1% respectively. Inch’s Medium Apple, Heineken UK’s sustainable cider proposition launched in April 2021, has proven immensely successful, with 58.4% growth in sales securing its position in the top 10 rankings. 

Impressive growth of 61.2% for Stowford Press propelled it into the top 20 cider brands, contributing to the overall growth of brand owner Westons, which continues to invest in it. The brand’s Big Night In promotion, running currently, aims to capitalise on the brand’s momentum during seasonal events. 

Compton Orchard emerged as a dark horse, experiencing a remarkable 727.1% surge in sales value. 

NEW PRODUCTS 

Innovation remains a key driver of growth in the cider market, as evidenced by recent successes. Strongbow Tropical, launched in March 2023, achieved strong sales, while Kopparberg Summer Punch and Strawberry & Pineapple varieties proved successful. 

Thatchers Apple & Blackcurrant, introduced last October, has also garnered attention for its strong traction in the market, highlighting the importance of ongoing product development to meet evolving consumer interests. 

The alcohol duty changes implemented last August are likely to prompt significant adjustments within the cider industry. The new rates raise prices for higher-abv products, and cider brands face the strategic choice of launching lower-abv products or reformulating existing ones to offset the financial impact of these changes. It will be intriguing to see the effects of duty changes in the flavoured cider space, which has historically focused on a 4% abv. 

Kopparberg’s new Summer Punch, Winter Punch and Spiced Apple flavours are 3.4% abv, suggesting a shift in the market. Reformulation offers a means for brands to reduce costs and remain competitive by aligning with consumer preferences for lighter beverages. This shift will test the industry’s adaptability to regulatory changes while meeting evolving consumer demands. 

The cider landscape is witnessing the continued popularity of low/no options, with sales value seeing strong growth of 12.3% and volume sales increasing by 6.3%. Kopparberg, with its extensive range, stands out as the leader in the low/no cider space, while Thatchers and Sheppy’s are showing strong growth in both sales value and volume. As this segment gains momentum, cider brands are poised to further capitalise on health-consciousness and alcohol moderation trends by expanding their portfolios.