Off-trade growth has been hard to come by for the cider category in the past year, according to Westons category manager Emily Jenkins, but there are opportunities for retailers. 

Speaking at the launch of the annual Westons Cider Report yesterday, she explains that penetration peaked at 48.6% during the on-trade lockdown period in July 2020, and it has now dropped back to 43.9%. Overall, off-trade cider value is down 7.1% year on year, while volumes have fallen 10.6%.

Jenkins credits the changes to the return of the on-trade, the popularity of RTDs, and consumers dropping out of the category for budgetary reasons.

In inflation terms, she explains cider has seen a 3.9% price increase to an average of £2.40 per litre – and while this is modest in comparison to some other grocery categories, Jenkins believes that might start to change in the coming year.

“It could be small things such as ‘3 for £5’ deals becoming ‘3 for £5.50’ or more. I think at some point we will see price movement, so that’s something to bear in mind.” 

Fruit choices

Looking into the category segments and Westons reports that crafted cider will continue to lead growth opportunities, while flavoured cider has plateaued. Crafted ciders are typically high quality, premium brands made by smaller, family-owned producers, including its own Henry Westons range.

The producer says the craft sub-category (+10.2%) is continuing to lead growth opportunities in the market, realising Westons’ declaration that 2022 was the ‘Year of the Apple’.

But the once buoyant flavoured cider market has balanced out at one-third of the total market, countering predictions that it could represent half of cider sales by 2023.

“Following a truly extraordinary few years for cider sales in store, we always knew the market would take some time to settle as shoppers returned to more typical purchasing habits,” adds Darryl Hinksman, head of business development at Westons Cider.

“Despite tough annualisations, driven by the huge growth we saw during the pandemic, and the ongoing cost of living challenges, we’re seeing the market decline less and less every month. This indicates the market is continuing to stabilise and is in a strong position for 2023.”

Convenience opportunity

The report also highlights the continued opportunity in the convenience channel, which has grown to represent more than half of market sales (from 48.6% in 2021 to 50.2% in 2022).

“The convenience channel is in an ideal position to continue growing its cider sales this year,” said Tim Williams, insight and innovation manager at Westons Cider. “As with the general market, crafted cider is the only segment in growth (+23.6%) and there is still headroom to explore. The total craft category in convenience is smaller than the market average – so it’s a natural place for retailers to focus attention and ensure they’re maximising sales opportunities by getting their ranging right.”

Future trends

Looking to this year and Westons outlines several trends that will shape cider drinking in 2023, including the continued trend towards premiumisation, consumers looking for quality cues, the importance of apple, and the low and no category.

“Apple cider remains the most popular cider type, driving the category in value and volume,” the company says. “Plus, the apple cider shopper continues to spend more per year than the fickle flavoured shopper and receives a higher share of spend from fewer shoppers.”

In terms of low and no, Westons explains that although the sub-category is important, it’s still small and retailers should continue to prioritise classic apple and fruit ciders.

“2022 marked another year of rebalancing post-pandemic,” concludes Hinksman. “And we can see that from these strong roots, there is opportunity for the cider category to continue to blossom, so long as the bestselling crafted options are made available to shoppers.

“With a host of bank holidays on the horizon, there’s huge potential for retailers, with last year’s Platinum Jubilee the fifth largest cider weekend in the off-trade.”

Turning to NPD, the company has just rolled out a Dark Berry variant to the on-trade, which Jenkins says will likely make its way to the off-trade. The company also flagged Heineken’s Strongbow Ultra lower calorie proposition among the top recent NPD in the category. And while lower calorie propositions aren’t a fit for brand Henry Westons, the company says the Stowford Press team is keeping a close eye on that sub-category.

As the session ended, Hinksman quipped that there were no questions or comments about hard seltzers this year.  

The full report can be downloaded here.