As Westons releases its Westons Cider Report 2022, Nigel Huddleston looks at the figures, forecasts and fruit trends shaping the cider category

The cider market experienced the start of a “tapered return to normality” in 2021, according to the new edition of the annual Westons Cider Report.

The 2022 report also identifies a shift from fruit cider to apple cider and the continued growth of what Westons calls the “crafted” cider segment – typically high quality, premium brands made by smaller, family-owned producers, including its own Henry Westons range.

Value share of the total cider market in 2021 was a straight 50-50 split between on-trade and off-trade, said the report, with the off-trade taking 76% volume share.

In the big lockdown year of 2020, the off-trade had taken 83% of all volume and 63% of total market value.

Westons said the shift in 2021 represented a move back towards a normal market position where the off-trade accounts for roughly two-thirds of volume but only a third of the market by value.

Off-trade market penetration, frequency and volume were all down in 2021 on 2020, but ahead of 2019.

The off-trade cider category dropped 11.9% in value last year, to £1.2 billion, with volumes 12% lower than 2020.

Crafted cider was the only segment in growth in the off-trade in 2021, up 1.9%. Mainstream cider (-14.8%), premium cider (-13.6%) and value amber (-15.2%) all fell quicker than the market as a whole.

Value white cider, a segment which many observers assumed to be in terminal decline, outperformed the market with a fall of just 8.3%.

Category manager Emily Jenkins says off-trade promotional strategies may change with the impact of inflation in the months ahead, but that the long-term trend from value to premium was expected to survive the household spending squeeze in 2022.

“I don’t think crafted will be affected,” she says. “People may reduce their overall volumes but continue to trade-up.

“[At the moment] we still see, on glass bottles, three-for-£5 across a lot of retail. I think we’ll see a lot of those phased-out and [multiples] go to three-for-£5.50 or four for the price of three. The mechanics may change in the coming year.”

Within apple cider, two main trends in 2021 were growth in cloudy cider and rosé cider – in both of which Westons has launched Henry Westons lines in recent years.

Cloudy cider sales declined 5.2% last year but sales are up 95% on two years ago and the sector is now worth £77 million, accounting for 6.6% of all cider sales.

Westons is bullish about prospects for the rest of 2022, with a football World Cup to come in November as pre-Christmas sales ramp up.

Jenkins says: “As we move into the second half of the year, we expect it will be more positive. We’ve also got the Platinum Jubilee at the beginning of June which we think will the biggest cider weekend of the year.”

Westons’ main focus for the year will be on its Henry Westons and Stowford Press brands, with the latter the subject of two major out-of-home advertising campaigns in the coming months.

On the arrested development of fruit

Fruit cider sales were down 16.6% in 2021, according to the Westons Report, compared to just an 8.8% drop in apple cider sales. Apple cider increased its value share of the off-trade cider market from 60.4% to 62.5%; fruit cider share dropped from 34.4% to 32.5%.

Westons category manager Emily Jenkins says: “We’re not saying fruit is going to disappear. It’s hit a natural ceiling and stabilising at around a third of the market.

“There are still opportunities for growth in there, but the real big volume opportunity sits with apple cider, which is up 11.4% versus two years ago. Fruit has grown, but only 2.4%, so behind the market.”

Darryl Hinksman, head of business development, says: “Perhaps people are understanding what cider is all about and the traditional nature of cider. The fact that made from pressed fresh juice actually doesn’t sit well with fruit cider.”

On the prospects for a seltzer crossover

Westons says it came close to launching a hard seltzer but had taken a step back, despite Heineken launching its 4% abv, lower-calorie Strongbow Ultra Dark Fruit as a crossover brand in that space.

“We’re looking at it closely,” Hinksman says. “We were on the verge of launching a seltzer. We had it ready to go and decided we’d sit back and see what’s happening with the seltzer market.

“Thankfully we didn’t go down that route. I think [Strongbow Ultra Dark Fruit] is a brave and interesting move and we’ll see what happens.

“We saw seltzers grow really quickly in the States and they have now fallen off a cliff. Our business in Australia has been reporting that in the last six months they’ve been losing space to seltzer, but it’s starting to change there as well. It looks as if the seltzer bubble has burst.”

On the growing importance of online

Jenkins said retailer online sales (not including producers’ direct-to-consumer sales) have increased from 6.7% share of the off-trade cider market pre-pandemic to 10% in 2021.

“Cider has traditionally under-traded online because it is such a great impulse purchase, with people grabbing some on their way home because the sun’s out,” she says.

“As we’re seeing more and more same day delivery slots and Deliveroo within-the-hour, cider can really benefit and pick up traction even more in the next couple of years.”