The UK’s second largest cider producer has hit back after a homeless charity said its flagship Frosty Jack’s should be withdrawn from sale on public health grounds.

Thames Reach, which supports thousands of homeless people in the south of England, said these “problematic super-strength drinks” were one of the “biggest killers of homeless people”.

But producer Aston Manor has worked with analysts at Kantar to decipher who exactly is drinking Frosty Jack’s, and the statistics it has unearthed could dispel a number of stereotypes.

By analysing shopper data, it has learned that only 1% of Frosty Jack’s is drunk outdoors, 86% is poured into a glass and two- thirds is consumed with food.

Managing director Gordon Johncox said more must be done to directly help the small minority of visible problem drinkers rather than penalising the vast majority of people who drink responsibly and damaging margins for thousands of retailers in the process.

He told OLN: “We know that strong ciders and strong lagers over-index with problem drinkers. That’s a fact. But they are a tiny minority of consumers.

“Damage is done to middle- aged, middle-class, two bottles of wine a night drinkers, but that’s invisible. People don’t see that.

“They see some poor guy on the street drinking what he is drinking and it becomes very visible and people think those products are problem drinks.

“There aren’t problem drinks. There are problem drinkers. These people aren’t there because they drink beer and cider. They have problems and excessive drinking is the final manifestation of their problems.”

Aston Manor is dismayed by the Reducing the Strength schemes proliferating in the UK, saying they are implemented by “misinformed zealots” asking retailers to strip shelves of beer and cider above a certain abv despite there being no evidence they will target the problem.

Glen Friel, sales and marketing director at Aston Manor, said Frosty Jack’s is worth £50 million in retail, despite not being sold in the multiple grocers.

According to its research, shoppers spend only 36% of their total basket on cider – the rest goes on food and other products, offering retailers vital business. And only 56% of their cider spend is on Frosty Jack’s, with the rest going on brands such as Magners, Stella Cidre and Strongbow.

Frosty Jack’s has recently been rebranded with an image of an iceberg to encourage drinkers

to serve it over ice, while it has released a 6% abv Golden Apple variant and a 4% Mixed Berry variant to sit alongside the core 7.5% SKU.

Thames Reach communications manager Mike Nicholas said: “We welcome any move to reduce the strength of these ciders, but it seems a missed opportunity when other parts of the industry have behaved responsibly and are taking steps to get rid of super-strength drinks.”