The sun is shining, the weather’s hot, and fruit cider sales are on the up and up. But long-range forecasts suggest that July could be wetter than average — so how can retailers guard against a drop-off in sales and keep fruit cider moving through to autumn and beyond?

Last year’s July heatwave saw fruit cider sales surge to take 25% of the cider market, from less than 20% before, according to IRI.

Matt Cain, senior beer and cider buyer at Conviviality Retail, says: “Cider is the category that is most responsive to warmer weather, and due to its ever-increasing popularity we have worked to increase space for it in our chillers.

“Eighty per cent of our customers purchase drinks to consume within a few hours. Increasing our offer of chilled cider gives our franchisees a major advantage over the multiples and allows them to maximise on impulse sales on hot days.”

But producers say fruit ciders are becoming an all-year-round drink.

Ben Turner, customer marketing manager for Kopparberg, says: “Cider is moving to become a less seasonal category but it’s still imperative to make the most of the weather. Later this year we are launching Kopparberg Spiced Apple Cider, our first foray into winter cider. This had a limited trial run in 2013, the feedback on the product was excellent and will help inform our 2014 activity.

“Mintel’s annual cider report demonstrated that penetration of winter cider is growing, so these two factors give us confidence that this will be a real growth area in the coming years.”

Rekorderlig also has a winter cider in its portfolio. Linsey Adams, customer marketing manager at distributor Chilli Marketing, says: “Deseasonalisation of cider has played its part in the overall growth of the market, as cider drinking becomes a year-round occasion thanks to a change of perception by the consumer. Rekorderlig has continued to promote cider for all seasons with its category-leading approach to NPD. Our portfolio includes variants that are enjoyed throughout the year from Rekorderlig

Passionfruit to Rekorderlig Winter Cider.” Debs Carter, marketing director for alcohol at SHS Drinks, distributor of Merrydown, says:

“Although there is a certain element of seasonality to cider sales, cider is pretty much an all-year- round drink now. Cider does generally enjoy an uplift during the summer months, but that’s simply down to consumers’ social behaviour, and the fact that people tend to socialise more in the summer, whatever the weather.

“If the sun does shine, that’s an added bonus as people get out their barbecues and that’s when sales really do take off, but so do beer and soft drink sales, so cider is no more seasonal than those categories.”

She adds: “As variety and choice are one of the key driving factors, it’s certainly worth retailers reviewing their flavoured cider range on a seasonal basis as flavours such as strawberry, peach and apricot tend to lend themselves more to the summer months, and some cider producers are now launching seasonal limited editions or warmer flavours for the winter months.”