Flavours across cider have grown into a veritable rainbow over recent years, with strawberry, lemon, rosé, blood orange, dark fruits and blueberry all adding to the spectrum, but is the sunlight fading on that particular arc, asks Jaq Bayles

Not only have flavoured ciders come up against RTDs as the category boundaries become more and more blurred, changing palates have seen consumers turn away from sweeter options in favour of original apple variants. 

According to the Westons Cider Report 2024, while it still commands a 31.5% market share, flavoured is down 2% from last year while premium, crafted apple ciders are up 5.6% to 64.1%. 

But that’s not to say flavours have had their day – there are some interesting new options that fall under the flavoured bracket which are exciting retailers who see the cider segment as a serious proposition and one that could offer the kind of innovation that’s seen in craft beer. 

For some time, there have been proponents of the idea that Cider is Wine, which became the name of a trade alliance set up by Alistair Morrell. But Krishan Rajput, owner of Stirchley Wines & Spirits, is taken with the movement by some producers into realms more associated with brewing. 

In terms of his flavoured ciders section, Rajput does stock some of the traditional flavoured ciders, but he’s more enthusiastic about those that “bump into other areas of the market”, citing Warwickshire-based Hogan’s, which has a wild elder cider, a hopped cider and a gose-style cider. 

“They’re taking accents from the beer side and sort of transporting them into cider,” says Rajput. “We’ve got some serious makers of cider. Herout, from Normandy, has proper Normandy ciders but has versions of that which will be aged in Calvados casks. So, they’re not particularly fruit flavoured but they will have accents on flavouring by other means.” 

There are other brands enthusing him, such as Nordic brand Aeblerov, which has a pet nat, dry hopped cider, and yet others that are releasing single orchard or single variety ciders and perries, crossing into the area favoured by Morrell, who backs ciders and perries made from 100% apple or pear juice but is not against the idea of flavoured products. 

“We do have some flavoured ciders but we always draw a line and it’s the same line – 100% juice not from concentrate,” he says. “There’s a brilliant apple and blackcurrant cider from Templar’s Choice in France, for example, made from freshly harvested blackcurrants; there are things like Ramborn Quince from Luxembourg, there’s Rhubarb from Latvia, so flavour is not a problem from our point of view – we celebrate it. 

“The disappointment is the authenticity with which some of them are made, in that they seem to push the boundaries of what gets added – I believe there are over 50 E numbers you can add to a cider in order to make it whatever you want to make it.” 

FUTURE FLAVOUR 

While the figures may be down for flavoured cider, there’s no denying that the category still performs well – and could soon do even better. 

Humphrey Serjeantson, research director at IWSR, says: “Fruit ciders have been performing relatively badly in recent years but alcohol duty changes on August 1 were expected to give a boost to draught fruit ciders in the on-trade with a 4% abv pint costing 10p less. 

“Blood orange flavours have been launched by some players with a colour reminiscent of the popular Aperol spritz – seasonality also plays a big role in cider flavours. 

“The growth of cocktails may spur a move towards more unique flavours in cider, particularly tropical fruits. Rosie’s Pig Tropical Cloudy Cider, launched by Westons in summer 2023, with pineapple and coconut flavours, is one example.” 

While that Piña Colada-inspired variant may hit the spot, other fruity offerings may not do so well, with Westons head of marketing Sally McKinnon saying that cider is “evidently returning to its roots with drinkers favouring traditional flavours and styles” over sweet fruits. 

She adds: “Tapping into this, we recently launched Henry Westons Vintage Pear. While pear cider and perry currently account for 4.4% of market value, we anticipate significant growth in 2024, fuelled by several new pear launches towards the end of 2023 and early 2024.” 

Among the recent flavour lines, Thatchers is backing its Apple & Blackberry variant, which was launched at the end of last year. Jonathan Nixon, commercial director for Thatchers, says the variant has become the “fastest growing new cider product launch since Thatchers Blood Orange in 2022”. 

He adds: “Blood Orange grew the category and initial results suggest Apple & Blackcurrant is also making great strides and recruiting new shoppers to the category, with 41.5% of retail sales value attributed to new/lapsed shoppers, potentially driven by the product.” 

So more traditional flavours look set to make a comeback, while experimental crossover styles could also take on cider drinkers’ taste buds in the coming years.