From citrus kicks to nostalgic hits, the world of cider flavours continues to evolve, finds Clinton Cawood
Even the most committed of purists can’t deny the enduring popularity of flavoured cider, in all of its various forms. Every year, or even every season, cider producers unveil increasingly unusual and creative flavours, and consumers are loving it.
Flavoured variants have led the growth in value of the cider category, believes Caleb Simpson, managing director of drinks flavour supplier Simpson’s Beverages, who adds that “flavoured ciders are key to the category weathering current market challenges”.
The demand is certainly there, says Elise Hockridge, customer marketing manager for Kopparberg: “Shoppers are always looking for newness and excitement through flavour.”
Nicola Randall, head of marketing for Brothers Drinks Co, agrees. “We know that cider fans seek out eye-catching new variants and we strive to lead the category in terms of flavour innovation.”
At Sheffield beer and cider retailer Hop Hideout, owner Jules Gray sees the demand too.
“Our biggest seller by far is just a delicious medium dry cider, with nothing but the lovely apples shining through, but you can’t deny the consumer interest in fruit cider and we do often get asked for a dark-fruit variant.”
Gray isn’t the only one getting requests for that particular flavour. “Berry flavours still hold strongest — hardly surprising since these have now been around for more than 10 years,” says Simpson.
Beyond ever-popular flavours like these, seasonality is key for flavoured cider, much like the broader cider category itself. For Thatchers, with its Cloudy Lemon and Blood Orange variants, summer is certainly a focus.
“As we see consumers choosing refreshing, summer flavours, citrus is top of the list,” says commercial director Jonathan Nixon.
“Thanks to their light, crisp, refreshing characters, fruit ciders definitely increase in popularity in the warmer seasons, as people head off to barbecues, picnics, parties and days out.”
Going beyond citrus, Kopparberg looked to broader flavour trends for inspiration for its summer exclusive this year.
“Peach as a flavour has been trending across social media and our Summer Punch flavour delivers the goods,” says Hockridge.
Flavours aren’t just for the summer months, of course.
“While sales do drop off in winter, flavoured varieties actually tend to generate higher sales through autumn than the height of summer,” says Simpson.
“The variety of new flavours on offer are helping to establish cider as a year-round option.” Brothers is among those producers with an eye on flavours for seasons other than the summer.
“The expansion of flavoured ciders, both in terms of availability and consumer interest, has given flavoured variants a relevance which extends far outside of the summer months,” says Randall, highlighting the brand’s Toffee Apple variant, aimed at autumn and Halloween in particular.
“Looking beyond summer, Kopparberg launched a new Spiced Blackberry variant last year,” says Hockridge, pointing out that spiced variants like these can be served either cold or warm.
“As the colder months roll in, we’ll certainly look back towards the berry profile. Without giving too much away, we’ll look to compliment our successful Spiced Apple and Blackberry range with a seasonal SKU to follow hot on the heels of Summer Punch.”
Gray agrees that cider’s potential, and that of its flavoured variants, isn’t limited to the warmer months. “As harvesting is in September, that’s a great time to celebrate the fruit,” she says.
“Winter is brilliant for hot and spiced variants and January for celebrating with wassailing!”
Much like Kopparberg, with the peach flavour of its Summer Punch variant, there are cider producers that look for inspiration outside of the cider category — and sometimes beyond drinks.
“Lighter, citrus flavours are what people are asking for,” says Nixon. “We can see orange and blood orange flavours flourish across wider categories, in spirits and soft drinks, and outside of drinks such as confectionery.”
Simpson agrees: “It looks like citrus ciders are here to stay, whether that’s as the lead flavour, as with blood orange creations, or a complementary flavour, as with strawberry and lime mixes,” he says.
“Bold flavours are key to many drink trends this year, aligning with wider food and social trends. More exotic flavours for cider suit wider drink trends for more moderated drinking habits, or low-key luxuries, for example.”
Other broader trends that Simpson thinks might enter the flavoured cider category are “spiced, tart or sour treats, perhaps adding elderberry or gooseberry flavours, or even smoky flavours, like an apple and smoked cherry blend”.
Meanwhile, nostalgic flavours remain popular, inspiring the latest from Brothers: Raspberry Ripple.
“The new variant draws its inspiration not from current on-trend flavours, but from the world of ice-cream,” says Randall.
“This classic flavour conveys a hint of nostalgia and brought something totally new to the cider category when it was introduced in the spring.”
For some cider producers, flavour trends are secondary to other considerations. “We work with local fresh produce,” says Susanna Forbes, co-founder of craft cidery Little Pomona with husband James Forbes, who incorporate damsons, quince, cherries, hops and grapes.
“Rarity and provenance play a part, and these offer new experiences too — most people have never tasted a cider or perry with quince.”
The flavoured variant within the Adnams Wild Wave range wasn’t informed by flavour trends either, says head of production Fergus Fitzgerald.
“We are really looking for flavours that have longevity rather than chasing the current trend,” he says. “Wild Wave Blush still tastes like cider, but the subtle botanical infusion of rose gives a refreshing balance to its profile.”
The flavours may change with the seasons, but the steady stream of new ciders shows no signs of slowing.