While non-alcoholic beer holds its place as the biggest seller in the low/no category, cider hasn’t yet received the same degree of consumer attention. Rachel Badham explores why this is, and takes a look at the opportunities

Throughout the rapid expansion of the low/no category over the past few years, low-alcohol and alcohol-free beer has led the way, with both big brands and independent brewers launching variants. Low/no cider, on the other hand, hasn’t quite gained the same level of traction despite often being grouped with beer. 

Laura Willoughby, founder of Club Soda, thinks this might not be specific to low/no cider. “Cider is a less talked-about product in the alcohol category, too,” she says, mentioning the role promotional campaigns have played in the success of low/no beer. 

“Investment in promotion from big cider brands with low/no variants can’t quite meet the same level as big beer brands, so you may hear about low/no cider less.” 

The seasonal appeal of cider may also be stifling low/no cider’s growth, suggests Nicola Randall, head of marketing for Brothers, which recently introduced a range of 3.4% abv ciders. 

“Across the board, cider is still a relatively seasonal product – whereas wine and beer have more year-round appeal – so overall demand for no/low products isn’t quite at the same level just yet,” says Randall. 

“When it comes to low/no options, the bigger categories such as beer and wine have paved the way with these alternatives and the cider category will take a bit longer to align, as drinkers’ habits continue to evolve further over time,” she adds. 

With low/no cider seemingly being affected by broader challenges to the cider sector, that isn’t to say that the category isn’t gaining ground. And the key to unlocking its potential could lie in paying attention to wider consumer trends. 

Alexander Wilson, category & commercial strategy director at Heineken – which owns cider brand Old Mout, including its alcohol-free variants – describes low/no cider as a “massive opportunity” for retailers this year. 

“In the total market, low/no cider is worth £18 million, having grown by 12.3% in 2023, demonstrating that there is a consumer demand for these varieties.” 

SEASONAL DEMAND 

While the seasonality of cider may be a drawback in some ways, Wilson says that this summer could be the perfect chance for retailers to engage consumers with the category by expanding their ranges. 

“Awareness is key for shoppers though, and there is always room for retailers to increase their availability of these products. With summer fast approaching, there is a massive opportunity for retailers to get ahead of things and stock up.” 

Daniel Wheeler, category manager at Kopparberg, says there is “definitely demand for low/no cider”, and predicts that more cider brands will begin releasing low/no variants following beer’s success. 

“Beer is seeing really strong growth through NPD, and major brands are now realising the importance of low/no.” 

Wheeler highlights the power of pack size when it comes to engaging consumers with the low/no cider category: “Larger pack formats are key when it comes to low/no growth, outperforming both singles and mid-packs. Within this space, variety packs are also a great way to bring excitement and new customers.” 

And with that, low/no cider could be hot on the heels of beer as a favourite with mindful drinkers.