The cider decider

While Craft & Premium are a growing force on the cider market, undoubtedly, it’s the mainstream brands that dominate on- and off-trade sales. But are consumers now stopping to think on their choice before ordering? We take a look at developments in Ireland’s cider market.

In its Beer & Cider report for Ireland 2017 last July, Mintel reckoned that 2016’s €489 million island-of-Ireland cider market would see a fall in on-trade value in 2017.

“The uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the impact it will have on consumers’ day-to-day lives in both NI and RoI is likely to see sales value growth for beer and cider remain subdued,” it stated.

C&C’s Bulmers brand is the undoubted leader in the RoI market which enjoys an overall share of around 90% of the bottled and canned cider market while claiming just over half of the off-trade cider market.

But according to C&C’s preliminary trading update for the 12 months to the 28th February 2017 overall cider volumes showed a 1% decline.

While Nielsen puts cider volumes at 6.9 million cases the IWSR reports that last year the Irish cider market just about grew again, but ever so slightly this time, by just 0.1% to a larger 7.6 million nine-litre case figure from 7.57 million cases in 2016 and 7.52 million cases in 2015.

An increase in cider consumption here also seems reasonable if one takes provisional Revenue Commissioners figures which report a 1.4% increase in volumes and a 3% rise in tax receipts to €61.1 million for cider in 2017 compared to €59.3 million in 2016.

A Nielsen figure of €27.6 million for on-trade cider sales in the year to February 2017 sits alongside a €26.53 million figure for the previous year, with Nielsen putting cider’s share of the beverage market at 8% where ABFI puts this share slightly lower, at 7%.


Apples dominate cider flavours

Apple is the most drunk type of cider, with 35% of consumers having drunk it in the last three months according to Mintel’s Beer & Cider report.

In terms of flavour, apple remains the most commonly-used fruit in new cider launches, accounting for 57% of total cider launches between 2012 and 2017.


 Premiumisation and fruit-flavoured ciders

Globally, consumer focus is shifting away from the mainstream brands and towards (much lower volume) craft brands, claims the IWSR in its 2018 Global Insights report into Cider & RTDs which states, “While a number of major brands could be considered global, most global volume is derived from local or regional brands.

“Looking at brand level, growth is predominantly coming from newer, often craft-marketed labels such as Kopparberg, Rekorderlig and Angry Orchard. Key international players such as Bulmers, Strongbow and Magners are more challenged”.

But it remains a market worth getting into for brewers.

“For the major brewers, cider also represents an opportunity,” states IWSR, “Many of the major companies such as Heineken, MillerCoors and AB InBev have aggressively moved into the cider market as a result.”

In the UK, the cider category is seeing strong growth, primarily coming from draught which saw growth of 4% last year. However according to Andy Wingate, On-trade Category Controller for Heineken there, this growth has been driven by flavoured draught cider.

“It’s crucial that licensees recognise the point of difference between flavoured cider and apple cider and take advantage of it,” he writes in the CGA/ALMR’s third edition of Future Shock, “Consumers see flavoured cider as fundamentally different to apple cider, meaning volume gained from the flavoured segment does not equate to a lower volume of apple cider sold. In fact, our research suggests only around a third of flavoured cider volume is from consumers switching away from existing ranges. Therefore, adding a flavoured draught onto a bar is a clear way to drive overall cider volumes.”

Ireland is seeing the same overall trends as other markets where premiumisation and the growth of fruit-flavoured cider has had an impact on the market and caused key players such as Bulmer’s to extend their flavour portfolio, Ellen Rivers, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, told Drinks Industry Ireland.

”Premium cider posted a stronger growth than its mainstream and discount counterparts in 2016 and there was growth across on- and off-channels for cider in RoI in 2016,” she said, adding, “We don’t have actual volumes for 2017 yet but the forecast is positive.’’


Where cider is drunk

Around half of consumers questioned by Mintel are most likely to have drunk cider in a pub or bar in the last three months.


Cockagee Pure Irish Keeved Cider wins IFWG’s Irish Drink Award

The Irish Food Writers Guild’s Irish Drink Award-winner, boutique cider-maker Mark Jenkinson of the The Cider Mill, is dedicated to reviving ancient cider traditions.

Keeving is a natural fermentation method that clarifies the apple juice before fermentation to ensure a really slow fermentation, he explains.

“This leads to a retention of some of the original sweetness in the apples. Thus cider isn’t sweetened at the bottling stage.”

He first made cider about 12 years ago using apple juice he’d originally made for his children.

“It was a natural progression to cider and I was making a bit of beer while also cheese-making,” he says, “I studied up on cider and decided to try it as a commercial proposition. Keeving amongst cider makers would be like seeking the Holy Grail as it’s so difficult to do.”

While mainly looking to supply the off-trade he also supplies some restaurants and pubs locally.

"Keeving amongst cider makers would be like seeking the Holy Grail as it’s so difficult to do” - IFWG's Irish Drink Award Winner Mark Jenkinson.

“Keeving amongst cider makers would be like seeking the Holy Grail as it’s so difficult to do” – IFWG’s Irish Drink Award Winner Mark Jenkinson.
































Nothing says cider quite like Bulmers

Other brands come and go but there’s one brand of cider that’s been Ireland’s number one for, well… as long as we can remember. And what’s more, that brand is 100% Irish and central to the evolution of the cider category in Ireland.  That brand is Bulmers, known for steadfastly doing its thing from its home town of Tipperary, bringing the fresh taste of Irish apples to life and staying true to the one thing that really matters – taste.

It knows its consumers well and knows that they’re inherently interested, not just in Irish cider, but in music, entertainment and sport.

Bulmers has already captured the sounds of the Summer with its sponsorship of the phenomenally popular Bulmers Forbidden Fruit Festival in June, together with Metropolis, Bulmers Live at Leopardstown and many more local partnerships. Now things are moving up a gear as the brand expands its links and moves back into the sporting arena with an initiative to excite hundreds of thousands of sports fans both at home and abroad.  With an announcement imminent, check out Bulmers on social media for updates.

It’s going to be a busy Summer of Bulmers with on- and off-trade programmes including a brand new on-pack Shazam Campaign allowing consumers to ‘Shazam’ Ireland’s most popular cider for a chance to win great prizes.

According to Bulmers’ Marketing Director Belinda Kelly, all of its trade activity has been designed to help customers achieve their objectives of increased sales and enhanced profitability.

“2018 is going to be another great year for cider and for our customers as we ramp up our activations and launch new sponsorships,” she adds.




Falling Apple & Craigies

The apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree at Carlow Brewing Company, one of Ireland’s most well-established and respected craft breweries and now cidery, encompassing sister cider brands Falling Apple Irish Craft Cider and Craigies Irish Craft Cider.

The two cider brands are both produced using 100% Irish apples on site at the Bagenalstown, Co Carlow micro-cidery and can offer consumers transparency in both production and provenance, but sibling rivalry is avoided as the two brands have struck a chord with very different audiences according to Carlow Brewing Company Founder and Chief Executive Seamus O Hara.

“Our Craigies Irish Craft Cider brand tends to be the cider of choice for food lovers, it’s slightly drier and pairs well with artisan meats and cheeses whereas the blend of cider apples and eating apples we use for Falling Apple leads to a slightly sweeter profile.”

Its two ciders are premium brands, produced using techniques from cider-making experts and specialists on its team. Most importantly, its ciders are produced without any additives, or “nasties”, which means “both options offer consumers a clean, healthier, authentic and delicious cider experience.”

Falling Apple Irish Craft Cider will be the cider pouring at Castlepalooza Festival which takes place in Tullamore, County Offaly on the August Bank Holiday Weekend and Craigies is the pouring partner for all opening parties at IMMA Gallery Dublin.





Q&As with Carlow Brewing’s Seamus O’Hara

1. What can you tell us of the provenance and quality of your two cider brands that separate them from all the others on the market?

You could say that our Falling Apple Irish Craft Cider and Craigies Irish Craft Cider brands both do exactly what they say on the tin! We use a blend of Armagh Bramley apples which have received Protected Geographic Indication status as well as a mix of eating apples harvested in Autumn and pressed into juice. The fermentation process can then take from three weeks to three months depending on the temperature.

2. What are their respective target markets?

Both Falling Apple and Craigies appeal to anyone looking for a traditional craft cider taste – crisp and clean. In general the two cider brands appeal to consumers wanting to experience the taste of the apples as opposed to the cloying taste that results from unnecessary additives and sugar. In terms of flavour profiles Craigie’s is ever so slightly drier and appeals to a slightly more mature palate; in particular it has amassed a bit of a following amongst foodies whereas Falling Apple has a slightly sweeter flavour profile, so tends to be a little more popular with younger consumers.

3. With considerable heritage to consider, you’ve been very successful, a pioneer of craft beer brewing. But how has the cider market seemed to you by comparison – why did you decide to enter this more labour-intensive market?

Cider was always part of the plan. There’s such a rich heritage of cider production in this country we just wanted to ensure it was the right time for us to take this step; it just so happened that the right time took 20 years to get there! The cider market in Ireland and beyond is thriving. It’s a competitive space but we’ve always found that quality, provenance and authenticity are the best ways to set your brand and product apart…it’s worked for us so far anyway!

"Cider was always part of the plan" - Seamus O'Hara.

“Cider was always part of the plan” – Seamus O’Hara.


























Cooneys Irish Cider, an international Award Winner

From the family behind Boyne Brewhouse, Cooneys Irish Cider has joined the market to complement the range of craft beers in the portfolio. The Cooney family orchards in Meath and Tipperary yield some of the finest quality cider apples in Ireland. Using their own spring water and honey bees ensures that from blossom to bottle consumers get the finest and most refreshing Irish Apple Cider.

Cooneys Irish Cider won both ‘Best Irish Sparkling Cider’ and overall ‘Best Style’ at the World Cider Awards not long after launching. The awards select the very best of internationally-recognised styles of drinks, judged by a panel of international experts.

Sold in 500ml bottle and on draught, Cooneys Irish Cider is a pale golden straw colour with an aroma of fresh bittersweet cider apples. On the palate are layers of complexity with subtle tart apple nuances. Medium-bodied with a balanced crisp fruity finish, this cider is a serious contender.

The apple doesn’t fall far…

Join the Conversation on FaceBook and twitter – @CooneysIrishCider #CooneysIrishCider




Kopparberg launches Raspberry Light

Kopparberg enjoys an enviable position as the top fruit cider in the category with an 81% on-trade volume share (up 5%) and 62% off-trade share (up 3%), according to Nielsen MAT to December 2017. Its rate of sale continues to be double that of the next best-selling fruit cider.

With its original Raspberry variant experiencing 90% growth Kopparberg is now adding a low-calorie variant to its range, Raspberry Light. At 84kcal and 4% ABV the new premium variant is available in a sleek 250ml can. It launches to the off-trade this month, followed by other stores in time for the Summer months.

“We’ve found that on occasion our fans are looking for a lower calorie alternative which still packs the same great-tasting fruit flavours that they know and love,” comments Claire Gavin, Brand Manager for Kopparberg in Ireland, “This trend has informed us in launching Kopparberg Raspberry Light, a convenient lower-calorie option that’s bursting with fresh raspberry flavours.”

Kopparberg is produced in an independent family-owned brewery in the small town of Kopparberg, Sweden. Richmond Marketing distributes and markets it in Ireland.

Follow Kopparberg on Facebook & Instagram: @KopparbergIreland












Fruitful growth in the Irish cider market continues for Orchard Thieves

The successful beginnings enjoyed by Orchard Thieves cider has maintained pace, with continued growth in the on-trade. Orchard Thieves is the fastest-growing cider on the Irish market, in part due to the brand positioning itself with bold, innovative communications that stray from the traditional approach cider brands have taken in the past.
Orchard Thieves had a bumper 2017, increasing distribution nationally and is now the second-biggest cider brand in the country. The brand has established its biggest fan-base among the 18-34 demographic whose conversation about the cider’s unique refreshing taste has made the brand’s social media presence highly visible.
“2018 for Orchard Thieves will be bigger and bolder with an innovative activation programme being finalised for the Summer that will bring refreshing excitement to the on-trade” predicts John O’Callaghan, Trade Marketing Manager at Heineken Ireland, “there’s plenty more bold and urban attitude, so watch this space”.

Follow Orchard Thieves on Twitter & Facebook:

#BeBold | |@OrchardThieves.



MaC Ivors Cider  – Nature’s magic

Apple growing lies at the heart of the Mac Ivors Cider business. With 100 acres of wonderful apple trees in the Orchard County and 10 more acres of heritage cider varieties being planted in 2018, this will be the single largest heritage cider orchard in Northern Ireland.

Greg McNeice is a fifth generation apple-grower whose journey into cider-making was inspired by his mother’s French heritage and the beauty of his father’s County Armagh orchards.

Mac Ivors Cider Co produces Traditional Dry Cider, Medium Cider, Plum and Ginger Cider and last year launched Vintage Reserve Cider.

Distributed to the on- and off-trades, all four ciders are bottled but the Medium Cider is also served on draught in many pubs and restaurants, at major food and drink fairs and at festivals across Ireland.

Since the business started in 2011 it has grown to selling in over 1,000 outlets in the North and South of Ireland, in France, Italy, Denmark, Germany and Dubai.

In 2017 Mac Ivors Cider was recognised for its export achievements. The team also picked up other awards including a National Trust Fine Farm Food Award as well as collecting three Gold medals in London’s Guildhall at the 2017 International Brewing and Cider Awards. It also got a silver in Blas na hÉireann for its Traditional Dry Cider and Plum and Ginger Ciders and won the coveted Best Artisan Producer in Ireland at the same event.

With a new Summer campaign based around ‘Nature’s Magic’ Mac Ivors will tell the story of how nature is at the heart of everything it does from the bees pollinating the flowers in its orchards to the 14 different apple varieties that it grows, right to the moment someone experiences the crisp, appley refreshment of a Mac Ivors Cider.





älska premium fruit cider

älska premium fruit cider continued to accelerate its volume growth in core cider markets around the world during 2017. In Ireland it partnered with Counterpoint Ireland and the agreement sees Counterpoint building on the brand launch in Dublin and Belfast late last year.

The immediate success of älska in Ireland is attributed to the brand’s key product features: vegan, gluten-free and natural as well as it’s highly relevant and appealing flavour range across the portfolio. The success of its Lemon and Ginger in Ireland – the top-selling flavour in Scandinavian markets  – is not surprising to the Swedes. Designed to appeal to a broad demographic with a taste that appeals to regular beer-drinkers or current non-cider drinkers, älska’s vegan premium fruit cider varieties include strawberry lime, Nordic berries, passion fruit, kiwi lime and Winter spices.

An impactful social media campaign on behalf of Counterpoint supports the rapid roll-out of älska. Brand events, consumer tastings, premium quality glassware and marketing materials will be implemented and made available throughout the year.







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