Whither Cider?

With the development of the craft beers of late, what's the status of the cider segment in today's on-trade? Drinks Industry Ireland bobs for apples of wisdom in the cider market.

There’s nothing new about cider. Like beer, it’s as old as the hills, has been a staple diet at one time or another and can be traced back to pre-Christian times. 1155 marks one of the earliest written references to cider while historians are of the opinion that cider consumption in America topped 32 gallons per person back in the Colonial era.

But over the years, the market for cider has tended to revert back to its heartlands in Ireland and the UK (with Brittany thrown in for good measure).

Once again that’s changing though. Cider has experienced a resurgence in popularity not only in the UK and Ireland but in the US too. And even in Asia, countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore are becoming cider drinkers to some extent.


Irish market

Here in Ireland, last year saw the first reversal of the decline in cider volumes since the crash of 2008. Clearance figures suggest that the cider category peaked in 2007 and has been shrinking ever since until 2014 when it grew slightly (0.4%) to 62.4 million litres and cider continues to be responsible for around 8% of the Long Alcoholic Drinks market.

And as was initially the case in Ireland, the UK and Nordic markets have improved their sales volumes by expanding the seasonality of ciders through promoting hot mulled cider in Winter with the ‘over-ice’ proposition kept for the Summer period.

All involved in the cider market would like to reduce sales dependence on the weather or the time of year.

Here, developments in this market lead one to be optimistic that cider’s share can increase. And shirking off the straitjacket of ‘seasonality’ has been one of the first tasks of major suppliers like Bulmers as Belinda Kelly, its Marketing Manager, explains.

“It’s no secret that cider was once perceived almost exclusively as a Summer drink but a lot of progress has been made in de-seasonalising the category and positioning it as a year-round drink of choice,” she states.

“The first move came through Bulmers’ Four Seasons advertising campaign, which focused on the four seasons in the Bulmers orchard and the work that went on in each period right across the year.

“In 2011, the Bulmers Specials range was launched, introducing new flavours such as rhubarb, honey and infused spices which edged the brand away from Summer-only relevance. Strategically-timed promotions, sponsorships and audience engagements allow us to build a year-round platform for Bulmers so whilst there is no doubt that a sunny day can lead to an increase in sales, we’re seeing a more even balance across the seasons.”

So, like beer, can we expect to see the cider market soon reach saturation point?

Belinda Kelly again: “I don’t believe that either category has reached saturation point and there’s always a place for a quality product. More often than not, it’s the market that dictates when the time is right for a new beer or cider. Last year C&C Gleeson introduced a new lager, Clonmel 1650, which has been really well received by the market. We spotted a gap in the market for a new, Irish-made beer and in true Clonmel style, fortune favoured the brave. Similarly, we believe that the time is right for a new cider variant so 2015 is actually going to be a very exciting and buoyant time for the Bulmers brand.”

From the point-of-view of craft cider, Daniel Emerson of Stonewell cider agrees.

“Absolutely not,” he says, “The annual volume of cider consumed in Ireland is 66 million litres. The ‘craft cider’ sector represented no more than 1% to 1.5% of that last year. Subject to one’s definition of ‘craft’ I think it’s likely that the saturation threshold for the genuine article is somewhere between 10 & 15%. The threshold will be reached fairly promptly but not as quickly as beer because of the difference in the fundamental dynamics of production.


Cider’s customer profile

The style of cider a publican stocks tends to be a function of his customer base. Fruit ciders, the sweeter ciders, suit a ‘younger’ adult consumer as they’ve been attracted into the market in the first place by those selfsame sweet cider variants. These consumers then progress to more mainstream and even premium varieties – or at least, that’s the marketing theory.

Other outlets offer a range of cider styles through brands that provide the consumer’s expanding cider repertoire with a choice that they can trust and one that reflects the growing phenomena of locality and genuine heritage.

In Stonewell cider’s case, the fact that the provenance is Irish has been pivotal to its success, says Daniel Emerson, “… especially as we launched during a severe recession and the consumer sentiment has always been to support local. It will be interesting to see how this sentiment persists as the economy improves”.


Cider gender

In the UK cider enjoys a much more even gender split than any other category – it’s enjoyed equally by men and women as well as a broad demographic in terms of age, believes Simon Russell, spokesman for the National Association of Cider Makers there.

Here, one finds a slight male bias, according to Belinda Kelly, “… but this is offset somewhat by strong sales amongst women for the Bulmers Light variant”.

Elsewhere, Kopparberg distributor Richmond Marketing’s Marketing Director Niall McGrath points out, “The fruit cider consumer is typically considered to be female, with an age profile anywhere between 18 and 34; however market research has shown the UK experience being mirrored here.

Kopparberg’s exciting and engaging consumer-focused activation plan and constant innovation has allowed the brand to break down the walls of tradition for cider”.


Value & premium polarisation

But a split of a different kind appears to be about to beset the cider category.

A report from Rabobank analyst Francois Sonneville stated, “55% of cider drinkers are women, most of whom are under 30 years of age. This so-called female millennial is the demographic most likely to exhibit hybrid consumer behavior in which people eschew mid-market options in favour of brands at the extreme end of the product spectrum, switching between super-premium and value options as the occasion demands.

“The premium and mainstream cider brands that currently dominate the sector will need to differentiate themselves or risk losing share,” she advises, “These companies would be well-advised to follow the example of major US brewers and invest in the super-premium segment at an early stage.”

According to Rabobank, “The international premium brands that dominate the present market run the risk of getting stuck in the middle. Mainstream players that react early to the hybrid consumer trend, developing their own super-premium products and investing in strong branding, should continue to flourish, facilitating the future growth of the cider industry”.

Francois Sonneville told Drinks Industry Ireland that global cider growth continues to be strong, driven mainly by growth in the US.

Either way the cider industry remains a healthy option for the publican as Daniel Emerson explains: “Cider is the only sector that’s retained its volume sales or increased throughout the recession in both the UK and Ireland.”


Bulmers’ authenticity and heritage captured in new TV campaign


Bulmers has returned to TV with the launch of a new, Through-The-Line campaign that celebrates the Bulmers’ journey, extolling the virtues of that quintessential Bulmers ingredient – time.

In a world where the pace of life is increasing and attention spans are being whittled away, the new Bulmers Not a Moment Too Soon campaign celebrates taking it slow, reflecting all the brand’s core strengths around heritage and authenticity.

Belinda Kelly, Marketing Manager for Bulmers, explains, “Bulmers has always been true to itself and is an authentic Irish brand from a world that features orchards, the vats, apples and time. This new campaign is a return to our roots and to the time it takes to craft an original. Time has always been a distinctive and defining quality of the Bulmers brand and its authenticity and Irishness are central to its wide appeal.

“Every drop of Bulmers has been on a journey that started almost a decade before with the planting of an apple tree. Defined by a pace, we wear our slowness as a badge of honour. Bulmers is a brand for today’s consumers and whilst we embrace the here and now, there’ll always be some things that we like to do in the same traditional way we’ve always done.”

The new ad marries incredible cinematography with a contemporary feel, underpinned by the brand’s traditional values, she says. Shot in Ireland, Bulmers is hopeful that it will stop audiences in their tracks to take a minute to enjoy Not a Moment Too Soon.

A seven figure investment will see the campaign roll-out across TV, radio, digital, outdoor and BTL together with PR to cement Bulmers’ status as The Original Cider.



Q&As with Bulmers’ Marketing Manager Belinda Kelly

  1. Has the age profile for cider-drinking in Ireland broadened?  I think a lot has been done over the past 25 years to help widen the age spectrum of the cider drinker in Ireland, driven, in part, by the breadth of Bulmers’ sponsorships such as amateur golf, the Magners League, the Bulmers International Comedy Festival, Forbidden Fruit, Bulmers Live at Leopardstown and The Tall Ships Races. I think that innovation in flavours and the trends we’re seeing in this area will help to broaden the age profile even further.
  1. Is there growth in bottled ciders at the expense of draught?  Our research has shown that when it comes to Bulmers, there are two very separate cohorts: the draught purist and the bottled Bulmers-over-ice drinker. Whilst our on-trade sales of Bulmers Pint Bottle have seen a return to growth, we don’t believe that it’s at the expense of draught as Pint Bottle has always outperformed the draught variant. It’s simply the more popular of the two formats in the on-trade and that status is unlikely to change.
  1. With all the developments in craft beer of late, what’s the status of the cider segment in today’s on-trade? I’m happy to say that the Bulmers brand is in very good health; in 2014 sales of Bulmers grew for the first time in seven years with the brand outperforming the wider LAD market. Bulmers has 8.9% of the LAD market and we welcome the developments in the craft beer and cider sector which we feel actually benefit the market as a whole. Consumers are exploring craft but are doing so alongside mainstream brands, so this is good news for Bulmers. In Clonmel, the home of Bulmers, our recently-completed craft brewery will facilitate the further expansion of our portfolio.
  1. Flavoured ciders seem to be a growing trend. How is Bulmers continuing to develop its flavoured cider offering?We’ve got some really exciting plans in the pipeline to be announced over the coming months. Innovation is a key business driver in this area but it cannot act in isolation and for us, has been supported by really robust market research and extensive taste tests so we’re confident that our next announcement will be really positively received by consumers.
  1. What’s Bulmers’ marketing strategy for 2015 in regard to the on- and off-trades? Our strategy is to grow the cider category in both the on- and off-trade by growing affinity with consumers and showcasing the authenticity and Irishness of the Bulmers brand. This will be achieved through our new advertising campaign Not a Moment Too Soon.  2015 sees a significant marketing investment in the brand and the TV ad will be supported by outdoor, print, Below-The-Line and digital media, together with PR and consumer engagement. With exciting product innovations on the horizon together with some strong promotions planned for the on-trade, the Bulmers marketing strategy for 2015 and beyond is very focused and dynamic.



Coming Soon – new Kopparberg Summer Fruit Light


Thanks to its constant innovation and investment Kopparberg, Ireland’s Number One fruit cider, has a market share of 71% in the on-trade fruit cider market and 60% in the off-trade. Despite a declining fruit cider category, Kopparberg grew 16% in volume in 2014.

Last Summer, Kopparberg launched Pear Light with great success. Still available to order, it was the first light fruit cider in Ireland with 30% less calories but the same ABV of 4.5%.

The ‘light’ variant is on-trend as consumers become more health-conscious and consumer research has highlighted an overwhelming feedback for more ‘light’ options.

This Summer, Kopparberg continues to invest in the ‘light’category with the launch of Summer Fruit Lights.

Since the launch of Kopparberg in 2006 heavy marketing investment has included TV ads, heavyweighted sampling, on- and off-trade visibility and music festival partnerships.

Kopparberg distributors Richmond Marketing has continuously invested in growing the sales force, up-weighting the investment into profit-driving promotions, engaging Through-The-Line consumer and shopper marketing strategies and consistently bringing innovation to the category.

So do not miss out and move with the trade by listing Pear and Summer Fruit Light to ensure that you’re catering for your health-conscious customers. You can also drive your sales with premium Kopparberg POS, available to order.



Heineken Ireland announces boldest move yet


Heineken Ireland has confirmed it will launch its biggest New Product Development ever with one bold move, a new cider brand on May 1st 2015.

With an investment of €20 million over the next five years, Heineken Ireland’s new cider offering is designed to take a slice of Ireland’s Irish cider market valued at €366 million.

As Ireland’s leading lager distributor, this opportunistic move is driven by Heineken Ireland’s major focus on innovation over the coming years. The brand name and details remain under wraps before its launch this May when details will be announced with a heavily-supported advertising and marketing drive.

To ensure maximum visibility and cut-through, it will be seen in all channels across supermarkets, convenience stores, specialist groups and premium independent off-licences. Its presence in over 1,000 off-trade accounts will strengthen what will be one of its strongest NPD launches to date.


Stonewell Cider – Looking forward to a blossoming future

Stonewell Cider_grouplow

Stonewell Cider is celebrating its fifth birthday. Back in 2010 the company, started by Daniel and Geraldine Emerson on their small farm in County Cork, set out to make cider using only fresh apple juice without the addition of any synthetic ingredients. This seemed to strike a chord with consumers as the cider has now been welcomed into the four corners of the island.

“Whilst staying true to our desire to create an all-natural product we’ve grown our capacity to meet demand and thankfully received some great accolades along the way,” says Daniel in reference to the Great Taste Awards and the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Award to name but a few.

“Moving into our fifth year we felt we needed to support our customers more and to facilitate this we’ve implemented a sole agency agreement with Classic Drinks for all of Ireland. It’ll enable us to deliver more sales support and merchandising. This is most important as we bring to market some really exciting and innovative new ciders later this Spring.

“Alongside our existing ciders, our goal with our new products is to really emphasise the versatility and quality cider can attain, pushing it into areas not normally associated with the sector’s mainstream. That, along with our limited roll-out of draught installations, is going to make for a very busy fifth anniversary indeed!”

For your local Business Development Manager – please contact Classic Drinks on 021 4510066 or


Aspall cyder

Draught glass copylow

The Aspall family cyder-making business was established nearly 300 years ago by Clement Chevallier from Jersey. He planted the orchards at Aspall Hall in Suffolk and imported the granite wheel to crush the apples from the Ilses de Chaussee off the Normandy coast.

The Chevallier family still live and work among Clement’s orchards and today Aspall is run by the eighth generation of the family, Barry and Henry Chevallier Guild. Aspall is the 10th-oldest family businesses in the UK.

Generations of Chevalliers used Clement’s method of pressing until 1947 when the last horse pulling the wheel around the trough passed away. Although production has moved with the times, Aspall cyder is still pressed, fermented, blended and bottled on-site in Suffolk to the same exacting standards set by Clement.

Today Aspall’s world-class cyders enjoy increasingly global acclaim for quality and excellence.

In Ireland Aspall cyders are also available nationwide on draught in a growing number of on-trade outlets who want to offer a premium cider alternative.


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