The UK cider industry is anticipating a 12% jump in sales for 2006, according to a report by beverage research company Canadean.

The report, entitled 'Cider: Defying Gravity with Contemporary Success', said that many brands across the marketplace, not just C&C's thriving Magners brand, had capitalised well as the spotlight has fallen on the cider category.

Canadean found that it is the premium end of the market that has flourished, with value significantly outperforming volume during the year.

Second tier cider operators, including Merrydown, Westons and Thatchers, have been on an upward curve for several years mirroring the trend towards premium-packaged ales in the off-trade, the report said.

Scottish & Newcastle-owned market leader Strongbow's sales are expected to rise by 9% this year, supplemented further by solid sales from its Sirrus extension.

Canadean noted that 2006 has seen the cider phenomenon spread to the off-trade, which saw sales accelerate from 3% to 10%, together with a 14% increase in on-trade sales.

The on-premise cider sector, although gaining share, still accounts for only 40% of overall cider volumes.

The research company said that supply issues have meant that the Magners brand is still under-represented in the retail channel. When these issues are resolved, there will still be considerable slack in the retail channel to exploit.

Leading operator S&N, which supplies almost 55% of the cider market, has been active in new product development and relaunched the Bulmers Original brand to counter the threat posed by Magners, the report noted.

In addition, the research group expects cider to enjoy record levels of marketing support in 2007, which will ensure that momentum continues and current consumer interest is maintained, adding that only a rise in duty could hinder its progress.

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