Cider sales outpace lacklustre drinks market

Cider sales outpace lacklustre drinks market

Consumers' thirst for premium cider is helping the sector to outperform the UK alcoholic drinks market, according to new figures.

Data from Nielsen, released this week, shows that cider sales in the UK off-trade rose by 9% in value for the 12 months to the end of October, reaching GBP772m (US$1.14bn) in the year.

Strong demand for high-end cider has helped the category to grow value "twice as strongly as the total beer, wine and spirits market", Nielsen's new business manager, David Cartwright, told a press briefing yesterday (24 November).

It is a similar story in the on-trade, albeit with lower momentum due to the travails of the pub industry in general. Cider sales are up 3% in value year-on-year and by 1% in volume, according to on-trade research specialist CGA Strategy. While most of the value increase is thought to be tax-driven, cider has still outperformend beer, wine and spirits, which have all showed decline in the past 12 months.    

The figures offer reassurance to all in the sector that cider's resurgence in the UK is holding, despite a slowdown in consumer spending amid a tough economic climate.

Both the off- and on-trade data shows that premium cider is leading the sector's momentum. "A key difference from last year is that it's not the over-ice element that's driving growth in the category," said Cartwright.

CGA data shows that niche cider brands have increased sales by 35% in value and 28% in volume in the past year, albeit off a very low base. Over-ice brands such as Magners and Bulmers still dominate the category.

Henry Chevallier Guild, head of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) as well as partner at Aspall Cyder, said that there is plenty of room left for growth. "50% of people who drink claim never to drink cider," he said. "We've got 9% of the market [by volume] now, but we're still nowhere near where we were in our heyday," he said.

The NACM recently announced that it had negotiated a new definition of cider with the UK Government. All ciders containing less than 35% juice will not benefit from cider's relatively low duty rate, in a move that the industry believes will raise standards and ministers hope will snuff out discount own-label and white ciders.