Cider sales continued to sour at C&C Group in its third quarter, dragging down group revenue by 13%, the Magners owner has announced.

Sales of cider fell by 19% for the three months ended 30 November, said the Magners owner in a trading update today (16 January).

Like-for-like cider sales fell more sharply in the UK, down 24% on the same period last year, compared to a 17% drop in Ireland.

"The performance reflects very weak consumer demand, declining price yield, increased off-trade profile and strong competition in both markets," said C&C, adding that operating margin fell by 3% during the quarter.

"Performance over the seasonally weak months of January and February is expected to continue this trend."

Cider accounts for around 80% of C&C earnings. Sales have struggled over the past two years, having failed to maintain or recapture Magners' initial burst onto the UK pub scene.

Spirits sales, which include Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey, Carolans Irish cream liqueur and Frangelico, fell by 1% during the third quarter. 

The group also announced a review of its pension scheme, warning that its deficit has increased from EUR32.3m as of August 2008, to around EUR60m at the end of December. "In the coming months C&C will explore the options to fund the remaining deficit of EUR35-40m and prepare a funding plan," it said.