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UK: Premium cider goes from strength to strength

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Premium cider producers are in a sweet spot in the UK, according to figures that show sales strong outperforming the alcoholic drinks market. 

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In the year to the end of October, premium cider sales in the UK off-trade rose by 24% to GBP213.8m (US$332m), according to figures released by Nielsen at a briefing for journalists held by Aspall Cyder. In the on-trade, meanwhile, cider is the only 'long alcoholic drink' category in growth.

According to on-trade research specialist CGA Strategy, cider sales in bars, pubs and restaurants have risen by 8% to GBP1.44bn in the last 12 months. Again, premium brands are driving growth, with mainstream ciders on draught, such as Strongbow and Blackthorn, losing significant volume.

Anheuser-Busch InBev's launch of Stella Cidre is thought to have inflated the premium category in 2011, but the CGA and Nielsen figures suggest that growth is more widespread. 

Within this trend, Aspall in particular has outperformed the category, according to both CGA and Nielsen. The Suffolk-based group has three of the top ten premium cider brands in the UK off-trade.

Aspall, which recently launched two new variants in the UK, is seeking to expand capacity in anticpation of ongoing demand. “We are in the process of currently expanding our production capacity to allow for the increased demand that we are enjoying," Aspall's joint-MD, Geoff Bradman, told just-drinks today (24 November). "The first stage of which will involve expanding our liquid storage capacity for both cyder and vinegar brands.” The privately-held group declined to give a figure for annual volume sales.

Increasingly, several UK-based cider brands and companies are also looking abroad. For example, just-drinks understands that Aspall is considering a "seeding" operation in select urban bars in India.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, C&C Group signed a deal to acquire the Hornsby's cider brand in the US. The deal doubles C&C's volumes in North America, where it already sells Magners on the East Coast of the US.  


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