Additional marketing activity in the autumn and the launch of limited edition variants are being used by brewers in their pursuit of perennial appeal for their cider brands.
Seasonal trends in cider sales in pubs and supermarkets reflect the categories strong association with summer. Whilst the category’s biggest brands such as Strongbow and Stella Artois Cidre have the distribution channels to maintain year-round sales, sales for more niche and flavoured ciders are on average 11 per cent higher in summer months compared to winter, according to alcohol research group CGA Strategy. Cider manufacturers, long susceptible to the vagaries of British summer, are therefore turning to innovation to drive cider sales all year round.
For Kopparberg, this trend has paved the way for more flavoured variants as the brewer adds new seasonal brands to its line-up next year. The brewer is launching its second seasonal variant of the year – Cranberry and Cinnamon – later this month.
Swedish cider brand Rekorderlig acknowledges flavoured cider is fuelling growth across the category but says brands need to plan their marketing strategies for new flavours carefully to avoid being seen “simply as a trend.”
Gareth Whittle, MD of Chilli Marketing, importers and license holders of Rekorderlig in the UK, says the business is tripling the amount marketing support for its Winter Cider variant, which was reintroduced last month following its success last year, and is also teaming up with mixologists to create cider cocktails and chefs to develop food recipes.
Henry Chevallier Guild, Aspall director, says the mulled cider category presents brewers with an opportunity to educate drinkers cider’s year-round appeal.
He adds: “Last year we sold three times the mulled cider volumes of 2009, but there’s still a lot of education to be done. It’s not about developing countless seasonal variants. That would confuse the customer. Brewers need to take a more insight-driven approach and work closer with the on-trade when developing new flavours rather than just reacting to the latest trends.”
It is not just the smaller premium cider brands that are looking to innovate in the category. Heineken plans to bolster its core Bulmers range with the launch of two new permanent ciders in the spring, and it may introduce further limited editions cider next year.
Rachel Perryman, an analyst at alcohol research firm CGA Strategy, warns that driving incremental sales through flavour range is a balancing act, adding that “too many products and you start to cannibalise your own sales.”
She adds: “Hot ciders have become a great way to drive sales in the licensed trade, but how transferable this is to take home is questionable; meaning the most popular way of driving year round sales has been flavour innovation.”
There are clear differences between what ciders consumers choose in the winter months compared to those in the winter, meaning that limited edition variants provide a great way for brewers to refresh their range without expanding too far. The challenge for marketers will be finding a way to stand out from the crowd with so many brands and flavours fighting for a slice of the category.