Core elements for sales
Cider may be the fastest growing drinks category, but some independents have been slow to cotton on to its profit potential. What advice do suppliers offer?
Chris Carr Managing director, Merrydown
"The absolutely key golden rule for me is to make sure the price is on the shelves. Quite often you go round independents and you can't actually see the price of the goods. That would be my number one objective: make sure the promotions are clearly advertised.
"We did a promotion in Costcutter, which was not a deep discount but it was well executed, with A3 posters in the window and good shelf barkers. We had a 70% to 80% sales uplift and even when the promotion had finished, overall sales were well up.
"An awful lot of independents, if there's a promotion in the cash and carry, don't necessarily reflect that in their shops and just take the extra margin.
"Historically over 25% of the cider sold in independents is still white, and it really is pointless having more than one brand. Nobody is buying the product for its heritage and basically it's all the same. People need to be positive and stock more premium products and I think that will be good for their business. Less plastic and a bit more glass, and maybe a couple of cans in the fridge."
Paul Burton Joint managing director, Intercontinental Brands
"Independents are not really embracing the category in the way that the more switched-on multiples are. I'm still seeing far too much space given to 2-litre and 3-litre PET and white cider, which is in decline, and not enough given over to premium. And there really isn't that much choice between pack formats.
"There's probably too much space given over to RTDs in independents, and that's where I would suggest the space would come from."
Martin Thatcher Managing director, Thatchers Cider
"Many independents are now putting in some of the smaller quality brands like ourselves, which is really good because there is a market there for it and it's growing. I know they're pushed for space but they need quality premiums.
"Some of it will be trial and error but independents will know their customers and know what they like. I would recommend going for a core range that you stick to and have some brands on the fringes, on rotation."
John Mills Managing director, Gaymer Cider
"There's a danger that independents still think that 2-litre plastic bottles are the way forward, but it's four-packs and multipacks of cans, and mainstream glass and premium glass. Eight-pack cider is an absolute 52-week must."
Head of off-trade customer marketing, Scottish & Newcastle UK
"It is essential that retailers make purchase decisions easy for shoppers and this can be achieved by not only categorising by occasion, but also choosing well-recognised brands, which have the portfolio to meet today's market trends.
"Addressing the trend to deliver 'pub quality at home' has been instrumental in the creation of a range of NPD and promotional activity for S&N UK this year. Extra cold offerings in the on-trade have become popular and we recognise that consumers will be looking to enjoy the same experience at home.
"Our research tells us that if retailers cater for the consumer by providing a good selection of chilled products, they will
purchase more frequently.
"Our Chill Out campaign addresses the need for drinkers to experience pub quality at home by promoting the cold offering through an
on-pack promotion which encourages consumers to collect
tokens from multi-packs of Strongbow as well as our leading lager and ale brands.
"Tokens can be exchanged for a branded 'chiller' glass, which has an inner gel that freezes
in two hours ."
Blueprint: the benefits
The Blueprint planograms produced by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors are designed to help independents maximise sales.
Retailers wanting to capitalise on the cider boom should merchandise cider separately from beers and RTDs, the Blueprint team recommends.
"That means a dedicated fixture or chillers for cider - or block your cider offering clearly in a dairy-deck chiller," the merchandising experts advise. "Seventy-eight per cent of customers go straight to the chillers."
Unsurprisingly, the Blueprint advises retailers to go big on over-ice products like Magners, Bulmers Original, Strongbow Sirrus and Gaymers.
"At the same time, It is very important that the key brands - the everyday ciders - are displayed," it adds.
"Make sure your range is tight but in good availability at all times. That may mean simplifying your value cider range and increasing space for the over-ice or premium brands. Make sure you have a stock of ice in your freezers for purchase in store.
"Recognise that there are regional preferences in the cider category, such as Special Vat and K, so make sure that you are taking advantage of your area's regional tastes."
Planogram maps a true course of success for Whitstone's cider sales
Whitstone Stores is based in the cider country of Devon, but it still took advantage of a Blueprint makeover in an attempt to boost its category sales.
Owner Dan Cock's cider section doubled in size, and has seen sales rise 60% since the shop was overhauled.
"We have taken on board the need to group products logically, position key lines, offer a good choice of chilled stock and keep the shelves looking as full and as well-presented as possible," he says. "Making this extra effort has certainly paid off for us."
Before the Blueprint makeover, most of the cider was on promotion in stacks on the shop floor. It is now merchandised in large dairy decks, so chilled cider is now always available. The range was also extended to include more bottled ciders.
"In the first week after the Blueprint team visited the store, cider was up 12%.
In fact, cider sales are now on par with our beer sales," says Cock.
"We have increased our range significantly and added new brands . Our customers cannot get enough of the pear ciders, which we didn't even consider stocking previously."
The Blueprint encourages local brands and "manager's choice" slots, which is why Cock has introduced and promoted a local Devon cider, Church Ward.
"The blocking of the cider in one place has allowed us to place a focus on this category ," he says.