The state of the cider market

Two key cider reports provide in-depth analysis of the category’s overall performance during the past year. Lucy Britner and Nigel Huddleston distil the results  

The cider market experienced the start of a “tapered return to normality” in 2021, according to the 2022 Westons Cider Report. 

The research also identifies a shift from fruit cider to apple cider and the continued growth of what Westons calls the “crafted” cider segment – typically high-quality, premium brands made by smaller, family-owned producers.

Value share of the total cider market in 2021 was a straight 50-50 split between on-trade and off-trade, the report finds, with the off-trade taking 76% volume share. In the big lockdown year of 2020, the off-trade had taken 83% of all volume and 63% of total market value.

Westons says the shift in 2021 represented a move back towards a normal market position, where the off-trade accounts for roughly two-thirds of volume but only a third of the market by value.

POST-LOCKDOWN TRENDS

Off-trade market penetration, frequency and volume were all down in 2021 on 2020, but ahead of 2019. The off-trade cider category dropped 11.9% in value last year to £1.2 billion, with volumes 12% lower than 2020.

Adding more insights into post-lockdown trends with Mintel’s UK Cider Market Report 2022, Angharad Goode, research analyst, says: “As restrictions were eased in 2021, cider volume sales through the on-trade channel rebounded strongly, though the decline in off-trade sales more than offset this in the absence of the boost from clement weather enjoyed in 2020. 

“A strong return to growth was expected for the cider market in 2022 after the easing of all Covid restrictions. However, the rising cost of living will continue to curb the return to out-of-home leisure,” Goode adds. 

She says the market should regain momentum once household incomes rebound, though she warns that cider faces pressures from other trends, notably the focus on health and the decline of its core young adult demographic.

According to Mintel, the cider market faces the dilemma of a shrinking population of 20 to 24-year-olds, a key demographic for cider. 

With the number of 25 to 44-year-olds set to rise, “finding ways to continue to engage users as they move past the age of 25 gains growing relevance”, Mintel says, while responding to this cohort’s concerns about sugar content, and their interest in more detailed information about how ciders are made, holds potential for brands. 

Goode adds that a quarter of cider drinkers would like to see more ciders available that are less sweet than standard versions, while 66% want more information on the level of sweetness of ciders.

DECLINING SECTORS

With provenance stories front of mind, perhaps it’s no wonder that the Westons report finds crafted cider was the only segment in growth in the off-trade in 2021, up 1.9%. Mainstream cider (-14.8%), premium cider (-13.6%) and value amber (-15.2%) all fell quicker than the market as a whole.

Value white cider, a segment which many observers assumed to be in terminal decline, outperformed the market with a fall of just 8.3%.

Within apple cider, two main trends in 2021 were growth in cloudy and rosé cider, the Westons report says. Cloudy cider sales declined 5.2% last year but sales are up 95% on two years ago and the sector is now worth £77 million, accounting for 6.6% of all cider sales.

Westons category manager Emily Jenkins says: “We’re not saying fruit is going to disappear. It’s hit a natural ceiling and is stabilising at around a third of the market.

“There are still opportunities for growth in there, but the real big volume opportunity sits with apple cider, which is up 11.4% versus two years ago. Fruit has grown, but only 2.4%, so behind the market.”

As cider producers innovate to attract new audiences or keep existing drinkers interested, it looks like the key to success will be in transparency and good communication.

 

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