'Apples have got a little bit lost,' says Cider Trends Summit speaker

Susanna Forbes

09 July 2015

Fuller taste, more heritage, better vocabulary – these are some of the things suggested to turn around the slowing down of cider’s growth at Tuesday’s Cider Trends Summit organised by the Morning Advertiser.

Speaking at the summit, Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst at Mintel, said that over half of consumers would like to try more ciders, and two-thirds see it as a good food match. However, he highlighted that while cans are likely to grow in terms of approval and a third of cider drinkers are interested in spirit-infused ciders (known as spiders), over half of those polled felt there was a danger of ‘flavour fatigue’ setting in.

While the vast majority of consumers prioritise taste over brand, Wisson’s research on craft beer shows that over half will pay more for one where they can ‘taste the difference’. With cider, while ‘premium’ cues such as heritage and provenance are seen as a plus, there’s a lack of understanding about how cider is made and the importance of juice content. While beer vocabulary is peppered with specific hops, Wisson suggested talking about the specific apple varieties and the blends, as well as offering more clarity on the sweetness profile.

There’s more ways that beer has cast a shadow on the cider category. While cider has recruited new drinkers, made itself more unisex and appealed to those who want to experiment as well as those with a sweeter palate, beer has become more innovative and there’s a danger that drinkers will switch back, Sam Fielding, innovation director at Heineken UK, told the audience.

Responsible for the launch of Strongbow Dark Fruits, now the third bestselling draught cider in the UK, Fielding admitted that ‘apples have got a little bit lost’.

‘There is a real opportunity to get people excited about apples. Those who have come in via fruit, now want fuller taste and more heritage,’ he said. Hence the national roll-out of Strongbow Cloudy Apple at the end of July, due to be Heineken UK’s biggest ever launch.

According to award-winning drinks writer Pete Brown, we should start with reappraising cider’s position on drinks lists. ‘In the US they get over the higher abv by putting a 6.5% cider in a 75cl bottle on the table – and it’s “responsible drinking”,’ he said. ‘Position it not with the beer pumps but at the foot of the wines. Then it’s a low alcohol alternative to wine.’

‘Customers want more sophisticated branding. They don’t have to have the heritage,’ said Stephen Lyle, owner of The Apple Cider Boat, the award-winning cider bar in the heart of Bristol. His venue offers dozens of ciders and perries in both bag-in-box and bottle format, along with innovations to attract consumers – such as cider lollies and a widening range of cider cocktails this summer, to change things up from the winter’s mulled cider offering.

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