Cider: Bubbling with Flavour

As we move into summer, now is a good time to take a look at the fast-growing cider market and consider the potential it offers to increase your base of regulars as well as upping the spend of your overnight guests. Bill Lumley reports.

Irrespective of how well your bar is performing in terms of beer sales, pressure is mounting on turnover and margins from all sides. The UK is the largest cider market both globally and across Europe. UK cider represents 39% of the global market, according to the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM).

Cider is produced by partial or complete fermentation of apple juices, pear juices, and other fruit juices. The alcoholic content of the beverage ranges from 1.2% to 8.5% abv. Ciders can be still or carbonated based upon secondary fermentation and carbon dioxide injection. The addition of distilled alcohol to cider is strictly prohibited.

Currently, the cider market registers the highest growth rates of any alcoholic drink across the world.

The growth of the global cider market is driven by surge in demand for gluten-free drinks and rise in preference for low alcohol beverages.

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Recognising the growth in the drink, the new owners of Aspall Cider, Molson Coors, this year pledged to invest £10m into the drink.

According to Aspall, apples fall into three main camps when it comes to the fermentation of cider. The first is sweets or eating apples such as Cox. The second is sours – cooking apples with sharp acidity, such as Bramleys Seeding. The final category comprises bitter- sweets and bittersharps, the equivalent of a red grape to a cider maker, with skins packed with astringent tannins and juice with an abundance of sugar such as Medaille d’Or and Kingston Black.

Fruit cider, which according to Westons accounts for 27% of all cider sold, is now an important component of any retailer’s cider fixture, with retailers assigning anything up to half of their cider fixture to fruit cider products, and cider makers large and small, mainstream and crafted, being increasingly creative with the serves, flavours and propositions.

However, fruit cider is a fairly new entrant to the cider category and was initially dismissed by many as a passing fad. Data from GlobalData shows that 13 years ago fruit cider barely registered in the UK market, in 2005 the 500,000 litres sold represented 0.08% of total cider volume sold, since when it has consistently grown to reach 27% of the marketplace by the end of last year.

Fruit cider has done much to revitalise cider by bringing in consumers who would otherwise not have entered the cider category, Westons claims. In the on trade, data from CGA Strategy shows that fruit cider is bringing in more females to the cider category. Females make up 60% of fruit cider drinkers, compared with 47% of all cider drinkers. CGA also shows fruit cider is introducing a younger consumer to the cider category with 50% of fruit cider drinkers aged 18-34 compared with 36% of all cider drinkers being 18-34.

Similarly, in the off trade, Kantar Worldpanel shows that the fruit cider shopper is younger with 48% of fruit

cider shoppers aged under 44, while only 33% of shop- pers for all cider are under 44. So, over the last twelve years, fruit cider has done an important recruitment job for the wider cider category, bringing in new consumers and driving innovation through the myriad of new propositions in the marketplace. Fruit cider is clearly here to stay. If current growth continues at the same rate, fruit cider will be 48% of all cider by 2023.

The clear majority (90%) of fruit ciders sold in the UK use berries or mixed dark fruit. The most consumed draught cider was Heineken-owned Strongbow Dark Fruit, while both Koppaberg’s strawberry and lime and mixed fruit-flavoured ciders were revealed to be the best-selling bottles in the on-trade.

Helen Thomas, Westons Cider managing director and fourth-generation family member, says: “The cider industry has once again evolved over the past year. It remains a resolutely dynamic marketplace with new brands, packaging and producers all emerging over the past year. Fruit cider is now a firmly established part of the cider marketplace, most notably in the on trade where draught fruit cider has delivered cider category growth in a challenging marketplace, while premiumisation and evolving formats have driven growth for cider in the off trade.

“In many respects the cider marketplace is unrecognisable to what it was a few years ago and it is this dynamism that makes the cider industry such an exciting place to work. Looking forward to the next few years, the cider marketplace is not without challenges; changes in consumption habits threaten many on trade outlets where cider is drunk, while Minimum Unit Pricing threatens both pricing and pro- motions at varying levels of the off-trade marketplace. However, past experience shows retailers, operators and cider makers will work together to innovate and evolve to meet these challenges head on.”

Cider Trends for 2018

Rob Sandall, on-trade director at Thatchers Cider tells Innkeeper magazine: “It’s all about the experience – and consumers want to know that when they go into the bar they are going to be drinking a great pint of cider in a great environment. If they enjoy that great experience, they’ll come back for more. People are prepared to pay more for quality, and that includes knowing they’re drinking a great-tasting cider that has strong values of authenticity and provenance. That’s why we work really hard and invest heavily throughout all stages of the cider journey to make sure all the ciders that leave Myrtle Farm reach the very highest standards of taste and quality.

“This dedication to quality has meant that our range of ciders are now in increasing demand and people are asking for them in bars and restaurants throughout the UK. They’re loving the taste and really appreciating the provenance of the brand. This has seen Thatchers Gold grow to be the no 2 draught apple cider in the UK, whilst Thatchers Haze is seeing incredible growth – doubling in size over the last twelve months.”

Alongside the continued popularity of apple cider and Thatchers Gold, cloudy cider is a style innkeepers need to be including in their range, he says. “Cloudy cider continues to show very strong growth, and by stocking a cloudy cider – Thatchers Haze – as your number two tap on the bar (after Thatchers Gold) or in bottle in the fridge, operators have an invaluable opportunity to offer their customers a new and innovative cider,” Sandall adds.

Sandall says: “Provenance is definitely an important factor for consumers, alongside quality and authenticity. A family cidermaker such as Thatchers – we’ve been making cider at Myrtle Farm for four generations – has authenticity in bundles. We have 500 acres of our own orchard, we press all our apples at Myrtle Farm and we make and package all our ciders at Myrtle Farm. Customers are really keen to know the story of the brand, and are appreciative that they know where their cider is produced by people who care with a passion for the product.”

Which ciders should Innkeepers stock?

Innkeepers should think carefully about which ciders they stock this year – the category is undergoing substantial change, so you need to refresh your range with the right brands that are going to work for you.

“We’d advise to stock draught apple cider as your number one cider – Thatchers Gold – and for your second consider your customer profile carefully and choose between a cloudy cider (Thatchers Haze), or a fruit cider.

“Support this choice by a variety of innovative, apple ciders in the fridge. Remember that apple cider represents nearly 2/3 of all cider volume (62%).

“On the bar choose a strong brand – Thatchers Gold – that is growing and that is being given above the line marketing support.”

Consumers are willing to pay more for a quality ci- der, and Saddler says: “Thatchers Gold’s will work hard for you, the innkeeper. We are investing in the brand with TV advertising, so your customers will know about the brand, and will be asking for it by name. Provenance and authenticity is so important, and at Thatchers we do everything differently to ensure a quality pint of cider every time. From the quality of the apples we grow – we only accept the best from our growers – to the continued investment in our cider mill to produce world class Somerset ciders, to the hands-on experience our cidermakers bring – we test every batch of cider – all results in a great tasting cider, that people want to buy.”


Thatchers Family Reserve is a fine Somerset Sparkling Apple Wine, making the drink an alternative to Prosecco.

The cider rediscovers the recipe for “champagne cider” originally crafted by the brand’s founder William Thatcher in the early 1900s. Today, Thatchers has taken William’s sparkling apple wine recipe to create a delicate, elegant fizz, that is just perfect for special occasions and celebrations.

“Selecting the first gentle pressing of its beautiful Katy apples to create the finest and most delicate juice, Thatchers has created an 11% abv sparkling apple wine. It has light golden hues, gentle fine bubbles, and a great combination of intensity, delicacy and length.”

Martin Thatcher, fourth generation cidermaker says, “This is a very special sparkling wine, not just because the recipe originated with my Great Grand- father, but because we have taken great care and attention to produce a very fine Somerset apple wine. Using the first pressing to extract the finest juice is a skill that our cidermakers have put to great use with Family Reserve.”

Thatchers, based at Myrtle Farm in Somerset, has a reputation for expertly using its apples to create ciders with character and quality, and is now adding its first apple wine to the family.

The Katy apple is a fine dessert fruit, a bright red apple that is a cross between the Worcester Pearmain and James Grieve, that provides Thatchers with the perfect balance between acidity and sweetness.


This feature was first published in the Jun/Jul 2018 issue of InnKeeper Magazine