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Can Cider Recapture Consumer Imagination?

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Cider has seemingly fallen out of favour in recent years. Limited media coverage illustrates the lack of enthusiasm surrounding the category compared to adjacent alternatives. The variety available is poorly appreciated, and perception issues still need to be overcome.

Yet, in theory, cider aligns well with many current priorities. An extensive history and wealth of tradition provide a solid basis for all-important brand origin stories. Products are (usually) gluten-free, vegan, and gender neutral in their appeal. Locally-grown apples offer the potential for genuine sustainability statements, and the prevalence of artisanal production invites engagement.

Learning from external success

Cider is, of course, a distinct category with an array of unique qualities, but it intersects various others. Consumption occasions and serving styles tend to be shared with beer, and there is increasing overlap with the positioning of RTDs, and the production process of wine. Cider brands can therefore draw inspiration from across alcoholic drinks.

The breadth of the RTD category is a key driver of its strong recent performance. Wide-ranging coverage of positioning, price, and alcohol content ensures interest crosses different demographic groups and occasions. Developments in hybrid beverages are among the possibilities for cider.

The geographic and production terminology used in wine can guide cider’s premiumisation efforts. Discussions around terroir or topography offer an opportunity to highlight “natural” associations, sophistication, and genuine craftsmanship.

Small producers can study microbrewers’ achievements, which have been supported by experimentation in styles and ingredients, experiential offers, community connections, and collaborative efforts.

Tradition and transformation

A long history, established customs, and family-run companies passed down through generations create a sense of heritage that brings substance to cider. Such factors are also shaping the nature of the emerging craft segment.

Craft – as generally understood – is not as advanced in cider as it is in beer. However, developments are underway. Micro producers’ promotion of dry, 100% juice cider helps to highlight the diversity on offer beyond the widely available mainstream brands. Naturally lower sugar levels in many dry ciders fit with evolving demand.

Two approaches to branding can be found. Some small producers focus overtly on their extensive history, while others employ more recognisably “craft” design cues. There is a shared focus on the familiar components of taste, ingredients, process, and story; the difference is in the presentation of those messages. Both are important in supporting the richness of the category, and the rise of modern branding will help to enhance cider’s image as a contemporary, fashionable choice.

Digital channels present an opportunity for cider producers to extend their reach among the important younger age groups. No or low alcohol offers could open the door to new occasions, if approached with due consideration to details such as sugar content.

Cider is contending with the numerous challenges facing alcoholic drinks in general, as well as its own specific issues. Nevertheless, there are opportunities for the category to raise its profile if it can find the right balance between celebrating heritage and embracing progress.

For further commentary on cider, read our report, Cider/Perry: Tradition and Transformation.

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